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Crowdfunding continues to grow in Canada

July 31st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Canada, Fundraising, Marketing, Social Media

Canadians turn to crowdfunding to generate money for all sorts of causes.

Canadians turn to crowdfunding to generate money for all sorts of causes

Brian Best, right, and his father David stand in the barn housing their tractors Saturday July 20, 2013 that normally should be out in the fields working, but because of money problems are stored in the barn. Best and his son Brian run the family farm that has run into debt and to try to keep the farm going they have turned to crowdfunding on the internet. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Brian McInnis


Crippled by mounting financial debt, father and son duo David and Brian Best had few options left to save the potato farm their family has operated in Tryon, P.E.I., since the early 1930s.

It was a customer who dropped in to Best Acre Farms to buy seed potatoes that sparked the family’s current bid to save their livelihood — crowdfunding.

“I told him I was pulling strings to find out how I can source money, and he said, ‘Well, you might try crowdfunding’,” said Brian Best.

Best did just that, and without a crop in the ground, he has dedicated much of his time to the online campaign, which aims to raise $200,000 by Aug. 1. As of Thursday, the campaign on has generated around $8,000.

“The people that are grasping it … know how important a family farm is to producing food,” he said.

Websites like are drawing people from across Canada to crowdfunding, and the types of campaigns they fund vary widely. Whether it’s building a school in Africa or trying to securing the release of an alleged video that appears to show Toronto’s mayor smoking crack cocaine, the possibilities are endless.

Regardless of the cause, the components of a successful crowdfunder often remain the same, said Sandeep Pillai, a graduate student at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management who has studied crowdfunding.

“That ability to engage people … is very critical in a crowdfunding campaign. Let it be a potato farm, let it be a solar watch, let it be a coffee down the street, whatever it is,” said Pillai.

“When a crowdfunding campaign does not become successful, it’s because you were not able to engage the crowd.”

Pillai said the idea of crowdfunding isn’t new, but its accessibility is.

“It’s a sign of the times,” said Pillai. “There’s a venue to do it, before there was not.”

In Halifax, residents can see the success of the Brooklyn Warehouse’s crowdfunding campaign as they drive past the restaurant in the city’s north end.

About two years ago, co-owners George and Leo Christakos crowdfunded $23,000 over 60 days to avoid the bank and expand the restaurant.

George Christakos said aside from the obvious financial benefit, crowdfunding also doubles as a marketing campaign.

“It is an incredible way to create awareness and marketing for an upcoming project,” said Christakos. “You’re able to give a customer a lot more. There’s a tremendous value to it.”

Pillai agreed, saying that anyone who contributes to the campaign is already a customer without even having stepped into the business.

“The crowd is also having more of a say in the products that are being developed,” said Pillai. “It’s the best way to get feedback from people.”

Earlier this year, Christakos undertook another crowdfunding effort to replace the restaurant’s kitchen. He used a blog to inform his customers and provide updates on the progress of the campaign and renovations.

“When you’re asking people for money, I think you have to be really respectful and professional,” said Christakos, adding that the campaign garnered about $14,000. “We felt that being transparent was a good way to educate people on how this is a viable way to raise funds for a business.”

Pillai said successful crowdfunding campaigns have a goal and an end result that the potential contributor can easily grasp.

“It is absolutely critical that when you set up a campaign, you define the goal,” said Pillai, contrasting Christakos’ kitchen renovation with a fundraiser to “cure world hunger,” for example.

“The crowd has to understand what the product is, and you must ask, ‘Is this something that you can get people passionate about?’”

David Best is hoping enough people share his passion for potatoes. He says now that a mortgage sale that was scheduled for earlier this month has been put off, the family is focused on paying down enough debt to plant a crop next year.

“If I lost the farm, I would have worked a lifetime for nothing more than something to wear and something to eat. That’s all I would take with me. That’s devastation with a capital D,” said the 73-year-old man, who has worked on the farm his entire life.

