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Digging trenches in the rain taught me to always do the right thing, even when no one is looking

July 16th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Team Building

In this series, professionals share what they’d do differently — and keep the same. Follow the stories here and write your own (please use #IfIWere22 in your post).

The cold fall evening felt more like winter as our over-loaded mules pulled up onto the west side of the North Carolina hill and we dismounted. Packs, ammunition, and weapons were quickly unloaded from the curious Vietnam-era vehicles that looked like an oversized child’s wagon and pull-started (and often didn’t) with a lawnmower lanyard. I surveyed my “command,” 20 or so vintage 1977 paratroopers, three 81 mm mortars, and enough ammunition (some of it vintage 1943) to conduct gunnery training for two full days.

As a still-new 2nd Lieutenant I knew that while gunnery (essentially mortar marksmanship) was our primary objective, standards mattered, and I directed my Platoon Sergeant to have the paratroopers dig pits for the mortars to fire from. In peacetime gunnery, digging in was largely superfluous to developing skills, but I’d been taught that in combat it was key for survival. And digging would mark me as a leader with unwaveringly high standards.

When you’re wielding a shovel, mortar pits are nothing more than big holes, which after a couple of hours, is what I suspected the troopers considered me. But the task was finite and as the evening grew late, we neared completion with a certain element of relief and pride. The rest of the field time would be relatively easy, and because few other platoons “dug in” regularly, the troopers could take perverse pride in the effort expended.

As the time to begin live firing approached, I got on the PRC-77 radio and called Range Control, the administrative element that coordinated training on Fort Bragg to ensure safety, and requested approval to begin firing. After a moment of silence, the request was denied. Weapons Platoon of Charlie Company, under my apparently incompetent leadership, had set up at the wrong firing point – several kilometers off course.

To avoid moving to a new location (mortar pits don’t move), but more than anything to save face, my Platoon Sergeant and I drove to Range Control to plead with them in person to correct my mistake by reassigning us to the Firing Point we’d just finished digging in on. But we got nowhere. Soon we were driving back to the platoon to tell them we were moving.

My paratroopers were probably disgusted at the news, but hid it admirably, and began the laborious task of reloading the mules and filling in each of the mortar pits – with Staff Sergeant Porter and I simultaneously supervising and shoveling. Around midnight, we were done and after a time the recalcitrant mules started, and we headed to the new site.

It wasn’t far, but by the time we pulled in a light but steady rain was accompanying the frigid evening. The platoon was dirty, tired, and now, increasingly wet. As I walked the new firing point, selecting locations for each of the mortars, the paratroopers quietly unloaded the mules, periodically glancing toward me. The next command was important. Would we dig-in again?

There were powerful arguments against it. We’d already “trained” that skill earlier in the evening; it would take precious time from night firing; we were getting wetter by the minute; and after all, it had been my mistake. Why punish the many for the foul-up of the one, particularly if the one is a 2nd Lieutenant? For a few long moments, I pondered the issue.

Few decisions in my life were as starkly clear as this one. A decision that in the grand scheme of things had almost no importance to anyone, anywhere, was now very important to 20 soggy paratroopers and me. Although no lives were at stake and no fortunes in the balance, a complicated intersection of pride, standards, credibility, and consideration for the welfare of soldiers produced an agonizingly uncomfortable moment that I remembered for the next 33 years of my career.

A couple of hours later, we were almost finished. The rain had beaten steadily down, transforming each shovel full of dirt into heavier mud. But the pits were as I’d ordered, and more importantly, as they should have been.

Like my paratroopers, I was muddy and exhausted from digging, but it felt right.

In the years that followed there were countless opportunities to dig, or not to dig. On more than one occasion, my mistake caused soldiers to dig, move, and then dig again. On hills far from North Carolina, some of my mistakes resulted in the digging of graves. But when the choice arose, there was always a sense of what was right — whether or not it was safer, easier, or more popular.

If I were 22 again, I hope I’d dig.


General McChrystal’s upcoming book, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement in a Complex World, draws upon his experiences leading special forces in a turbulent environment, as well as the stories of those facing similar challenges in private sector corporations, government agencies, and small non-profits. Written with his colleagues, David Silverman and Chris Fussell (partners at CrossLead and both former Navy SEALs), Team of Teams shows how any organization can transform itself into an adaptable network, in order to take on the challenges of today’s world— and win.

