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8 Tips to Make Your Copy More Engaging With Numbers

September 16th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Direct response writers are more than wordsmiths. First, we’re psychologists who understand what motivates our audience to act. We’re also general contractors responsible for building strong messages that encourage people to respond and making it easy for them to do it. Fortunately, we have a variety of tools to help.

In addition to words and the images they conjure up, we also have numbers to help us attract the attention of scanners and transform them into readers. These folks aren’t necessarily accountants, engineers or data analysts. They are simply people who are drawn to 1,000,000 vs. one million.

Writers, designers, creative directors and approving managers take note: To create successful direct response marketing messages for all channels, you need to understand how, when and why to mix numbers with your words. It can make a significant difference in open, clickthrough and call rates, as well as bottom-line sales.

Why? Numbers attract attention in a split second and support benefit statements with credible specifics. And here’s the best part when you’re counting Twitter characters or editing print copy to fit: Numerals typically take up less space than the characters it takes to say the same thing in words. Example: 39% vs. thirty-nine percent or 39 percent.

Direct mail writers have long known a 2-for-1 offer is stronger than Two-for-One because it’s a faster, easier read. Jakob Nielsen’s Web eye tracking studies confirm that on Web pages “numerals stop the wandering eye and attract fixations, even when embedded within a mass of words that users otherwise would ignore.” Nielsen goes on to explain that Web users are attracted to numerals because they represent facts … a truism whether you see them on the Web, in email or in print.

Here are eight tips for how, when and why to use numbers/digits/numerals to make your copy/content more engaging, more authoritative and more likely to generate action.

1. Specific vs. general. Would you rather hear from a hearing aid center offering multiple products from multiple brands or 37 hearing aid models from the 5 bestselling brands? Specifics sell because they add credibility to your benefit story.

2. Add value. Do you sell financial services, such as life or health insurance? Add a decimal point with two zeroes to increase the perceived value of benefit amounts. Example: $100,000 vs. $100,000.00.

3. Minimize price. Just the opposite is true when writing about value pricing. $10 appears to be a smaller, less expensive price than $10.00. The flip side may explain why luxury marketers often opt to use decimal points with the added zeros to impress their wealthy I-don’t-care-how-much-it-costs customers.

4. Odd vs. even. Odd numbers are more believable than even numbers. In a recent fundraising appeal from my alma mater, Kansas State University, it included charts and graphs that showed alumni donations in the last 10 years have increased 45 percent as tuition rose 138 percent and state support for this state university declined 26.3 percent. Notice that instead of rounding off to 26 percent, the university used a decimal with an uneven number for specificity and added credibility.

5. Scannability. Numerals scan faster than words. When all you have is a split second to capture your reader’s attention, a digit or two can make the difference in whether or not an email or envelope gets opened. Test using numbers in subject lines and outer envelope teasers.

6. Charts and graphs. When you want to show a drop in pricing or a comparison of your product’s performance with competitors’, use charts and graphs, as well as words and numbers. For example, when you’re writing a multicomponent direct mail package, use charts and graphs in the brochure to illustrate the same point the letter describes with words.

7. Quantify vs. qualify. As much as I love words, I also value the instant authenticity, credibility and precision a number adds to a benefit claim. For example, I recently wrote about a skin brightener that was clinically proven to “reduce age spots by 77% in 8 weeks.” “Reduces age spots” is the benefit statement. But when you add “by 77% in 8 weeks,” you significantly strengthen the claim by quantifying it.

8. Test. Test the impact of using numbers in brochure and print ad headlines, email subject lines, outer envelope teasers, and Johnson boxes in direct mail letters. Pre-test, adding numbers to email subject lines, and get immediate feedback.

One caveat: There are times when numbers alone are not enough and they need words to explain them. Recently, I was buying a car wash as part of my gas fill-up. After I hit the button for “car wash,” the screen displayed the following choices:

Car Wash 9
Car Wash 8
Car Wash 7
Car Wash 6

I waited for more information to pop up, then looked for a sign with an explanation. Nothing. I ended up choosing Car Wash 9 because it implied higher cost, which also implied a more detailed cleaning. Only as I drove into the car wash did I see a sign with an explanation of what the $6, $7, $8, and $9 car washes included.

As I sat watching the brushes whoosh overhead, I wondered how many people opted for the 6 (lowest) or 9 (highest) because they had no clue what the numbers in between might mean. Even numbers sometimes need a few well-chosen words to help tell their story.