“We’re hoping (the crowdfunding campaign) will help get things lined up for another year, but time will tell.”

Study finds final grade predictions affect how hard students will work

July 31st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Canada, Education

Motivating students to make the grade through feedback.

If you could predict your end-of-course mark, would you study harder to change the course of your final grade? A one-of-a-kind Brock University study gave undergrads the opportunity to forecast their final mark while the course was still underway – and to improve it before it was too late. It seems predicting future marks does motivate some students, out of fear maybe?

“The goal was to give them a better feedback on how well they were performing in the course, so that they could make better decisions about their studying,” says professor Michael Armstrong, who created a computer spreadsheet program that predicts probable future performance based on what they’d scored so far – 144 students participated.

Generally, students aren’t great at gauging their learning performance, and how students perform early on in a course is indicative of how they’ll do on their final exam. So Armstrong set out to help motivate his students to achieve their study objectives through forecast feedback.

And they reacted to the results: Nearly a third of participants said the grade forecasts were lower than expected, and 47% were studying harder than planned. In addition, students who experienced anxiety regarding the predictions were more likely to study, and “A” students were seven times more likely than “D” students to try the forecasting, he says. Students with low-grade forecasts were motivated to study more, while high-grade forecasts resulted in less studying.

“The forecasts themselves have no impact on final grades – they are not guarantees. However, if the students react to the forecasts, then their changed efforts – e.g. putting in more hours of study to prepare for the exam – could affect their exam performance and final grades,” says Armstrong, an award winning professor at Goodman School of Business at the St. Catharine’s, Ont. university. He’s trying to encourage more of that.

According to Armstrong, the forecasting exercise definitely had a positive impact. “However, the particular students who reacted were not necessarily the ones I thought would react; and the reasons for their reaction weren’t quite what I had expected. There was a small but noticeable tendency for students to react to the forecast grade itself. That is, students with low forecast grades tended to say they were now studying harder , even if low grades were exactly what they had been expecting,” he says.”Similarly, students with high forecasts tended to study less, even if that forecast merely confirmed what they already knew.”

According to Armstrong, grade forecasting would most benefit first- and second-year students, as they are transitioning from high school to university and need to adjust to the different environment and expectations.”For example, they need to do more studying outside of class on their own.”

Forecasts should be particularly helpful for students who are having trouble and are at risk of failing, he says. “Hopefully, it would help them realize they need to spend more time studying, attend tutorials, etc. In cases where the student has fallen way behind, withdrawing from the course and re-enrolling in it next semester may be the wisest option.”

Armstrong’s research, “A Preliminary Study of Grade Forecasting for Students,” appeared in Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative education in April 2013.

By Joanne Richard, Special to QMI Agency, 24 Hours Toronto




China ramps up offshore education

July 31st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Education

Chinese Offshore Branch Campuses: China’s Latest Exports.

In spite of its domestic challenges in higher education, China has finally embarked on its latest export: offshore branch campuses. Similar to its economic development, two decades of higher education restructuring, expansion, and quality improvements have reshaped the country’s higher education sector and some of its universities have earned their place in the global league tables. In 1995 & 1998 respectively, project 211 and 985 provided substantial funding to roughly 100 and 39 (originally only to the C9, China’s Ivy League) universities to train professional manpower in key areas of national priority and to establish world class universities. Further, China’s education development plan for 2010-2020 assures funding and improvements to higher education quality, research, and internationalization, strengthening its competitive edge in the global higher education market that has been dominated traditionally by western countries such as the US, UK and Australia.

China’s latest export venture can be seen in at least four offshore initiatives. Of these four Chinese branch campuses, two (Soochow University and Kunming University of Science and Technology (KUST)) are not globally ranked, while Xiamen University and Zhejiang University are ranked at 451-500 and 170 respectively by 2012-13 QS. With the exception of KUST, these universities are part of Project 211, and Xiamen University and Zhejiang University are also part of Project 985.