3 Types of Social Media Your Nonprofit Might Not Be Using—But Should

July 16th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising, Social Media

In the nonprofit sector, there is a constant need to stand out in order to secure new, young, and diverse donors. As technology continues to be a focal point in society, nonprofits are turning to social media to get missions and campaigns in front of the masses.

Twitter and Facebook have long been the most popular social media outlets. However, in April 2014, the use of Snapchat by the World Wildlife Fund for its #LastSelfie campaign proved to be a wake-up call for organizations that limit their social media presence. Snapchat’s audience is mostly young women in their teens and early 20s—one of the hardest audiences to reach.

In addition to Snapchat, Tumblr and Instagram are also reaching millennials when it comes to marketing efforts. So, how could these work for your organization?

  • Snapchat: The trickiest part of this platform is that a video or picture message will permanently delete itself after one to ten seconds (this is sender-controlled). Don’t look at this as a negative, however. Even with only a few seconds of “air time,” organizations should be able to capitalize on the impact. Remember Amsterdam’s stripping billboard from 2011? Think of Snapchat in the same way—each “snap” is your own personal billboard, which viewers will only take in for a few seconds but can lead to a bigger story.
  • Tumblr: This platform has the advantage of an unlimited character count per post and placing visual content front and center. Start out with a graphic or photo that jumps out at the Tumblr audience. Then, once interest has been grabbed, use text to elaborate on the purpose and calls to action.
  •  Instagram: The beauty of Instagram is just that—the beauty. Each post on this platform is specific and can be transformed into a perfectly cropped, uniquely shaded photograph. The purpose should be intimate, where the audience feels personally connected to services or to the organization itself. Instagram is a great way to show the stylish, idealized version of nonprofit work.

Looking at the culture of the organization, the gaps in demographic reach, and the resources at hand will help guide the use of social media in each individual nonprofit.

By Erin Lamb
May 5, 2015


7 Ways to Keep Staff Fundraising Motivated

July 15th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

If you work for a nonprofit organization, bringing in funds is a major part of your daily operation. Having a team of fundraisers that are motivated and love their jobs will make a huge difference in their performance.

Here are seven ways to motivate your fundraising staff and to keep funding and grants rolling in.

1. Keep Your Team Excited About the Mission

People work in nonprofits because their heart is in a cause. The drawback can be smaller pay, but if those on your team are reminded daily where their efforts are going they can stay excited about their work. Being a part of a nonprofit that does good will invigorate fundraisers and make them more successful to articulate the needs of your organization.

2. Have Incentives

If everyone on your team is treated the same, whether they bring in substantial gifts or not, it can unmotivate the best talent on your team. Rewards and incentives are always nice, but even recognition for bringing in a new donor or having a grant approved is a must. Have monthly meetings where strong performers are congratulated for their good work.

3. Monitor Staff Engagement

If your fundraising team seems tired, unmotivated, stressed or overworked, it is time to take a step back and get the team back on track. Recalibrate the atmosphere by taking your group to lunch, or another off-site activity. If your fundraising team does a lot of solo work or work on the road, get the team together for a staff meeting to touch base and regroup.

4. Solicit Team Input

Fundraisers are dynamic and have leadership and motivation skills that you can take advantage of. Have fundraisers be a part of the hiring process when bringing in a new team member. Choose an employee once a month to lead staff meetings and motivate the group in new creative ways.

5. Educate Your Team

The world of fundraising is changing all of the time. In order to have effective fundraisers, your staff must be up-to-date on new ideas and fundraising strategies. Make sure to extend professional development opportunities to your staff so that they can learn and grow. Let your team attend conferences to garner new skills and become more effective fundraisers.

These conferences can be from the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), California Advancement Researchers Association (CARA), Partnership for Philanthropic Planning (PPP) and encourage them to enroll in the Certified Fund Raising Executive Review (CFRE International) as well as seminars and alternative educational sessions.

6. Do Your Part as a Manager

If you manage a nonprofit, bringing in effective fundraisers so that you don’t have to do all of the heavy lifting is important. That doesn’t mean that as a manager you shouldn’t be doing your part. Always have an eye out for your fundraising team and help source possible grant leads or donors through your position and contacts. Bringing resources and new funding ideas to your group will show them that you want them to succeed and that you are there to help.