By Pat Friesen

August 2013

PSE students confident about their ability to manage debt

September 15th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Canada, Education

Post-secondary students confident in financial knowledge: RBC Poll

Students living at home and away have different expectations when it comes to debt and managing finances

TORONTO, August 14, 2013 — The majority of post-secondary students (64 per cent) plan to live away from home while attending school this fall, despite expecting the cost to be about 50 per cent higher than those living at home according to the 2013 RBC Student Finances Poll. Of those students living away, more than eight-in-ten (83 per cent) are confident in their ability to manage their finances.

“For many students, post-secondary school is the first time that they are responsible for managing their own expenses,” said Melissa Jarman, director, Student Banking, RBC. “Armed with a budget and an interest in learning, many of these students are gaining a strong foundation out of the gates that can have a significant impact on their financial future. Good financial habits should be as important as study habits for post-secondary students.”

Despite confidence in their ability, almost eight-in-10 (78 per cent) students living at home say that they still have “a lot to learn” when it comes to managing finances, with 36 per cent of them assuming that their parents will take care of their financial needs. Only 25 per cent of those living away from home make that same assumption about their parents.

While students who live away expect to take on 40 per cent more debt than their peers who live at home ($30,800 compared to $22,000), the RBC poll finds that both groups expect to pay back debt in a similar timeframe. Those who live away expect to take 4.8 years to pay back their debt, while those who live at home expect to take 4.2 years.

“Whether you live at home or away, setting financial goals and sticking to them is important,” added Jarman. “The results from this poll highlight the fact that students want to take responsibility for their financial health and are looking to their trusted sources, including their parents, for guidance.”

To help students manage their finances, Jarman offers the following tips:

Living at home:

  • Understand your household expenses: Your parents may be footing the bill, but getting an understanding of how much it costs to run the household will be helpful in forecasting future expenses for when you do live on your own.
  • Make a budget: While you might not be responsible for household expenses, you will likely experience transportation/parking costs, student fees, clothing, entertainment and food (likely including a morning cup of coffee).
  • Save for later: Living at home through school could give you an opportunity to save for your future. Putting money aside on a regular basis will give you a head start when it’s time to move out.

Living away at school:

  • Know all your financial options: Look for scholarships, bursaries and work programs to help fund your education.
  • Track your expenses: From utilities to groceries, knowing where your money is going is the first step to establishing a budget. Also, if you’re living with roommates, decide in advance how you will share costs to ensure there aren’t any surprises.
  • Assess your needs: Do you need your own car or can you take advantage of public transit? Can you rent your textbooks or buy used ones from your campus bookstore? Can you change your mobile plan to ensure you’re only paying for what you need?

For both groups:

  • Ask for student rates everywhere you go: From the bus to the movies, retailers often give discounts to students.
  • Be disciplined about debt: Whether that’s using a credit card for everyday spending or taking out a loan to offset tuition costs, understanding all the factors that impact the cost of borrowing money will put you in control.

About RBC Student Finances Poll 2013
The 2013 RBC Student Finances Poll was conducted by Ipsos Reid through a national online survey of 1,107 post-secondary students (as of September 2013). Data was collected from June 18 to July 2, 2013. The results are based on a sample where quota sampling and weighting are employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual Canadian student population according to Census data. Quota samples with weighting from the Ipsos online panel provide results that are intended to approximate a probability sample. An unweighted, probability sample of this size, with 100 per cent response rate, would have an estimated margin of error of ±3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to, coverage error and measurement error.

Royal Bank of Canada Website


6 Simple Mindfulness Practices To Reframe Your Perspective

September 14th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Brian Lacy


This is your life.

Do what you love and do it often.

If you don’t like something, change it.

If you don’t like your job, quit.

If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV.

If you’re looking for the love of your life, stop; they’ll be waiting for you when you start doing things you love.

Does any of this sound familiar?

If so, you might be one of the 100 million people who’ve read and shared the Holstee Manifesto.

Have you ever wondered, how did this manifesto come to be? (I certainly have.)

Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the guys at Holstee to dive into why Holstee exists, to hear more about how they are reframing the way we look at art with their latest product on Kickstarter (check it out–it’s awesome), and learn where the company is going next.

Where it all began is in 2009, in the midst of one of the country’s worst recessions, when brothers and cofounders Dave and Mike Radparvar quit their jobs to dive headfirst into building a dream company with good friend and founding partner Fabian.

Rather than write a business plan, they sat together on the steps of Union Square to write down the things in life they wanted to work toward, value, and not forget. From this, came the manifesto.

What they didn’t expect is that the declaration of truth that they originally wrote for themselves would eventually pen the direction of the company, and inspire millions along the way. It’s just now, four years later, that they’re able to articulate why the company exists.