The Chinese Offshore Branch Campuses

Soochow University’s Laos People Democratic Republic campus was initially part of the China-Singapore Suzhou industrial park or ‘New Vientiane’ project, a special economic zone initiated in 2009. Soochow University received approval from the Lao government to offer higher education services in 2010 and offered its first class in 2012. Still pending are two proposed campuses— one in ‘New Vientiane’ and another one on a 23 hectare property leased at a concessional rate of USD500/hectare in the outskirts of Vientiane. The current enrollment target is 5,000 students in various majors including Chinese language and literature, engineering, management, economics, computer science, law, and (in the future) medicine.

The Kunming University of Science and Technology (KUST) offshore initiative, on the other hand, is located within Dhurakij Pundit University (DPU), a private Thai university. It was established as the KUST-DPU Chinese International College (KDCIC) in 2010 to offer bachelors programs in international business, tourism management, and to teach Chinese as a foreign language (TCFL).

Xiamen University’s case builds on its historical ties to the Malaysian Chinese community. Tan Kah Kee, the Henry Ford of Malaya, founded the university in 1921. In 2011, Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting’s (Prime Minister’s special envoy to China and Chairman of the Malaysia-China Business Council) and Dato’ Dr. Hou Kok Chung’s (Deputy Minister of Higher Education) proposed the opening of Xiamen University’s Malaysian campus, which is scheduled to open in September 2015. It’s campus will be on a 60.72 hectare property at Salak Tinggi, Putrajaya, Malaysia with an estimated set-up cost of RM 600 million (roughly 98 million USD). Funds for the acquisition of the site were provided by Datuk Ter Leong Yap (Deputy President of the Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry).

Xiamen University’s Malaysia campus has a target enrollment of 10,000 students, comprising of 1/3 (each) Malaysians, Chinese and ASEAN/other nationals, with five faculties— electrical, bio- and chemical engineering, a medical school, Information and Communications Technology, business and economics, and Chinese Language and Literature.

Zhejiang University’s UK branch campus project is more of a collaboration between two global universities: a C9, China’s Ivy League, university and the prestigious Imperial College London, currently ranked 6th by QS rankings. However, it is not clear if it will actually be a branch campus as talks seem to focus on co-investing in research facilities and research collaboration. It should be noted that half of Zhejiang University’s 44,000 student population are post graduates and it also receives substantial funding from the Chinese government for research activities.

Moving Forward:

Given the Chinese initiatives mentioned above, it is apparent that China is now a player in cross-border education and in particular “the race” for establishing offshore branch campuses. Much like its economic development, China has hosted branch campuses, learned from their experience, developed their own higher education sector and institutions, and now ventured into higher education as a new export industry through the establishment of branch campuses offshore.

We can expect to see more of these Chinese offshore initiatives in the near future. However, the extent, reach and sustainability remains to be seen and will definitely face challenges from its own as well as its host country’s higher education systems, while at the same time competing with offshore branch campuses from the US, UK and Australia. What is certain is that China’s recent export venture will significantly impact the global higher education market, and change the higher education landscape in the near future. As such, the world awaits the success or failure of these new Chinese branch campuses, and future initiatives from China and the rest of the (developed and developing) world.

July 28, 2013 – 4:45pm
By Roger Y Chao Jr.

Roger Y Chao Jr. is a PhD candidate in Asian and international studies at City University of Hong Kong, and vice-president of the Comparative Education Society of Hong Kong. He holds a M.Ed. in Mathematics from the University of the Philippines, and a European Masters in Lifelong Learning: Policy and Management from the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University and the University of Deusto, where he was an Erasmus Mundus Scholar. His research mostly focuses on regionalism, higher education and the internationalisation of higher education.

Millennials believe they can make a difference, study

July 23rd, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Social Media

A survey of 12,000 millennials (people aged 18-30) in 27 countries has revealed that youth today believe they can make a difference locally, but that they don’t always feel that difference can be made politically. 62% of respondents said they could make a local difference, while only 45% thought one person’s participation in politics can make a difference in one’s current system. The Telefónica Global Millennial Survey also found that millenials are concerned about the health of the economy and the planet. “They believe strongly in protecting personal freedoms and are tolerant of other religious beliefs.”