7. Focus on Setting Goals

Having goals can be a great motivator for fundraisers, so that they know where the bar is set and have a baseline of what is expected. This doesn’t always have to be quantified with funds brought in. Dollar amount goals are important, but so are goals of completing and submitting grants, and sourcing new donors and leads. Set goals at staff meetings and check in monthly or quarterly. Have your top performers participate in goal setting and help with motivating the group.

Fundraising can be a tough job that can lead to burnout. Taking the time and effort to cultivate your staff and keep them motivated, educated and engaged is important. Fundraising for a good cause isn’t always motivation enough. Read the room and keep up staff motivation in order to garner successful fundraising efforts.



About the Author: Rafael Magaña is a nonprofit consultant, instructor, writer, advisor & fund development officer. He provides consultation services and support for cause awareness initiatives, capital campaigns, foundation research & proposal writing, alumni affairs, annual giving, special gift clubs, social media branding and communications. Rafael is a donor-centered philanthropy advocate who has worked with international, national and community based nonprofits across the nation. A Bilingual Fundraising professional who resides in Los Angeles, California.

Follow Rafael on LinkedIn and on Twitter: @RafaOnLinkedIn

The Evolution of Email — Proof and Promise

July 14th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Email

Since the beginning of online advertising, promising new formats—like pop ups, expandable banners, video, social media, native and mobile—have captured and held the industry’s attention and dollars. Many of these formats have delivered and become trusted elements of the media mix. At the same time, these newcomers have often overshadowed email and cast it as a dying player in the digital marketing game. In reality, email marketing is a lucrative digital strategy which has not only proven to be the most robust and thriving digital channel for ROI, but which in today’s digital ecosystem has emerged as the centerpiece of the marketing automation platforms.

Email’s Proven Success
According to eConsultancy’s “Email Marketing Industry Census 2014,” email marketing increased company revenue proportionately by 28% in just one year. On average, companies attributed 23% of their total sales to the email marketing channel, compared to 18% the previous year. Furthermore, according to EmailExpert for every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return is $44.25. Yet despite such staggering ROI, just $3.5 billion was spent on email marketing in the U.S. in 2014, compared to more than $40 billion in total digital ad spend.

Why is that, when there is such a clear rationale for increased spend on email marketing? Generally speaking, email is constrained by the slow drip of new email signups. Ad tech, despite a 60% tilt toward performance-based ad solutions, has failed to deliver on the promise of email subscriber acquisition. The complexity, constraint and expense of using traditional online ads as part of an email sign-up program has flummoxed email marketers seeking database growth—this is true of large enterprises as well as small businesses. It’s simply too complicated and too expensive to execute a social, search or banner campaign with the goal of generating highly engaged new email subscribers at scale.

It’s hard work and expensive for a large enterprise to execute a paid media campaign to a landing page for email capture. It can be done, but it is very expensive. For a small or medium sized business, this is generally beyond their means. Optimization is key, and to effectively acquire high quality new subscribers takes more time, expertise and money than typically available to an SMB. But this won’t be the reality much longer. Omnichannel marketing providers are starting to integrate email list growth solutions that are not only affordable, but also automated and easy to use.

Omnichannel Marketing Brings Email and Lead Generation Back into Focus
Omnichannel marketing technology is bringing email into focus like never before. Recognizing the superior personalization and engagement inherent in email marketing, a broad swath of digital marketing platforms—from small business marketing technology providers, to inbound marketing platforms, to enterprise marketing “clouds”—have built or acquired email marketing tools. Great email is easier for businesses of all sizes to deploy and optimize, and it is more often paired with consistent messaging across channels. Email is a proven performer that is only getting better.

At the same time, the marketing automation platforms are increasingly serving as one-stop shops for lead generation and digital advertising deployment. The practices and products of some of today’s leading marketing automation companies help illuminate the trend. Marketo and HubSpot, big drivers for a long time in the inbound marketing space, both added email to their marketing automation tools and lead generation is a big part of both companies’ product suites. After a series of acquisitions, the Salesforce Marketing Cloud now helps marketers deploy social ad campaigns and email campaigns from the same toolkit. Adobe currently provides a self-service DSP, multi-channel orchestration and data management under one roof. Acxiom and Experian also show us that consumer messaging orchestration means the collision of earned, owned and paid media.

This new reality of convergence is helping marketing departments become less siloed, and it’s casting light on the demand for a more effective paid media tactic built for customer acquisition. Email lead generation, a major imperative, is a gaping hole in these platforms, only partially filled with a panoply of email signup forms. Bringing traditional ads under the omnichannel tent will not solve this problem. That is why omnichannel providers are increasingly partnering with so called “opt-in advertising” specialists—ad exchanges powering specialized ad units that collect consumer opt-ins and data, paired with integrated data transfer automation.