“Holstee exists to encourage mindful living,” Mike says. “We grew up in an age where faster, cheaper, and bigger were valued above craftsmanship, values, and quality. We hope to change that for future generations.”

What exactly is mindful living, you may be wondering?

In a world where multitasking and information overload are the norm, mindful living, as defined by Holstee, is “to be fully aware and to appreciate the impact of one’s actions.”

“Mindfulness inherently makes us more curious and encourages us to ask why.” says Mike. “We live in an age where transparency and authenticity are the new kings.”

So how does one integrate mindful practices to enhance quality of life?

Here’s how the guys at Holstee practice mindfulness, which you, too, can begin implementing today:

1. Presence. 
When in conversation, give someone your fullest attention. Put the computer away, turn your phone on silent, and get lost in the moment with that person. Be fully interested, rather than interesting.

2. Architect your life. 
Be considerate and intentional with your life decisions. Rather than let life happen to you, author the story of your life. Author and philosopher Howard Thurman says it best with, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

3. Personal time. 
Taking time for yourself creates clarity and renewed energy. At Holstee, they strongly suggest all teammates take their birthday day off each month. In a startup culture where personal and working hours tend to get blurred, this creates space and perspective.

4. Ask “Why?” 
Why am I doing this? Why are we creating this product? Why is this a design principle? Asking “why” encourages you to go deeper and become more aware of what’s driving you, and whether or not you want it to be driving you.

5. Know your food and appreciate meals. 
What are you eating and where did it come from? As a society, over the last 50 years, we’ve created a knowledge and geographic gap as we’ve distanced ourselves from our food. To stay aware, the team at Holstee cooks in the office almost every day, and meal times are savored without work.

6. Understand the impact of what you buy. 
Transparency is slowly being built into the operations of many forward-thinking companies. This movement is a direct result of the increasing number of people asking questions about the clothes they buy, where their electronics come from, and brands they choose to support. Before buying, understand the impact.

3 Effective and Underutilized Customer Retention Methods

September 13th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Marketing

Management consulting firm Bain and Company found in a 2013 study that it is 6-7 times more expensive to gain a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.

Smaller companies generally don’t have the resources to reach large markets in the way large multinational corporations do. But there are other, affordable methods of customer retention that have either been brushed under the rug as obsolete or simply forgotten about in lieu of technology.

Snail-Mail Campaigns

Direct mail garners a 3.4 percent response rate from customers, compared to only a .12 percent rate for email, according to a report by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). A direct mail campaign is not only an opportunity to present a special offer, but also a way to thank loyal customers for their patronage.

Many companies today use reward cards, which can be offered as loyalty reward cards, membership cards, gift cards and even prepaid cards. When someone feels a card inside an envelope, it piques their interest that much more. In the long run, 3.4% of customers ads up to a lot of missed sales opportunities. When it comes to building a service brand, every customer counts. The smallest of gestures, like a $5 discount on their next purchase, lets customers know you appreciate them and gives them incentive to do business with you further. Today, printing plastic cards is less expensive and much more affordable to small and medium-size businesses than it would have been 10 or 20 years ago. And the technology allows users to create completely customized products.

Telephone Campaigns

The DMA also found that direct marketing via telephone has the highest response rate of all customer contact methods. The best thing about direct phone campaigns is that you will already have a list of customers’ phone numbers who have shopped with you. These calls, however, should be limited to thanking customers, fielding complaints and informing them about any upcoming specials or sales.

Despite the overall effectiveness of direct phone campaigns, it is still telemarketing, a traditional annoyance if not done correctly. When customers give you their numbers, tell them that your company may call them occasionally as a courtesy, but will not try to sell anything in the process. Offer them the ability to opt out. It’s best to limit these calls to between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, despite it being legal to call between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Promptly and Willingly Handle Complaints estimates that 96 percent of disgruntled customers will not voice their concerns to the offending company because they either don’t know how to, or don’t believe it will make a difference. Though you may never hear the complaint, all of that customer’s family and friends will, which doesn’t bode well for your company’s reputation.

Complaints should be viewed by business owners as an opportunity to retain a customer. 96% of upset customers won’t ever voice their complaint because they 1) don’t know how to, 2) don’t have a customer feedback method available, or 3) don’t believe it will make a difference. Give customers options as to how they can communicate a complaint to you. An email address, phone number and mailing address should all be avenues which customers can choose from. You can even show transparency by posting selected complaints to your social media pages (make sure to redact all customer personal information) and respond in a public forum.

Your business cannot exist without customers, and it won’t last long without happy customers. The extra effort you put in will show in your balance sheet and in the smiles on your customers’ faces.

