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Amuse Bouche Fund Drives

So even though I am in a fairly rural area of Ohio, I have discovered that I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to being able to access public radio broadcast streams. There are two from Ohio universities, one from West Virginia and one from Northern Kentucky. Despite the mountains I can hear each of them fairly clearly since there are repeaters located within a few miles of my workplace.

I tell you this provide some context when I say I heard a fund raising approach I liked but can’t for the life of me figure out which station I heard it on. I have visited each station’s website and Facebook page and still don’t know whom to credit.

In any case, one of these intrepid stations announced that now that the summer had started, they would begin “One Shot Wednesday” fund drives. Instead of having a week long fund drive, they were just going to make appeals on Wednesdays throughout the summer.

I thought this was a great idea because many people will tune away for the week of a fund drive and come back when it is over. Having it once a week repeatedly introduces itself into a person’s habitual listening. Since the disruption is contained to a small period of time, people may tune away for a day, come back again and then be reminded the next Wednesday around.

The station can better retain their listeners and expose them more frequently to the message that the station needs their support before a person chooses to tune away. And who knows, people may stay with the station throughout the Wednesday since the appeal breaks are short relative to other fund drives.

I have been trying to think of what the performing arts organization version of this might look like. Attending performances is not part of most people’s daily routine so there is no week long fund drive people might seek to avoid.

Curtailing the curtain speech appeal might make many audience members happy, but what more palatable alternative do you replace it with?

I know the board of my organization enjoyed calling people up to ask them about how much they liked the past season. The effort was well received all around. It would be possible to insert an appeal at that time, but if done poorly it would probably be a negative experience for all involved.

You might try having board members or volunteers chat casually with people in the lobby before the show and introduce the idea of supporting the organization. There is more of an opportunity to monitor that the process is done well and give notes on improving in the future. The only problem might be if the lobby is too small or if most of the audience rushes in at the last moment leaving little opportunity to speak with them.

I think the real question at the base of all this is- what are we doing now that makes people uncomfortable and what can we do to make it less so. That is what the one radio station did. They took the week long fund drive that everyone groans about and parceled it up across the summer.

I have no idea how successful it is, but from the way they spoke, they have done this before. Once I find the station again, I will try to do some further investigation.

But what ideas do you have to break up the often awkward process of fundraising into something more digestible?

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Info You Can Use: Like This Post And You Could Win….

..Well Actually I Can’t Promise You Will Win Anything.

That was one subject tackled in a slideshow/PDF Venable LLP posted from a talk they did in early August, How Nonprofits Can Raise Money and Awareness through Promotional Campaigns without Raising Legal Risk. The slideshow proper is followed by resource documents that delve a little deeper into many of the topics.

The collected information is a great basic resource on many of the legal questions you may have about different sorts of promotional and fundraising techniques like raffles, games of skill and chance. The laws of many states make it necessary to have the “No Purchase Necessary” option and the ease (or lack thereof) of taking advantage of that option is frequently a subject of legal action.

While every state has different laws, the slideshow helps to clarify the general distinguishing characteristics of these activities. For example, I wasn’t aware of some of the following:

Some less obvious examples that may satisfy the “chance” criterion include those in which: a prize is awarded to the “100th” store (or Web site) visitor on a particular day; the amount of the prize depends on the number of people who decide to participate; the prizes are of unequal value; or, a drawing is used to break a tie, or a single prize is divided between tied winners.

The document addresses some of the issues use of the Internet to solicit contributes raises in relation to social media and rules dealing with being registered as a charity in other states if a significant amount of contributions is originating from there.

One of the biggest legal situations they discuss is the commercial co-venture (CCV) where a business might promote that a portion of a purchase will go to benefit a charity. NY State launched an investigation regarding companies that did that in relation to breast cancer and turned up a great deal of fraud. Apparently half the states have laws regulating CCVs in terms of disclosure and the manner in which the relationship is promoted.

Use of social media for solicitations is apparently a gray area legally so the suggestion is to proceed with the same care you would if you were making the same appeals face to face or in print. There are also concerns that you respect privacy when collecting user data, especially from children, and protect the data from theft. Geolocating and behavioral advertising and tracking are identified as hot button issues.

However each social media service has a number of their own rules of which you need to be aware.

For example with Facebook:

-Promotion may not be administered directly on the site, must be administered through a third-party Facebook Platform application
– Cannot use Facebook functionality or feature as an entry mechanism; e.g., “Liking” a profile page or posting a comment on a wall. Also cannot condition entry into the promotion upon taking any other action on Facebook; e.g., liking a status update or uploading a photo.

• However, can condition entry on a user “liking” a Facebook page, checking in to a “Place”, or connecting to the Facebook platform based promotion application as part of the entry process. E.g, can require that users “like” a Facebook page and then submit a completed entry form to enter.

This was something of a surprise because it seems like I get requests to like things all the time and have seen it tied to a chance to win something. I have been trying to remember about how they have been structured.

Facebook is also pretty strict about requiring groups to provide notice that Facebook is not associated with the promotion really in any way.

Another area of concern is intellectual property rights. If you are encouraging people to submit some sort of creative project you can run into a number of issues,

“Incorporating user-generated content in a marketing campaign could expose the sponsor to liability for libel, copyright infringement, violation of one’s right of privacy/publicity, deceptive advertising, trademark infringement, or other violations.”