The Evolution of Customer Acquisition
When advertising enables consumers to invite companies into their inboxes, we are faced with a powerful new type of customer acquisition. Opt-in advertising solutions began to emerge several years ago, but they have recently evolved. The best opt-in advertising providers now bridge ad tech and marketing tech, using all of the programmatic tools of the modern ad exchange, plus data transmission and ROI optimization technology, to automate the email marketer’s Holy Grail: delivery of targeted, affordable, highly engaged email subscribers at scale.

Successful opt-in advertising platforms offer simple campaign management tools and use flexible back-end algorithms that leverage data to deliver great results. These email acquisition platforms have the ability to find the right person wherever she is and create a robust email audience. Taking advantage of marketing automation machinery, today’s marketers are more and more likely to engage and monetize those voluntarily loyal opt-in audiences.

For the lifetime of digital marketing, email has demonstrated its superior ability to drive measurable results. It is time for the industry to turn its attention and dollars toward leveraging the best of ad tech for tailored email subscriber acquisition tools that build proprietary email audiences at a scale commensurate with email’s outsized ROI.

Target Marketing

Craig is the President and Chief Operating Officer of New York-based Opt-Intelligence, an online ad exchange dedicated to the user opt-in experience.

$10 Million Raised for Earthquake Relief in Two Days Via Facebook

July 13th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising, Social Media

In the first two days after a donate button for Nepal earthquake disaster relief efforts was placed atop Facebook pages, more than half a million people donated $10 million to the International Medical Corps, Mashable reports. The social networking giant also pledged to match up to $2 million in donations for relief efforts.

Social media tools such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Google have become essential to the coordination of relief and recovery efforts after major disasters, making it easier to share images from affected areas, no matter how remote, and to direct assistance to people in need. Since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck a remote area northwest of the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu on April 25, leaving at least six thousand people dead, more than seven million people in the area have used the “safety check” tool to mark themselves as safe on their Facebook profile. Google also launched a “Person Finder” to enable survivors of the quake to look for or share information about loved ones who are missing.

“In times of crisis, the need to connect and share becomes even more critical,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a post. “WhatsApp and Messenger are being used in Nepal and across the region to get help. Aid workers are using Groups to coordinate and figure out how to get to affected areas. Journalists and media outlets are using Instagram as their primary way to share photos of the events. It is inspiring to see our community coming together to help people in their time of need. We’re grateful to be serving you, and for all your efforts to support those affected by the Nepal earthquake.”

Facebook Users Donate $10 Million to Nepal.” Mashable 05/01/2015.
May 4, 2015
Philanthropy News Digest

8 Ways to Tune Up Your Matching Gifts Program

July 10th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising, Matching Gift

What’s better than one brownie? Two brownies.

What’s better than two brownies? Two expertly baked brownies.

What’s better than two expertly baked brownies? Two expertly baked brownies served with affection.

While brownies may sound more enticing to your tongue, matching gifts represent the chance to double donations that nonprofits crave.

However, a matching gift by itself is not enough. The matching gift request needs to be submitted and then followed up on by your nonprofit.

Woman in office designated to handle matching gifts. - Thomas Barwick/Stone/Getty Images


One of the best ways to shape up a matching gifts program is to put someone in charge.  Thomas Barwick/Stone/Getty Images

Thank you notes need to be sent, donations tracked, and marketing materials created to raise matching gift awareness among new donors.

Baking up an excellent matching gift program is a multistep process. Execution matters, and we’ve got the expert tips to get you started.

Idea #1 – Become a matching gift expert.

A popular opinion is that it takes 10,000 hours of doing any single task to become an expert. That’s about 417 days of your life, and that does not account for sleep. How will you ever become a matching gift guru?

Start with reading. There are great matching gift resources that can cut that 10,000 number down to far less. Moreover, matching gifts are not as complicated as open heart surgery or constructing a crossword puzzle, so finding great resources can make you a whiz in almost no time at all.

You’ll want to learn how programs vary among employers in order to raise the most money for your nonprofit. Corporate giving programs can change from year to year, as new programs appear, old ones fold, and companies alter the parameters surrounding their giving policies.