By Flavio Martins, Published August 12, 2013

Avectra Survey: Social Media Will Play Significant Role in Future Fundraising Efforts

September 12th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising, Social Media

Avectra Survey Reveals Social Media Will Play Significant Role in Future Not-For-Profit Fundraising Efforts

New technologies to play major role in helping organizations better manage their donors and fundraising goals

McLean, VA – August 13, 2013 - Avectra, a leading web-based social CRM developer of member and donor-based software for associations and not-for-profits, recently completed a survey on not-for-profit organizations and their use of technology, finding that a majority of organizations believe social media will be a driving factor in future fundraising efforts. This signals the importance for not-for-profits to have plans in place that enable social media program execution and management.

In addition to using social media for fundraising, the survey results indicate that fundraisers are seeking better technologies to help them streamline and improve business processes. Ninety one percent of respondents said they saw room for improvement with their current CRM technology solution. Eighty seven percent said they still lack the ability to accurately measure the ROI success of their fundraising campaigns.

“The survey results reflect the changing attitudes in the not-for-profit sector,” said Avectra Chairman and CEO Richard Davis. “Fundraisers are realizing that the old way of doing things needs to change in order for them to connect with their core constituents and to reach out to a new generation of donors.”

Helping to meet the market’s need for better engagement tools, Avectra recently released IdeaStarter™, a new fundraising tool that enables organizations to tap their online community to solicit ideas and secure money, volunteers and/or the resources necessary to complete projects that may not be covered under their normal funding network or corporate structure. IdeaStarter™ is a peer-to-peer platform that not only helps not-for-profit organizations reach and raise more funds, but empowers their members and donors to create projects and campaigns that support new or ongoing corporate and community initiatives. The solution is currently being deployed by Rotary International and YearUp Chicago.

“Having the ability to effectively communicate with your donor community is the number one reason why not-for-profits succeed or fail,” said John Clese, Avectra’s director of product marketing, not-for-profit. “Whether it is through phone, email, text or good old snail mail, organizations need to know the best way to communicate to their donors according to that individual’s preference. Then make sure they are frequently checking in with those donors to determine what issues matter most and to inform them of what they have been able to accomplish with their contribution.”

More students choosing to live at home while studying

September 11th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Education

Financial education when home becomes the college dorm.

Raysha Duncan grew up less than 15 minutes from Purdue University, so when she started at the West Lafayette, Indiana, school three years ago, it made sense for her to live at home and save the high cost of room and board.

But with three younger siblings at home, this arrangement began to chafe by junior year. “I felt like I was missing out on something everyone else at school was doing,” said Duncan.

For Duncan, however, moving out also meant taking out her only student loan of less than $4,000. She’ll be back living at home this fall for her senior year. “I found the cost to be too much,” Duncan said.

If August is the time parents are packing their college-aged kids up and off to school, this year there are likely plenty of students like Duncan who aren’t going anywhere. Families may need some financial education when home becomes the college dorm.

Nearly two-thirds of students chose to live at home or with relatives as a cost-saving measure in the 2012-2013 academic year, according to lending giant Sallie Mae’s annual “How America Pays for College” report.

That’s because room and board fees can add up. Along with hikes in tuition and fees, the cost of living on campus jumped more than 10 percent in the past five years at private, four-year colleges to an average of $10,462, according to the nonprofit College Board. At public schools, the increase was greater, nearly 15 percent to an average of $9,205.

Students are looking for less pricey alternatives. Meagan Hurley, a soon-to-be junior at Georgia’s Reinhardt University, decided to opt out of dorm living this fall to save money. Room and board is $6,958, according to Reinhardt’s website, while Hurley’s rent for an off-campus apartment with two roommates will be $300 per month.

Even with groceries and gas money, Hurley will still come out ahead. “Before I had to ask my parents for help,” Hurley, 20, said. “Now I can put money back to pay off some of my student loans.”

Thirty-five percent of those surveyed by Sallie Mae added a roommate to help cut costs.

Living at home, however, is even more commonplace. Americans under age 34 think it is acceptable for adult children to live at home with their parents for up to five years, according to a survey to be released Coldwell Banker Real Estate on Tuesday. As August began, the non-profit Pew Research Center found that the percentage of Americans ages 18 to 31 living at home is a record 36 percent, up 4 percent since 2007.

It’s a national trend that extends beyond low-income families. One in two students from households with incomes over $100,000 also chose to live at home to save, according to Sallie Mae. “College has gotten so expensive that even wealthier families are feeling more pressure to cut costs,” said Sarah Ducich, Sallie Mae’s senior vice president for public policy.