While social media sites and marketers are protected from liability for what people submit or post on their sites, if you turn around and use the submitted content to promote your organization or product thinking it is entirely original, you could be in quite a bit of trouble.

If you look at the slide show but have more questions, it is really worth looking at the additional resource documents at the end. There are some good short articles that deal with the Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media promotion and

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Try Ask

I try a fair number of the strategies/techniques that I cover here. Some work better than others. For example, for the last seven performances we have tried just asking two questions in our surveys, one fun question and one that we really want to know about from our audience. Even with the ability to answer on a hard copy or text your answer, we haven’t gotten a lot of participation.

Except the night this past weekend when we were participating in an Americans for the Arts survey. Strangely, participation in our 2 question survey went up a little when people were faced with filling out a multi-question survey.

We also didn’t get the response I expected for a recent tweet seats program even though it was circulated a fair bit via social media. Though since this was a trial program, the small number of participants suited me fine and the experience will allow us to refine our approach.

In any case, I am sometimes skeptical about how much input and participation we might get from our community with other endeavors. So I was a little surprised and very pleased by the response we received for space naming meeting were recently had. As part of a renovation we hope to undergo, we have been trying to find a new approach to facility and space naming campaigns so we hosted a brainstorming meeting.

Recalling Andrew McIntyre’s assertion that people who are emotionally invested in your organization might only be visiting you in 2-3 year intervals, we invited people who had either donated or purchased tickets to multiple shows over a 3-4 year period. That yielded about 450 names after purging duplicates. We followed up a letter with a reminder email.

While only about 15 people attended the informal lunch meeting, there were about five times as many people expressing pretty heartfelt regrets saying they were honored to be invited and wishing they could be there. We even received some donations though we didn’t ask for any money.

I was really rather surprised at how many people seemed interested in investing more time and effort to provide feedback than would be required for a paper survey. I am sure the fact the purpose of our communication was to give them something (lunch) in return for their participation rather than asking them to pay to participate (season brochure, email newsletter) probably had a positive impact. Perhaps knowing they could participate in a dialogue rather than in the unidirectional conversation of a survey was a factor in their willingness to come to the meeting.

In any case, it was a very constructive experience for us, especially since I had never spoken face to face with 90% of those who attended. We were hearing from a number of new voices. The meeting also ran about an hour longer than we had planned due to the length of the conversations.

I am significantly less skeptical about the prospect of people’s willingness to participate and become invested with us. None of these people may participate in our space naming campaign, but my encounter with them has left me energized and excited. My advice to others who may not believe there is a lot of interest and investment in their programs based on survey response rates is to give a brainstorming type meeting a try. Like us, your attendance to invitees ratio may be fairly low, but you may gain unsought benefits.

(The title of this entry is a Hawaiian pidgin/creole phrase)

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Trespassing Won’t Make You Many Friends

The Non Profit Quarterly had a piece by Simone Joyaux which I suspect reflects what will be the necessary practice in fund raising for the future.

She asks fund raisers to stop asking their board members to trespass on their family and friends.

Trespassing is when you ask your friends or colleagues to give gifts and buy tickets . . . just because they are your friends and colleagues. This is the personal and professional favor exchange. This is obligation to a person rather than a cause. It’s a lousy way to raise money. It’s offensive. It alienates the asker and the askee. And it’s not sustainable.


How often have you, as a fundraiser, asked your board members to name names? How often have you asked them to bring in a list? Did you ask your board members to write notes on the letters that you planned to send to their list?

I say again, trespassing is a bad idea. It alienates board members. It alienates the friends and colleagues of board members. It doesn’t produce loyal donors or sustainable gifts.

Joyaux advises asking board members to suggest those they believe might be interested in supporting one’s organization and then inviting them to learn more about the organization. In the process of interacting with these people, one can gauge whether they are interested in what the organization does and perhaps what specific manifestation of the mission they may be disposed to supporting. From there you can work on cultivating a relationship with them that may see them more involved with the organization.

This suggestion isn’t terribly earth shattering or new. I have heard Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser say this is essentially what he does to garner support for the organizations he leads. When I first heard him speak about how he evaluates what people may be interested in and only really approaches them in relation to their interests, it seemed a less daunting and more considerate approach than soliciting everyone for every cause, even though it is much more time consuming.

As Joyaux notes, existing supporters like board members are probably going to be more comfortable implementing an organizational relationship building approach. After all, they invested the time to develop their personal relationships with friends and colleagues. While they may be willing to donate the fruits of that investment to their favorite non-profit, those relationships were built on entirely different circumstances which may not be entirely compatible with a request for support of a non-profit.

Now that social media allows people to be approached for their support every time they turn on a computer or pick up the phone, it is likely that only those organizations that take the time to cultivate a relationship with people will earn sustained support.

Not that social media won’t be a good tool for keeping people engaged with the organization’s work. It may just not be the strongest method for the organization and individual to gain a good mutual understanding and appreciation of each other’s priorities.

N.B. My apologies. Some how I ended up omitting the link to Joyaux’s piece when I first posted this entry.

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