Idea #2 – Identify a matching gift coordinator.

Matching gift fundraising is a ship, and a matching gift coordinator is the captain. She’s the person who answers donor questions when they call and makes sure that fundraisers and the entire fundraising team ask donors to seek matching gifts.

Internal awareness is key. Not only will a matching gift coordinator define staff roles for handling matching gifts, but she can educate your entire fundraising team about corporate giving to create a culture of matching gifts within your nonprofit.

When your fundraisers and telefund callers know to request matching gifts, more donors are made aware of this form of corporate giving, and your organization will likely receive more doubled donations.

It’s best to arm fundraisers with a script, so they know how to ask for matching gifts. Also, track whether or not a prospect works for a matching gift company. Matching gift eligible donors might be prioritized, as they have the potential to give larger gifts.

Learn more about selecting a leader and organizing a matching gift team.

Idea #3 – Raise awareness.

With a dedicated matching gift team in place, it’s time to raise awareness. Accepting matching gifts means little if you are not reminding donors to seek out doubled donations.

Promotion comes in many flavors. For instance, you might:

  • Discuss matching gifts in an email newsletter
  • Add matching gift information to your email signature
  • Create a dedicated matching gift webpage
  • Add matching gifts to your ways to give page
  • And more

It is a good idea to create packets to share with donors when you meet them in person. While email and sharing information online seems like all the rage, many donors still appreciate either direct mail or tangible materials when they meet you in-person.

Promotion can be hard work, but it’s hard work that pays off in an easily recognizable way. Reach out to your most loyal donors to tell them about matching gifts. The extra phone call or letter could be well worth your while.

Learn more about how to promote matching gifts.

Idea #4 – Make information easy to access.

Submitting a matching gift might seem intimidating to a donor. Where do they find the forms? How do they submit the forms? Is this going to take a considerable amount of time?

By making matching gift information as easy to access as possible, donors can learn everything they need to know in almost no time at all. When submitting requests is easy, you’ll likely receive more matching gifts.

Ways to make information accessible to donors:

  • Add a matching gift widget to your website that lets donors search a database of matching gift companies and access relevant forms and information.
  • Share information on a dedicated page, such as matching gift statistics and submission guidelines.
  • Mail materials that educate donors about matching gifts.

While a matching gift widget might be the best way to share matching gift information, there are other ways to improve the matching gift experience for nonprofits on a budget.

Determine which matching gift companies are most common among donors and volunteers. Share matching gift information for those companies on a dedicated matching gift page, so donors know where to get the necessary forms and to submit their requests.

Learn more about how a matching gift service can improve fundraising.

Idea #5 – Follow up with matching gift forms.

A donor submits her matching gift forms, but no staff member steps forward to process the request. Does the nonprofit receive any money?

Just because a matching gift request is submitted does not mean that it is clear sailing for your nonprofit. Someone usually has to sign off or approve of a matching gift request in some way before a company will give the matching funds.

Companies also have to send you the money. Your nonprofit should track what matching requests have been made, processed, and fulfilled, so you don’t leave easy money on the table.

If you do need to follow up with an unfulfilled request, it’s best to do so with the employer, and not the donor. Donors have already given their time to submit requests, and bothering them to do more might predispose them to not give again.

Learn about the various corporate giving programs that donors can apply for.

Idea #6 – Say thank you.

Donations make your mission possible, so never forget to thank donors. Gratefulness goes a long way towards building meaningful relationships that encourage donors to give again and again.

Matching gifts do more than regular donations, so your nonprofit wants to do a little more with its thank you notes. A special note for matching gift donors is a start, but you can also say thank you twice.

Thank donors for their original donations, and separately for the matching gift. You want donors to know that their matching contributions were received, as they’ll be more likely to give again when they know that their extra efforts paid off.

Saying thank you is all about making donors feel special. Another best practice is to invite matching gift donors to an event, where you thank them for their generous contributions.

It’s obvious that you need to thank donors for their matching gifts, but you also need to thank the people who keep your nonprofit up to date on all things matching gifts.

Company policies change, and it’s hard to keep track of all the alterations. When donors reach out and inform you of a change in an employer’s corporate giving policy, send the donor a thank you. These updates help your fundraisers to better focus their efforts, so they are not wasting time and resources on prospects who will give the same amounts, but without matching gifts.

View thank you letter best practices.

Idea #7 – Keep records up to date.