Telefónica in partnership with the Financial Times, commissioned 12,171 online quantitative interviews among Millennials, aged 18 – 30, across 27 countries in six regions, Penn Schoen Berland conducted the study from 11 January – 4 February 2013.


Traditional undergrad education model flawed, says QuestU president

July 23rd, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Education

Watering the roots of knowledge through collaborative learning.

Education has lost its roots—its Latin roots, that is. Educate derives from educatus, past participle of educare, which means “to bring up” or “to rear” and which is related to educere,”to bring out, lead forth” (from ex-, meaning “out,” and ducere,meaning “to lead,” as in the origin of a duke). Superficially, all may appear to be in order, but in fact this etymological origin is largely antithetical to the prevailing model of higher education.

There is very little “leading forth” going on. Rather, the system models students as empty vessels that must be filled by pouring in knowledge from the (full) professor.

Indeed, the modern university classroom too often consists of a Ph.D.—a survivor of a process in which one learns more and more about less and less until one knows nearly everything about almost nothing—standing in the front of an amphitheater with a remote control flipping through PowerPoint slides. The notion is that the hard-earned knowledge of the professor will thus be transferred to his or her students, making them all a little more professorlike.


There are a few minor difficulties with this model. First, some of the students are not present; given that the PowerPoint slides can be downloaded from the course Web site and are not needed until the day before the exam anyway, this student choice cannot be criticized as irrational. Second, of the students who are there, most are probably multitasking (checking Facebook, texting a friend, watching a movie, etc.)—reams of research have shown that only a tiny minority of students can concentrate on a lecture for more than roughly 10 or 15 minutes. Third, the vast majority of the students present have no desire to become professorlike.

These problematic aspects of the model are symptoms of its first major fault, a violation of the wisdom of Confucius: “Tell me, and I will forget; show me, and I will remember; involve me, and I will understand.” I have demonstrated this fault directly. One fall at Columbia University, I had the usual 80-student class of bright, ambitious undergraduates fulfilling their science requirement by taking my lecture course on the solar system. Most attended the lectures, and, mostly, they paid attention (I do not use PowerPoint). They worked through long quantitative problem sets, took biweekly quizzes, and performed well on the midterm and final exams. They then went home for Christmas and on to the spring semester.

The following September, I gathered most of them again and administered a test on some of the material we had covered. I gave the same test to my new class before my first lecture. The results were statistically indistinguishable. So much for pouring knowledge from the full container to the empty ones—it leaks out.

The second major fault of the current educational model is that learning is an isolated activity. Yes, we bring a number of students together to form a “class,” but then we do everything possible to isolate students from each other: “No talking in class”; “Please leave two seats between each person for this exam”; “Do all your own work.” We desocialize learning, separating it from the periods of normal human interaction we call dorm-room bull sessions.

The third misplaced pillar of educational practice is competition and its accompanying correlate, quantitative measurement. Standardized tests proliferate; grade-point averages are calculated to four significant figures. We pretend that these numbers measure learning and use them to award scholarships, sort professional-school applicants, and, sadly, evaluate self-worth. And we are surprised that cheating—the goal of which is to get a higher score—is widespread. If a group of students works together effectively and efficiently to solve a hard problem, in school this is called cheating. In life, as the British educator Sir Ken Robinson notes, it’s called collaboration, a valued asset in most real-world settings.

The brains of today’s undergraduates—a product of a million years of hominid evolution—are instinctively collaborative, innately cooperative, and structurally wired for small-group interaction mediated by language and an awareness of the intentionality of others. What might happen if we structured our educational system to take advantage of these natural attributes?