To be sure, there are upsides to striking out on one’s own. Freshmen who live in residence halls have been found to perform academically better than their commuting counterparts. Dorm life offers close proximity to class and the library, an instant group of new friends on campus, and an immediate sense of independence.

“Life isn’t free, and it’s never too early to learn that,” said Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist who directed the Coldwell Banker research.

Whether to charge rent or not is usually one of the first questions parents have to ask themselves, especially when students are staying home to save money.

Julia Hansen and her husband have charged her stepson, Michael, $350 each month he’s lived with them while he attends New York University. In New York City, that’s certainly below-market rent. Even so, Michael has to work about one shift a week at a nearby coffee shop to help cover it.

“We’re paying most of his bills, but he has to feel like he has skin in the game,” Hansen says. Lodging and food at NYU is $16,622 for the upcoming school year.

The Coldwell Banker survey finds 82 percent of Americans feel that adult children living at home should pay rent.

What’s more, young adults benefit from the opportunity to manage their own money. Dr. Cora Breuner has two college students still at home, but they both have bank accounts they control. “I transfer funds in and try to trust they’re using it for the right things,” Breuner, a member of the adolescent medicine department at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Duncan said leaving home forced her to learn to cook “real food”, organize her time, and learn to live with roommates.

Parents with kids at home should expect them to pitch in on household chores. It’s also important to establish house rules early on as well as the consequences for breaking those rules, experts say.

In Breuner’s experience, grounding a young adult is pointless. “You’re essentially grounding yourself,” she advised. “Taking away their phone or car, on the other hand, will get their attention.”

Even if parents and students alike are happy to keep living together, don’t get too comfortable. “The job of a parent is to help their children live independently,” Ludwig says. Establishing when a child plans to move out helps this transition.

Duncan hopes living at home senior year will let her move out of her parents’ home after graduation. She’s using the money she saves on rent this year to pay off her loan so the debt isn’t hanging over her head as she looks for a job next spring.

For now, she’s trying to appreciate being close to her parents and siblings. “Roommates don’t have to love you unconditionally,” she said, “Plus, I won’t be here forever.”

Sallie Mae Report


By Kathleen Kingsbury

BOSTON | Mon Aug 12, 2013 10:10am EDT

Raising Money in a Changing World

September 10th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

The deepest downturn since the Great Depression may seem like the biggest seismic shift charities face.

But it’s America’s demographic transition that has the potential to transform the philanthropic landscape.


Nonprofits such as the Silicon Valley Community Foundation are already laying the groundwork for learning about the wishes and hopes of new groups of donors.

“Charities that don’t recognize demographic trends are going to shrink and ultimately go out of business,” says Emmett Carson, the foundation’s president.“The populations in the past that have supported them spectacularly will not have the base to support them going forward. This is adapt, change, or die.”

Demographic Shifts

White Americans will no longer be the majority.

By 2045, people of color will outnumber whites in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A shrinking pool of Caucasian donors means fundraisers need to focus on burgeoning minority groups.

Women are gaining economic power.

Forty percent of women with children under 18 are the primary breadwinners in their households, according to the Pew Research Center. And of those, 37 percent are married women who earn more than their husbands.

What’s more, nearly half of the students now enrolled in law and medical school are women, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, an indicator they will eventually work in those high-income fields.

As women’s earning potential continues to rise, the opportunity for larger donations increases as well.

Today’s young adults will push philanthropy to change.

Born beginning in the early 1980s, this generation is more demanding than others, seeking concrete results from their gifts and showing little interest or allegiance to organizations the way their grandparents did. But charities that can satisfy their hunger for impact—and tap into their desire for hands-on engagement—will be ahead of the game.

Baby boomers are reaching their prime giving years.

The 76 million Americans born from 1946 to 1964 now drive philanthropy, contributing a bigger share of total donations than any other age group, according to a new study by Edge Research, Sea Change Strategies, and Target Analytics. They represent 34 percent of all donors but are responsible for 43 percent of all individual giving, for a total of $61.9-billion a year, according to study released last week.

Boomers are at an age when people often get organized about their philanthropy; a new study by Fidelity Charitable of its 94,000 donors found that the average person starting a donor-advised fund is 54 years old.

Lesbian and gay donors are growing more visible.

The debate over same-sex marriage invigorated this group politically and spurred giving to political causes that could be directed to charities more broadly.

About a third of gays and lesbians say they have donated to politicians or political organizations because of their support for LGBT rights, including 15 percent over the past 12 months, according to a Pew Research Center study released in June. It’s now up to charities to put out the welcome mat and seek their support.

Secularism is on the rise.