There’s nothing worse than identifying major gift prospects and then realizing that their contact information is out of date or that they switched employers and now are not eligible to give matching gifts. Either way, an outdated or poorly organized database can cause a lot of unnecessary problems.

Updating donor information or finding donors with large capacities to give could be as simple as mailing out employer update cards or performing a quick prospect screening. A screening can help your nonprofit gather both contact and employer information on large groups of donors, so your fundraisers don’t have to call and email everyone for updates. Screenings are also relatively fast and affordable.

While updated info matters, the data needs to be organized and accessible, too. It is one thing to have a correct phone number on file, and another for a fundraiser to be able to find that phone number in a timely manner.

You want to reach out to the right people, and you need to be ready to do so whenever the proper moment strikes. Powerful CRM software could be your solution for organizing your matching gift donors, as could just using better record-keeping habits.

Learn how to maximize matching gift fundraising by using a CRM.

Idea #8 – Measure your performance.

How do you know that matching gifts are worth all this time and energy? Data, of course.

Categories to track matching gift program performance:

  • How much money did you raise from matching gifts last year?
  • What is your matching gift goal for this year?
  • What percent of your total revenue do matching gifts account for?
  • How much in matching gifts have you received from any single employer?
  • What resources and costs go into acquiring matching gifts?

Too many nonprofits don’t do enough to track matching gifts, and that is a shame. In order to improve matching gift outreach and promotion, nonprofits need hard data to tell them what’s working and what’s not. Tracking matching gifts is all about striving to be as efficient and economical about your fundraising as possible.

About one in ten donors works for a matching gift company, and more companies are offering corporate giving programs each year. Apple, one of the world’s largest tech companies, didn’t start offering matching gifts until 2011. We live in a rapidly changing world, and an increasingly more philanthropic world.

Learn about nine companies that offer matching gift programs.

Implement matching gift best practices, improve your matching gift program and reap the benefits of corporate giving like never before.

How does your nonprofit handle matching gifts?

By Adam Weinger
May 2015
About Money

Adam Weinger is my go to expert on corporate giving. Check out his bio for information about his company, Double the Donation, and for links to all the great content he has contributed right here. It is a virtual manual for nonprofits that want to scoop up corporate funding.



Plan ahead – Giving Day

July 9th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

If your organization has a Giving Day on the horizon, placing this event in the calendar early and thorough communication and coordination planning is crucial for success.




Here are some excellent resources to assist with planning efforts–

Give Local America’s toolkit and training resources

The Knight Foundation’s giving day playbook

Capterra’s Instagram tutorial


If you have a Giving Day success story you’d like to share, let me know!


By Diane Korb
Tuesday, May 05, 2015 8:12 AM
APRA Houston

Must-Have Tips For Creating Mobile Emails & Websites

July 8th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Email, Website

Mobile email opens are on the rise. In the year alone, mobile email opens have increased from 41% to 51%. Therefore, when you prepare your email marketing and website marketing strategy, mobile optimization should be an essential component of both.

This guide will help you adjust your current marketing strategy to embrace the rising number of mobile device users. It is jam-packed with beneficial and effective tips that will walk you through different ways to increase mobile email open rates and conversions.

Click this link to access the guide: Why-Mobile-Must-Be-A-Part-of-Your-Marketing-Strategy

8 Tips for Marketing on Shrinking Screens

July 7th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Email, Marketing

The share of email opens occurring on a mobile device keeps growing, climbing to 48 percent, according to a 2015 report from Litmus. Given the rapid growth in mobile email opens, it’s only a matter of time before more than half of total opens will occur on a mobile device.
Marketers face a real challenge in finding ways to market effectively on increasingly shrinking screens. Savvy marketers know they need to think about how their email marketing is affected by this trend. Now, we’re not just worrying about overcoming spam filters, we also need to consider how and where an email will be viewed, when it will be relevant, what action will need to be taken and on what device?

One thing is clear: With devices shrinking and the attention span of readers decreasing to a frightful eight seconds, email marketing needs to evolve.

Here are eight tips to help you produce better-looking email creative that’s more accessible and will render for both desktop and mobile email clients:

1. Using Links: You can include a mobile-friendly URL link at the very top of an email, also known as the pre-header area. This would be a link to a hosted online text version of your email that is optimized for mobile users with limited text and images. This is considered the easy and safe default option, but it doesn’t provide a rich and compelling email creative for the recipient. It also requires additional clicks by the reader, which has been shown to hinder response rates. Keep in mind, many template-driven email service providers may not offer options to host a mobile version. However, many do.