Quest University Canada, which opened its doors in 2007, was founded by an act of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly as Canada’s first independent, secular, nonprofit university. Its founders had a rare opportunity—we began with a blank slate and asked the following question: How would one design an undergraduate education that is (1) embedded in a globalized world facing daunting problems that require cross-disciplinary solutions and (2) aimed at a population of digital natives raised in a culture that celebrates multitasking? The result is an institution that does what the best universities have always done—partly mirror the society in which it is founded and partly challenge that society’s basic assumptions.

We began by rejecting the 19th-century German model on which most universities are built and choosing to have no departments. This decision is reflected in the architecture of the Academic Building, which is circular; offices are assigned by lottery, and there are no boundaries between disciplines. A music professor may sit next to a mathematician who, on the other side, has a neuroscientist and a political theorist as neighbors.

The next task was to set priorities, and we chose one: to deliver the most engaging and effective liberal-arts and sciences education possible to undergraduates from around the world. That means that the primary role of faculty members is to teach, and we changed their designation from professors to tutors, abjuring faculty ranks. We also built this into the concrete by having no lecture halls: All classrooms are seminar rooms with large oval tables.

The next choice concerned the curriculum delivery model. This is one of the instances in which we challenged societal assumptions: In education at least, multitasking is a disaster. The prefrontal cortex is a serial processor—that is why driving, talking, and texting simultaneously can be fatal. We chose the Block Plan pioneered by Colorado College in 1970. Students take four courses per term but take them serially rather than in parallel. For 24 days, both the class and the faculty member do nothing but focus on the one subject at hand.

The intensity of student engagement and the depths a class can plumb in this model are stunning. Students are in class a minimum of three hours a day, five days a week, and are expected to do five hours of work per day outside of class. And they do, often more. The flexibility the system provides is unparalleled. If an all-day (or 10-day) field trip is beneficial, it happens; no one has a chemistry lab that afternoon or an English paper due the next day—it is one class, all day, all the time.

This model encourages constant verbal exchange, promotes empathy toward the intentionality of others, and requires—in research projects, presentations, problem-solving exercises, and so on—collaboration. It involves each student in personal learning and engages the entire class, tutor and students alike, in advancing the group’s achievement of greater knowledge and understanding.

One example from our experience will illustrate what can be accomplished. All students take a math course in their first year. The options are somewhat nontraditional, and one is “Spherical Trigonometry.” The students get Lucite spheres, which they carry around like pets. Class starts at 10 a.m.; the students are typically still in the classroom when I go home at 7 p.m.

In December 2011, a class of 18 first-year students, none expecting to concentrate in mathematics, was at the end of the second week of the block. The faculty member presented a theorem first published in 1807 and repeated in textbooks ever since. By the end of the day, the students had identified a logical flaw in the theorem’s proof that had escaped mathematicians for two centuries. The tutor had to correct the page proofs from his monograph about to be published by Princeton University Press (and add his class to the acknowledgments).

General education is often thought of as a means to expose students to a broad range of “essential” knowledge and to provide a historical context for the culture in which they live. These are valid, but insufficient, goals. The purpose of general education should be to produce graduates who are skilled in communication, imbued with quantitative reasoning skills, instinctively collaborative, inherently transdisciplinary in their approach to problems, and engaged in their local and global communities—broadly educated individuals with an informed perspective on the problems of the 21st century and the integrative abilities to solve them.

David J. Helfand is president and vice chancellor of Quest University Canada and president of the American Astronomical Society. This essay was originally published in the Journal of General Education: A Curricular Commons of the Humanities and Sciences, published by the Pennsylvania State University Press.

uPhoenix given accreditation, but put on “notice”

July 23rd, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Education

The University of Phoenix’s regional accreditor has placed the for-profit institution “on notice,” a lesser sanction than the probation recommended by a site team earlier this year, the university’s holding company said Wednesday. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools determined that governance and administrative problems could lead to the university being out of compliance within two years. The university said it had submitted updated information to the commission about changes it made after receiving the site team’s report.