Roughly one in five Americans now claims no religious affiliation, according to the Pew Research Center, a share that has been rising over the past few decades and is even higher among people in their 20s and early 30s—a sign with strong implications for philanthropy, as studies show that donors who are religious tend to give more to charities of all kinds.

Over the past several decades, religious giving has decreased as a share of all giving, according to “Giving USA” figures, and even donors who are driven by faith are showing increasing flexibility about where their money goes.

For instance, a study due in September of more than 3,000 Jewish donors by Jumpstart, a philanthropy research organization, found that 33 percent said they would be more inclined to support a Jewish charity if it also served people who aren’t Jews. But that share leapt to 46 percent for donors under 40.

Tailored Messages

While nobody knows for sure whether the demographic shifts now underway will lead overall giving to rise, it seems likely that a changing America will continue to give.

Americans of all races and ethnicities tend to donate to charity at roughly the same rate when differences in education and finances are taken into account, according to research by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

“That suggests that nonprofits can be successful at raising money from all different groups as long as they identify and build relationships with those donors,” says Una Osili, head of research at the school.

A report last year by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation offered a snapshot of philanthropy by women and minorities that indicates enthusiasm for giving.

Kellogg found 400 funds that are organized by blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities that contributed an aggregate of $400-million annually.

“Giving from donors in communities of color is definitely growing,” says Alandra Washington, director of family economic security programs at the foundation. “There is a real appetite and hunger for people to be able to engage and participate in finding solutions in areas of challenge in their communities and using philanthropy as a vehicle to do that.”

Earning Donations

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation, located in a diverse region known for its technology wealth, was able to build on that appetite. But, says Emmett Carson, president of the foundation, success didn’t happen overnight.

After the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat, India, the foundation connected with Indian-Americans who wanted to send help. Foundation staff members have since spent time researching issues important to those donors and recruited several Indian-Americans to serve on its board and join its staff. Last year, the group published a report on the philanthropy of Silicon Valley Indians.

The foundation’s efforts helped produce about a dozen donors interested in giving to India who have contributed a total of nearly $1.5-million.

The fund is now working on a similar report about Chinese-American philanthropy in the Bay Area that will be published in November.

“We believe you have to earn your way into a community over time with trust,” says Mr. Carson. “By having people on the board level, having a diverse staff, and by faithfully taking on issues that are of interest to that community, we are authentic to them when we reach out to them to support their work.”

Not only do fundraisers need to educate themselves about the causes different groups hold dear but they also need to know how to communicate with each one, says Judith Nichols, a fundraising consultant and demographics expert.

Sometimes the same message can be interpreted in different ways by various groups of potential supporters.

For instance, when she worked with Girl Scouts of the USA, Ms. Nichols says, the charity held an information session in Southern California about their camp programs.

White mothers attended with their daughters, Hispanic families sent only their fathers, and many Asian families who were invited to attend did not, she says, because the word “camp” had a negative connotation to them.

In the past, fundraisers would send the same direct-mail appeal to all donors, but strategies have changed along with the country’s population, says Ms. Nichols. “You’ve got all these groups that are very unique, and you can’t approach them all the same way.”

Diverse Staffs

The challenge for mainstream charities will be how to attract these donors, who might be new to their mission.

A few years ago, the National Parks Conservation Association recognized that its visitor rolls, staff members, and board composition did not reflect the country’s growing diversity.

The group has since been working to create programs that highlight parks near urban areas and plans to expand its board of trustees to include more women, younger people, and minorities. The charity also hopes to recruit a more diverse staff and eventually to seek donations from an increasingly diverse pool of donors.

“Not only is it the right thing to do but it makes great business sense as well,” says Theresa Pierno, the group’s acting president. “The only way we can continue to protect national parks for the future is to make sure all populations understand and appreciate their benefits.”

Other nonprofits also must take steps to get ready to tap a more diverse set of donors, says Mae Hong, director of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, which counsels many of the nation’s wealthiest donors. “Organizations that don’t find a way to build on those relationships, I say, they are leaving money on the table.”

August 11, 2013

By Nicole Lewis

Raymund Flandez and Heather Joslyn contributed to this article.


4 Tips for Feeling More Comfortable When Making Asks in Person

September 9th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Here’s a secret you won’t hear from your boss or read in most fundraising books… most fundraisers get nervous when making asks in person.  Even those grizzled development veterans at your office or leading fundraising seminars sometimes get nervous before a big ask.