Avoid crowding URL links too closely together in the body of the email, which makes it difficult for fingers to press on the correct link. Use pixel padding (read more in Tip No. 5) to allow for space around or between clickable areas. Be sure to include links to important pages that support the email promotion or content. Always use trusted links, because users can’t hover on a mobile device to ensure the link is safe.

2. Effectively Use Subject Lines With Pre-Headers: A pre-header is basic text that can be found at the very top of your email. There are two schools of thought regarding pre-headers and mobile devices, both of which should be tested. The first is that handheld devices make the use of pre-headers a necessity, because it’s prime real estate where you want to include key information and offer specific details that entice the consumer to read on. Some marketers use text phrases (i.e. “click here if you cannot see images” or “add us to your safe senders list”). However, because this is likely the first thing a prospect reads, it makes sense to highlight your offer or promotion.

The second theory is to eliminate the pre-header text altogether, because it pushes the email creative down the screen and less of the email is visible.

The best advice and compromise is to keep pre-header text to one or two short lines, so the email creative is visible while still highlighting your best offer copy. Ensure that the subject line and pre-header text are working to support each other, and keep the subject line somewhere between 30 characters to 45 characters for mobile devices.

[Side note on wearables: While information on the new Apple Watch email client is still fairly thin, early predictions show that subject lines and pre-header text will be more important and relevant than ever. Even The New York Times announced it would begin publishing one-sentence stories and other content on various topics for the Apple Watch, enticing users to "hand off" or read a summary of a story or email on the Watch, then use another device to read the full article or respond to an email.]

3. Use a Single-Column Ladder Design: Sidebars and two-column designs are the gold standard for desktop creative, because you have two separate areas to feature your best offer copy so that it appears at the top of the email preview pane where it’s more likely to be noticed. This is known as the “above-the-fold” area, and is commonly where your headline appears. However, a mobile device will likely shift the columns, text and images, and create overlapping areas, which create a poor presentation. The single-column design keeps it simple, with no rendering issues to contend with, no columns being pushed into text and images aligned as you intended.

Using a ladder system allows emails to scale down much more neatly. You want to avoid using tables or setting image size widths, in order to ensure that the email is “elastic” and adjusts to the size of the mobile screen. You’ll also want to group multiple items, links and images on top of each other (like a ladder). You can then use background colors within the email itself to serve as dividers between the different sections. This stacking system allows for easy organization and alignment with limited rendering snafus. The goal is to lead your reader down the email, through the content.

4. Padding for Fingers in Motion: Point and click motions are fluid and precise when done on a computer mouse connected to a desktop or laptop; whereas, mobile devices use touchscreen technology and the bulky human finger becomes a factor. Email designers need to anticipate how fingers will navigate the clickable areas of an email on a touch screen. This means buttons and icons need to get a little larger and the surrounding areas need to be more padded to accommodate for fingertips in motion.

Allow for 10 pixels (give or take) around or in between any clickable area to leave space and make it easy for users to navigate and click to take action. Also, allow for about 20 pixels to 30 pixels around the border of the email for fingers to hold the tablet device. You don’t want key information hidden under the user’s thumb.

5. Font Sizes: Another design tip for clumsy fingers is to use a minimum font size of 12-point for body copy and a maximum headline size around 20 points. Any larger and you risk your email landing in the junk folder for desktop users, because some filters flag larger fonts used in email as spam. Keep in mind that the larger font means you’ll have to keep your content brief. You’ll most likely be able to fit 10 lines to 12 lines of text on a screen.

6. Flush Left: Set all text to align to the left so it appears on the left side of the mobile device, where it’s easiest to read. This will prevent text from getting pushed to the center or right of the phone, forcing users to scroll in order to view and read the email.

7. Back to Basics: This tip might seem a little basic, but the core principles of email marketing will still apply in order for your email to be effective, so they bear repeating. No matter what the design, layout or offer, always ensure your “from” line and subject line quickly communicate two critical points: Branding (who you are) and Offer (the value in your email) The straightforward presence and recognition of both the sender and the email’s value drive open rates and responses—regardless of viewing device.

8. Going Above and Beyond Email: You can’t just stop at email. The most effective campaigns have a supporting landing page that reinforces the offer from your email promotion. So you’ve spent all this time, effort and energy creating a mobile-friendly email, which means the landing page will need to be optimized, as well. In fact, many marketers have a mobile-optimized version of their entire website. This is smart if you’re looking to see some serious conversion rates for your email programs.