Donor-Acquisition Strategies During Tough Times

July 23rd, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Acquisition is one of the toughest endeavors in the fundraising sector. Acquiring new donors is costly, budgets are tight and the next wave of donors has different needs than prior generations.

At the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Fundraising Day in New York last month, Clint O’Brien, vice president of business development at Care2, laid out acquisition techniques in today’s fundraising landscape in the session, “Acquisition in Tough Times: Finding New Donors Without Breaking the Bank.”

The major problem is that direct-mail acquisition of new donors has continued to decline in the past 10 years while the average age of donors continues to rise. So where are you going to get donors? According to O’Brien, the best places are online channels — not direct mail.

“Direct mail is great for cultivation,” he said, “but not for acquisition anymore because people want permission for contact.”

Search: SEO vs. SEM
“Anyone searching for you is valuable to you by definition,” O’Brien said. “They are clearly interested in your cause or something about your organization.”

That’s where search comes in, both organic and paid. Organic search, or search engine optimization (SEO), is all about getting your website found — and the goal is to get your site found by valuable people searching for information about you and your cause. The key is page rank, O’Brien said, and he offered the following advice:

  • Include in your site’s content (title tags and meta data as well) key search words, e.g. “help homeless,” “protect whales,” “stop fracking,” etc. Be literal in word choice.
  • Update your website pages often so search engines crawl your site more often.
  • Encourage other sites to link to you to boost page rank.

The pluses of SEO are the costs are one-time and it’s a good way to retain donors as well. However, creating content takes time and effort, something that not every nonprofit has the staff to accommodate as regularly as it’d like.

“Don’t rely too much on SEO because you’re at the mercy of GoogleOpens in a new window,” O’Brien said. “Your e-mail strategy is much more important than your website because people don’t browse for your site every day. Invest accordingly.”

For search engine marketing (SEM), the goal is the same as SEO, however it is “paid.” The good news is that Google GrantsOpens in a new window provide a great opportunity to get in front of active searchers who are engaged, so there’s a good chance of converting. Plus, it’s free money to use and experiment with from Google.

However, while there is no cash cost, it takes a lot of work and staff time to build good landing pages and learn how to bid successfully with the money. Plus, it’s more of a trickle of donors than a gusher — but it’s still worth exploring, O’Brien said.

The pluses are that SEM is a high-quality source and that Google gives you “free” money to use. The minuses are that it’s a low-quantity source, takes considerable work and has a steep learning curve.

Social media

The goal of social-media acquisition strategies is to get more donors by turning your supporters into ambassadors for you and then convert them into donors and peer-to-peer fundraisers, but fundraising via social media has been largely ineffective.

“I want to say don’t try this at home, fundraising through social media,” O’Brien said.

However, he said social media is a great place to get donors on your e-mail file. While donor conversion on FacebookOpens in a new window and TwitterOpens in a new window is only 3 percent to 6 percent, donor conversion on e-mail averages 34 percent, according to O’Brien. Thus, it’s an excellent opportunity to get them to sign up to your list.

The key is to manage expectations with social media, because the truth is social media isn’t free — nothing is free, O’Brien said. There is the cost of staff time and resources, which takes away from other aspects of fundraising and the organization.

The pluses of social media are that it leverages pre-existing networks and has a multiplier effect when your supporters help you out. The minus are that you have no control over social-media networks and few donors have been acquired through social media so far.

E-mail append
O’Brien is a big fan of e-mail append, which is taking the direct-mail list and trying to get the e-mail from donors are your file. The goal is to convert more of your supporters into donors and increase the value of existing donors, transforming them into multichannel donors.

However, this is “not to be done callously,” O’Brien said. “It must be done carefully to avoid annoying donors who did not want to receive your e-mails and avoid putting your e-mails at risk of being blocked by Internet service providers.”

This isn’t necessarily acquisition in the traditional sense, because it’s not about growing your file so much as adding value to your housefile. However, it is inexpensive and adds value to your donors and prospects.