Of course, that feeling of nervousness subsides, and many times even disappears, with practice. Once you have made dozens of asks per year for a couple of years, it will come as second nature.  Until it does, here are four practical tips to help you feel more comfortable when making in person asks for your non-profit:

#1: Ask Personal Questions

When sitting down with a prospect, don’t feel like you have to launch right into your fundraising pitch.  In fact, it is better that you don’t.  Instead, start off with some small talk, and ask some personal questions, like:

  • How are your kids?
  • How did you get into this line of work?
  • How is business?
  • Do you follow the local sports team?
  • What is that interesting poster on your wall?
  • Who designed your office?

Treat your prospect like a real person, and have a real conversation with him or her. Hopefully, you’re always cultivating before you ask, so you’ll know a little about the person before you go to the meeting, and can prepare some interesting questions before hand.  Have a conversation before you get to the ask.

#2: Bring a Prop

One great way to feel more comfortable when meeting with a prospect is to bring a prop to talk about.  It can be as simple as a copy of your most recent newsletter or annual report, or perhaps some pictures of the work your non-profit is doing.

Think creatively.  If you are fundraising for a school, why not bring some pictures the students drew?  If you are fundraising for an international relief organization, show off some art created by the villagers in a town where you installed running water for the first time.

Use the prop or props you bring to stimulate conversation about your organization’s work, and to elicit questions and an emotional response from your prospect.

#3: Prepare Three Stories in Advance

Before going in to meet with a prospect, think about all of the stories you have heard about your organization’s work.  Which are the most compelling?  Which do you enjoy telling the most?  Prospects love to hear true stories about the work your non-profit is engaged in.

Prepare to tell three such stories in advance of your meeting.  Tell them to yourself, your spouse, and/or a friend or co-worker.  Be ready to tell them at the meeting.  Once you are sitting across from your prospect, you’ll know whether to tell them or not.  Perhaps you’ll use one, perhaps two, maybe all three.  No matter how many you end up using, you’ll feel better knowing you have three great stories about your work in your back pocket.

#4: Have a Plan

If you have a plan for the conversation, you’ll feel much better going in to make an ask.  I suggest that you write out your plan, at least until you get comfortable with asking. Writing out the plan works well for both phone and in person asks.

Your plan should include personal questions you can ask the prospect, stories you can tell, and a general flow of conversation that culminates in using my six step formula for making great asks.  Put all of this into a flow chart so that you know what to do when you get into the room.  It will make you feel much more comfortable that walking into an ask and winging it.


Campuses move towards motorized tours

September 8th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Education

The campus tour: no longer only a stroll around the ground. In the name of comfort and saving time, some colleges are putting visitors on wheels.

Campus Tours Are Revving Up 1At Furman U., in South Carolina, campus tours include a 45-minute ride in an eight-passenger golf cart, driven by a student guide.

People complain when their feet get sore, the University of North Texas has learned. For years, when visitors were asked what they disliked about the campus tour, the resounding answer was: all that walking. Parents didn’t like trekking around in the heat, and they weren’t too keen on the cold either.

There had to be a better way, North Texas officials decided, to show off their 884-acre campus. “It was like a death march trying to get from one end to the other,” says Jennifer McLendon, the university’s visitor-experience manager.

So three years ago, North Texas bought two 14-passenger electric trams, which can go up to 20 miles per hour. Now the tour has two parts: Guests walk through the heart of the campus, and a tram takes them around the perimeter, stopping several times along the way. The open-air vehicles have hard tops that block the sun, and in the winter, when temperatures can dip into the 30s, clear plastic flaps cover the sides.

North Texas is one of at least a dozen colleges that in recent years have adopted a walking-riding hybrid for tours. With buses, vans, golf carts, and Segways, today’s campus visits often rely on wheels.

Comfort is one factor. Campus sprawl is another. Vehicles like those at North Texas are motorized symbols of a building boom still under way. For many years, colleges have been expanding their acreage and multiplying their square-footage, erecting dorms, theaters, and fitness centers—shiny, expensive structures that presidents deem mandatory stops on a tour. But those buildings are often on the edges of campuses, which means more distance to cover, more steps to climb, and—whew!—more winded parents.

And grandparents. Like many colleges, North Texas has seen an increase in older visitors. More and more large families (Hispanic ones, especially) are coming for tours, and sometimes three generations board a tram. “The older visitors definitely appreciate it,” Ms. McLendon says.

Wheels can save precious minutes. Most guests have only so much time to spend on a campus, especially if they plan to visit more than one that day. “You want to keep them on schedule,” says Rebecca Eckstein, vice president for enrollment at Ohio Wesleyan University, which started using vans about three years ago.

