The Agitator’s Week In Review. It’s countdown time. 72 hours ’til Election Day. 1,464 hours ’til the account books close on December 31. And while the pollsters (or at least most of them) are predicting an Obama victory it’s not nearly as clear how fundraisers will fare in the final 61 days to year’s end.

So, in an effort to provide some insight Tom and I decided to seek the experience and prognostications you and other Agitator readers by publishing a Vital Signs Survey so we can all share each others’ insights on what is happening now and what is likely to happen as we head to the end of 2008.

Please join in. Take a few moments to let us know what you’re seeing and how what you think the current climate means to 2008 results. We’ll share those results next Friday. And then every two weeks we’ll update the survey until year’s end.

WEEK OF OCTOBER 27, 2008

MONDAY: Good news on the level of expected online giving for the holiday season. A “must read” report from Convio and Jupiter Research on the holiday giving intentions of 175.6 million online users in the U.S. offers reassuring news in these troubled times:

  • 51% say they intend to give online to charities;
  • 24% say they will give $100 or more;
  • Even of those who say their financial situation is worse than last year, 46% say they plan to donate; and…
  • 61% say they will give about the same as last year, 6% say more, 33% say less.

Get the full report here from Convio. Don’t delay.

TUESDAY: Another tonic for troubled times. And an Agitator “You Deserve A Raise” for its author, Sasha Dichter, Director of Business Development for the Acumen Fund, a non-profit venture capital fund supporting enterprises fighting poverty in the developing world. This fundraising manifesto, titled In Defense of Raising Money” was brought to our attention by marketing maven Seth Godin.

Please read the whole piece which concludes: “If nothing else, then we need a new word. Fundraising is about a transaction — I reaise funds from you, you get nothing in return. “I’d rather be an eveangelist, a storyteller, an educator, a translator, a table-pounder, a guy on his soapbox, a woman with a megaphone, a candidate for change. I want to talk to as many people as I can about my ideas–whether in person or in newsletters or on Facebook or Twitter or in the Economist or at the TED conference or at Davos –and capture their imagination about the change I hope to see in the world. “Don’t you?”

WEDNESDAY: Tom led us on a much-needed mid-week break from the woes of fundraising in a recession and the endless achievements of Obama’s online fundraising machine to the world of neuromaketing. Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy by Martin Lindstrom is the report of a three year, $7 million research project into what really goes on in the brains of consumers as they watch commercials and think about brands.

Buyology discusses findings like……is the brain actually stimulated by cigarette warning labels? [Tom ponders about the effect of global warming warnings.]…do brains really perceive brands the way they perceive religions? [Tom wonders: “What’s the chemistry of zealotry?”]…can you ‘watch’ the brain to predict which TV programs will succeed? [Tom asks, “How about which fundraising appeals will succeed?”]To learn more about what the brain MRIs and EEGs revealed and whether this fascinating book is for you click on the review here.

THURSDAY: Biggest surprise from an excellent white paper on marketing channel preferences is the continuing preference among younger consumers (age 18-34) for direct mail and email when it comes to receiving marketing messages.

The study from Ball State University’s Center for Media Design and email marketing company ExactTarget contains some fascinating findings:

* 20 percent of wired consumers have signed up for marketing offers via SMS, but they want to receive text messages only for urgent customer service issues such as financial alerts or travel updaes;

*more than 50% of young homemakers use social networks and SMS during the day, but direct mail and e-mail are their two preferred marketing channels;

* 81 % of retired consumers have purchased online (no reason they shouldn’t be contributing online too.)

* in the ‘established professionals’ group of six target groups studied, women are more likely to use new channels like Instant Messaging, SMS and social networking to communicate with friends and family. But when it comes to shopping online 92% of both men and women in this group have made online purchases.

Read more from the article in eMarketing & Commerce and from there download the white paper.

FRIDAY: We ended the week at the Agitator by launching a brief eight-question Vital Signs Survey to collect perceptions and predictions of our readers on their outlook non-profit fundraising over the balance of 2008.

Please take the Vital Signs Surveyby November 5th. We plan to report the results on Friday, November 7th. After that we will publish fresh survey results every two weeks for the balance of the year, as reported by those of you who choose to share your impressions though our Vital Signs Panel.

Your Weekend Bonus: “The partnership between nonprofit organizations and their donors is never more important thatn during times of uncertainty.” Those were the words of wisdom that greeted me in a Friday morning email from my friend and major gift guru John Glier of Grenzebach Glier and Associates.Tom and I’ve been covering a lot of ground over the financial/economic cries, but mostly as it’s likely to affect smaller gifts.

So, it was good to receive a take and some sound advice on the current situation from one of the premiere major gifts experts. “…we are convinced that the best course for the non-profit sector is to fucus on the activities that have always served it well: ensuring a compelling case for support, leading in ways that generate trust in institutional leadership, building and sustaining relationship, inviting philanthropic support, and stewarding the donors who have made gifts in the past.”

John then goes on to offer the following reminders:

* Well-managed fundraising programs prevail among and across many different economic and political landscapes. Strong institutions are maintaining their philanthropic activities, albeit with sensitivity and a recognition that some donors will defer a gift decision or delay a pledge payment.

*Annual giving programs should take care to monitor gifts from loyal donors and be certain that those donors are asked to continue their support. Annual fund officers should look carefully at previous donors who have made leadership gifts of stock from donor-advised funds, and should consider direct conversations with those donors about how they will make their gifts this year.

*It is critical to know your donors and be sensitive to their personal timing. Stay close to those who have supported you in the past and increase your stewardship activities. Some donors will continue to give, and most will re-engage when they are feeling more comfortable. It is particularly important at this time to assure donors that their past support continues to have impact and is appreciated.

Amen! I say.  And have a great weekend.

Roger

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