E-mail list sharing

O’Brien also said he a proponent of e-mail list sharing with like-minded nonprofits, an exchange of donors that helps grow each organization’s list. The goal is to recruit donors from peer organizations in return for giving the other nonprofit similar access to your list.

It must be done carefully — O’Brien suggested via “chaperoned e-mails” in which the organization that the donors donated to introduces the nonprofit it is sharing its list with to its own donors first as an introduction — to avoid annoying donors or violating their privacy.

O’Brien did warn that most nonprofits that do this hold back their “best donors,” but the reality is that most donors give to more than one charity — so you already are sharing your donors with other nonprofits. The pluses are that you can grow your list of donors and supporters fast, and the cost is almost nothing. The minuses include letting other nonprofits have some of your donors and that you might annoy some of your donors.

Paid acquisition
Care2 is a provider of paid acquisition, so obviously O’Brien is an advocate for paid acquisition of warm donor leads. The goal of paid acquisition is to recruit multichannel donor prospects and supporters who are “prequalified” to boost the likelihood of conversion into actual donors.

In paid acquisition, nonprofits only pay for actual captured leads, not for branding, awareness, impressions, exposure, advocacy, etc. And it taps existing communities who already care about the cause. It’s based on behavioral targeting plus permission-based marketing to become prequalified warm leads.

The pluses:

  • There are no duplications. All the leads are new to the nonprofits, not supporters already on file.
  • It is cost-per-lead pricing, meaning the nonprofit only pays for actual leads delivered.
  • The leads are multichannel leads. The nonprofit receives the e-mail address and postal address.
  • It’s a high-volume, high-quality, fast, proven model.

The minuses:

  • There is an initial up-front cost.
  • You still must cultivate and convert leads into donors.

Odds and ends
O’Brien added that online action campaigns fuel fundraising — e.g., supporters who take online actions such as via pledge or petition campaigns. Why? Supporters who take online action are seven times more likely to donate than supporters who did not previously take an online action for the organization. Online advocacy and fundraising activities complement and reinforce each other.

“Don’t propose marriage to a stranger,” O’Brien said. “Get them to give permission to build a relationship, and then ask.”

By Joe Boland | Posted on July 08, 2013

Facebook causes students to fail classes, say students

July 23rd, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Education, Social Media

Students blame Facebook for failing grades. Dalhousie engineering students forced into summer school after focusing on social media rather than class.

Dozens of Dalhousie University students are unliking Facebook after failing their classes and landing in summer school.

As much as 15 per cent of engineering students are flunking out, said J. Pemberton Cyrus, the associate dean of undergraduate studies in the engineering faculty. He said many of them point the blame at Facebook and other forms of social media.

“It was one of the biggest issues for me,” admits student Ibraheem Albayati, who spent too much of his first year online. He’s now in a special summer program to bring him up to speed with his studies.

“They waste 24 hours a week on the internet doing things they shouldn’t be doing,” said Susan Holmes, who runs the program called Refining Your Skills. “And their cell phones are beeping all the time and interrupting them.”

Holmes teaches the students the basics, such as time management skills. She tries to remind them why they’re in university in the first place.

“When you remind yourself what your dreams are, it helps you to put yourself on the way so you can have success in your class.”

Albayati says he’s learned his lesson, and is deactivating his Facebook account.

Facebook launches full social search tool

July 23rd, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Social Media

Facebook pushes social search to all U.S. English-language users.

Facebook this week rolled out its new “Graph Search” tool, which has been in the beta stage since January. The social search tool allows users to unearth information about their Facebook friends, such as friends of friends who enjoy a certain hobby, or nearby bars that a user’s friends enjoy. The search function revealed that Facebook users have been sharing quite embarrassing or controversial information through their search queries.  A recent study found that today’s teens are sharing more personal information about themselves than they have in the past, but at the same time, they are more aware of their audience and are using privacy settings and network controls to determine who sees this information. Facebook has reminded users that they can change their “who can see my stuff” settings to enhance security.