Touring Ohio Wesleyan’s 200-acre campus in an hour had long been a logistical challenge (it’s shaped like a barbell, Ms. Eckstein says). And that was before the Meek Aquatics and Recreation Center opened. With its 10-lane pool, the building is a must-see, yet taking families through it adds at least five minutes. “We had more things to show them, but we didn’t want it to take any longer,” Ms. Eckstein says.

So now, visitors walk from the admissions office to the other side of the campus, and a van brings them back. The 20- to 30-minute driving tour includes the soccer field, fraternity houses, and the back of the president’s house (driving by the front was less efficient).

As at North Texas, two student guides lead Ohio Wesleyan’s tour. One drives, the other talks.

‘That Golden Opportunity’

Anyone who thinks of trams or vans as glamorous recruitment tools is missing the point. So says Jeff Kallay, chief executive and a founder of Render Experiences.

North Texas, Ohio Wesleyan, and many other colleges have hired Mr. Kallay as a consultant to improve their tours. As campuses have grown, he knows that so, too, have American waistlines. A long walk, he has told clients, can be tough for people who are obese or out of shape.

Yet the number of sites seen and acres covered also relates to the intangibles of choosing a college. Mr. Kallay has recommended riding options to help reveal more of a campus’s features—and, in turn, more of what students experience there. “It’s about creating a feeling that matches the price point,” he says.

Brad Pochard agrees. When he came to Furman University as director of admission five years ago, he learned that just 51 percent of high-school seniors who visited the campus ended up applying—well below the percentage at peer institutions.

Back then, visitors got an hour-long walking tour of academic buildings. But they saw relatively little of Furman’s lush 750 acres. The tour bypassed the lake, bell tower, athletics facility, and housing for juniors and seniors. Walking to all those spots wasn’t possible on Furman’s spread-out campus.

“We were missing out on that golden opportunity,” says Mr. Pochard, now associate vice president for admission. “With the price tag we have, we have to show the value and the amenities.”

Furman has since revamped its tour, which now features both walking and driving legs, each about 45 minutes. Mr. Pochard persuaded the university to invest in six eight-passenger golf carts—white with purple trim, Furman’s colors—that allow the tour to cover much more ground.

Tour guides, who also drive the golf carts, get lessons in which they are reminded to make wide right turns. Aside from a few scrapes and the occasional smack into a curb, the students have steered the carts without incident. “We tell our tour guides not to turn around,” Mr. Pochard says. They are not expected to fill the driving time with conversation.

The expansive new tour has impressed applicants, officials say. Last year 68 percent of high-school seniors who visited applied, a significant uptick from five years ago.

Not every college can mechanize its campus tour, and perhaps many would not want to. Even small vehicles come with big questions. How much will it cost to insure them? Does the campus have enough driveable walkways? And what is the college’s liability if someone gets injured?

Ms. McLendon, at North Texas, has considered the risks of riding tours: “You’re putting a $17,000 vehicle in the hands of a 20-year-old.”

Innovation brings new challenges. Adding the trams required North Texas to limit its tours to just 14 people. So if all the seats are taken, “walk ins” without reservations can no longer join a tour at the last minute. They get a walking tour instead. “It gets awkward,” Ms. McLendon says, when they see other families riding the tram.

Even a comfortable ride won’t make every guest happy. Although visitors at North Texas no longer complain about walking, many still lament not seeing the football stadium, which is across Interstate 35.

If nothing else, vehicles whisking visitors across quads affirm that recruitment has many facets. Most tours appeal to the eye, but when wooing future tuition-payers, it may help to consider their feet, too.

July 29, 2013

By Eric Hoover

PSE fundraisers optimistic about growth of giving

September 7th, 2013 | 1 Comment | Posted in Education, Fundraising

College fund raisers are bullish on giving.

Even as the economy continues a plodding recovery, college fund raisers have higher expectations for their hauls this year and next, according to the results of a new survey released on Wednesday.


Fund raisers responding to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Fundraising Index estimated they would see 7.1-percent growth in giving for the 2013 fiscal year, beating the 5.9-percent growth predicted in the same survey last year and surpassing the 20-year average growth rate of 5.8 percent.

Looking ahead, those surveyed projected a 6.2-percent average increase in growth for the 2014 fiscal year.

“We are returning not only to pre-recession levels of giving, but also pre-recession rates of growth in giving,” John Lippincott, president of CASE, wrote in an e-mail.

Mr. Lippincott credited the uptick to a robust stock market that’s far outpacing gross domestic product. “Major donors have seen significant increases in their personal wealth and are, therefore, willing and able to make significant philanthropic investments,” he wrote.

Results of the CFI since its inception

August 8, 2013, 4:56 am

By Lee Gardner