Making it simple to click through a well-designed mobile email that leads to an easy-to-navigate landing page can help improve ROI. Many of the tips provided above will apply to the landing page design, but you’ll be working from a larger width for a landing page. We recommend 640 pixels wide, because it’s cleanly divided by two and a good canvas to develop a mobile-friendly page that’s easy to navigate.

By May 4, 2015
Target Marketing

Jessica Paviluk is VP of marketing and design at V12 Group, a data and marketing technology firm based in Red Bank, N.J.

More US institutions turning to social media for fundraising

July 6th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising, Social Media

More schools, colleges and universities worldwide are using social media to boost their fundraising results, and are experimenting with new strategies, according to survey results released today at the 2015 CASE Social Media and Community Conference.

Some 57 percent of respondents to the CASE/Huron/mStoner social media survey used social media to fundraise in 2015, compared to 47 percent in 2014. A majority of respondents (59 percent) report experimenting with new social media fundraising strategies.

“We’re seeing a steady growth in the use of social media by practitioners who work in educational advancement, especially fundraising and alumni relations, who see these tools as increasingly important to their work,” says William Walker, interim vice president of advancement resources for CASE.

Michael Stoner, president of mStoner, says survey results indicate that institutions are expanding beyond basic use of the tools and experimenting with new ways to engage donors, alumni and other constituencies.

“Many institutions are experimenting with crowdfunding, days of giving and other new social-media-based fundraising strategies,” Stoner says. “I believe that we will see more and more institutions using social media in these ways going forward.”

Other key findings:

  • Institutions are using less text and more images and video. Text decreased from 65 percent in 2012 to 43 percent in 2015 while images grew from 30 percent in 2012 to 45 percent in 2015 and video use increased from 6 percent in 2012 to 12 percent in 2015.
  • While nearly 60 percent used social media to raise money from donors, nearly 85 percent of those surveyed indicate that social-media-based fundraising represents 5 percent or less of their institution’s total.
  • Fifteen percent of institutions have held crowdfunding campaigns, and of these, 50 percent earned more than $10,000 per year.
  • Forty-two percent of institutions have held a day of giving. Of these, 84 percent considered the event to be successful with 37 percent raising more than $50,000.
  • Twenty-two percent of institutions use social media ambassadors—often alumni—who are recruited to help promote social media initiatives.
  • Twenty-six percent of respondents rate their use of social media as very successful or a model for success. These same respondents are more likely to plan, have goals and measure outcomes.
  • Respondents are focusing their attention on Facebook, Twitter and institutional websites that aggregate social media.
  • Thirty-four percent of respondents calculate engagement scores for alumni and donors and indicate that they are focused on building sophisticated ways of measuring engagement.

Jennifer Mack, senior managing researcher at Huron Consulting Group, says that measurement is becoming increasingly important as advancement professionals are asked to show a return on investment.

“Survey results indicate a trend toward measuring what is effective,” Mack says. “However, there is still more opportunity for growth in this area as the majority of institutions surveyed use number of followers, website click-throughs and anecdotal evidence as their top forms of measurement.”

The sixth annual CASE/Huron Education/mStoner social media survey, conducted Feb. 19 – March 26, 2015, asked advancement professionals at education institutions about their use of social media. Nearly 1,000 respondents provided feedback to this year’s survey. View the top-line findings and the presentation of those findings below.

Overview of findings: Huron Education and mStoner partnered with CASE for the sixth year in a row to research the social media activities of educational institutions.  Our 2010 inaugural study was one of the first studies of its kind. The overarching goal of this research is to create knowledge and resources to assist education professionals as they assess and implement social media strategies for communication and engagement.
Some of the questions we hoped it would answer include:
• How do professionals in education incorporate social media into their marketing and communication strategies, initiatives, and campaigns, especially fundraising campaigns?
• What are their goals for social media?
• Which social media sites and tools are in use in the education sector and which are most successful?
•What are current best practices?
•How is social media being used in fundraising and crowdsourcing?
•What does the near future look like for social media in education?
We conducted an online survey among a random selection of 28,000 CASE members in the US and abroad. We received 918 responses across all types of institutions – a testament to the interest in this topic.
From Pam Russell, CASE director of communications
April 30, 2015