Users who may have grown frustrated with Facebook’s rudimentary search feature are getting an updated version designed to make it easier to find people, places and photos on the site.

Facebook unveiled its social search tool in January, but only made it available to a small fraction of its 1.1 billion users, as its engineers continued to tweak and test it.

Over the next few weeks, starting on Monday, the company is rolling out the social search tool, called “Graph Search,” to everyone whose language is set to U.S. English.

Unlike searches on Google, which are good for finding specific things like roasted kale recipes or Mizuno running shoes, Facebook’s tool is most useful in unearthing information about your social circles.

Graph Search lets you find friends who live in San Francisco who are vegan. Friends of friends who live near you and like hiking. Photos of your boyfriend taken before you met him in 2010. Nearby restaurants that your friends like — and so on.

But soon after Facebook launched the tool, the Internet had a field day with less innocuous and more embarrassing queries, showing just how much information people reveal about themselves on the site, intentionally or not. Care to find out which brand of condoms your friends prefer? Graph Search might tell you.

A blog called posted a collection of searches ranging from “married people who like prostitutes” to “current employers of people who like racism.” Both yielded more than 100 people.

While it is possible that some of those Facebook users are fully aware that what they’ve shared is easily searchable, it is likely that some are not. It’s easy to click “like” on a page and forget about it, and it’s even easier to assume that no one will search through your photos from party days at the Burning Man festival five years ago.

Notification should happen, but check your settings

To avoid any unpleasantness, Facebook plans to notify users that it’s “getting easier for people to find photos and other things you’ve shared with them” along with a reminder that they can check “who can see my stuff” under their privacy settings.

“The goal is to avoid bad surprises,” said Nicky Jackson Colaco, privacy and safety manager at Facebook. But she stressed Facebook’s view that the search tool “indexes information differently than we have ever been able to do before, in a really positive way.”

It’s easier, for example, to find a long-lost classmate with a common name, or to find common interests with friends of friends.

Facebook does not currently show users ads based on what they are searching for, but the company may do in the future. As Google has shown, it’s a lucrative business. Research firm eMarketer estimates that Google will take nearly 42 per cent of all U.S. digital ad spending this year, well above Facebook’s share of less than 7 per cent.

With its new search tool, Facebook is clearly trying to divert traffic and ad spending from its rival. Whether this will work will become more clear as more people begin using it.

Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, July 7, 2013 9:12PM EDT

Entice with your envelope

July 23rd, 2013 | 1 Comment | Posted in Fundraising, Marketing

What’s the most important element in your direct mail package? They are all important, of course, but I would pinpoint the outer envelope. What could be more important than the piece that invites your recipients to come in and have a look? It’s the window-dressing that entices them to browse.

When your donors or prospects sort through their mail, what do they see? Bills, notices, flyers – nothing too personal any more – maybe the odd personal letter or package from a friend or relative, maybe that book they ordered. That’s why your envelope is so important.

It has to stand out and arouse their curiosity – entice them to keep going, to open the flap and see what’s inside. You have about ten seconds to grab their attention – just like a headline in a newspaper – before they decide whether to toss your package (the one you agonized over for hours) into the garbage or open it and read on.

How do you create a great envelope? Keep your recipients guessing. Other than your logo and address (both standard elements that must be there), you can be pretty creative as long as you meet Canada Post standards. Different window placing, colours, graphics, printed material on both sides, teasers, various sizes (#10, #11, 6 x 9 etc.) make your outer envelopes interesting. Sometimes you can even use a blank outer envelope if you’re out of ideas! If you decide to use teaser copy on the outside, make sure it is answered within your letter.

Once your reader is inside, you impress them with compelling and urgent stories, variety (donor impact statements, surveys, inserts, offers, newsletters and more) and a great call to action. But if they don’t open it in the first place, you’ve lost their attention and the opportunity to receive a donation or welcome a new donor.

publication date: Jul 9, 2013
author/source: Alison Keys