Wisdom Wednesdays: Capital Campaign Starting Points — The Feasibility Study

by Dan Johnson, CFRE

At the risk of overstating a decent analogy, allow me to suggest that a quality capital campaign feasibility study and a good insurance policy have a lot in common.

Capital campaigns mark true moments of both inspiration and reality-thinking.  On one hand, campaigns inspire agencies as leaders are recruited, themes are chosen, donors are motivated and buildings come into being.

On the other hand, before inspiration can be applied, reality has to be examined and dealt with.  Do we need to build now?  Will our people support this — now?  Will the new construction be seen as justified given our intended mission and ministry?  How much income can we raise and how long will it take?

Johnson-Dan-editWhat if your local insurance agent could set up a plan (or process) that would nearly always guarantee your success answering all these questions and then stand behind a dollar amount should you decide to pursue the effort?

This is where engaging the help of consultants is truly invaluable.  They might not be free, but you really can’t afford not to use such advisers.  Their job is to help you systematically analyze all the issues before you pursue the dollars you need.  They coordinate a calendar of activities over a few months, designed to address the key questions.  They help you recruit and organize a fully engaged core of leaders (sometimes they help you find people who love your agency more than you knew).  As third-party participants, consultants will even ask selected numbers of your constituents, if and how much, they might give to your effort.

Finally, they produce a report, with their stamp of approval, which will support your decision to either — start or not start a capital campaign.

The largest donor, in the first capital campaign I directed, told me that as an entrepreneur he would never start a new business endeavor without a quality feasibility study.  “It’s the best insurance policy I can have to justify the risk”.

He understood (and here’s where the analogy does break down) that insurance policies guarantee payments for losses and feasibility studies do not.  Even so, I am convinced, as he was, that you, your CEO and your Board of Directors will find that the first step in inspiring a successful campaign comes when you realistically ask, “Is this feasible,” and then professionally test for the answer.

Dan Johnson is the Advancement Officer at Lutheran Ministries Media in Fort Wayne, Ind.


Wisdom Wednesdays: Direct Mail: “I’m not Dead Yet!”

by Jon Nelson

“The death of direct mail is the most exaggerated story in marketing,” writes Thorin McGee in “Editor’s Notes: The Money’s in the Mail,” from Target Marketing magazine.  This piece is a commentary on Target Marketing’s research into “The Top 50 Mailers of 2012.”

“Even today when most orders come through the Web, direct mail is a huge piece of many direct marketing programs, where it continues to prove its worth,” McGee writes.  “The proof part is important.  When you look at the Top 50 Mailers, these are not marketers to dismiss as dinosaurs.  They’re some of the most sophisticated and successful companies in direct marketing.  They know how to test and track results—they still use direct mail because it’s profitable and efficient for them.”

Nelson-Jon-webIndeed, when spreading the word about your organization and getting people to take action, the potential of direct mail should not be ignored.  Taking action, by the way, is key.  Whether you’re sending out a letter, postcard, email or tweet, make it clear that recipients should do something – send money, mark their calendars or call their senators.

Yes, it costs something to produce and send direct mail, but sometimes you can’t afford not to use this tool … if it’s what works for your organization and your constituents.

This isn’t imploring you to go out and spend tens of thousands on a new direct mail campaign right now.  Instead, try doing a bit of relatively cheap research, and see how it turns out.  This summer I printed 400 full-color postcards for well under $100, and after postage it was just a couple hundred total.

“I’m certainly not saying everyone needs to send mail,” McGee states, “—because the idea that every marketer needs to use any particular push marketing channel is ridiculous; respect your own data—but direct mail is certainly weathering this whole ‘digital shift’ pretty well.”

The way that many organizations are seeing the marketing results they are is that they aren’t just doing one thing or another.  They’re combining various channels in order to reach out to people not just multiple times, but in multiple ways

That’s why at ALDE we still do a physical, mailed registration book for the International Educational Conference, in addition to all the email and social media messages.  (By the way, you’ll be getting yours in the next month, so keep your eyes open!)  It’s also why we still do an Annual Fund appeal by mail, and send gift thank-yous by mail, as well.

If what you’re doing isn’t working, try a few different options, and if you’re only doing one thing, try mixing up your strategy to include various means of contact.  Quantity doesn’t do so much if it’s all the same.

Thanks to Denny Meyer, President of Meyer Partners, for sharing the “Editor’s Notes: The Money’s in the Mail” article with us.

Jon Nelson, of Beloit, Wis., is Associate Director for Communication Services with ALDE.  He is also Principal of Nelson Business Communications, LLC.

Wisdom Wednesdays: #@apps — Organizations on the Go!

by Meg Busse

Can you read this?:  “n dey sA 2 him, w’v hre bt 5 loaves, n 2 fishes. He z, brng em hither 2 me. &he commanded d multitude 2 sit dwn on d grass, n t%k d 5 loaves, n d 2 fishes, n lukin ^ 2 heaven, he blest, n broK, n gave d loaves 2 [his] disciples, n d disciples 2 d multitude. n dey ll 8, n wr satisfied: n dey t%k ^ of d fragmnts dat remained 12 baskets ful. n dey dat had e10 wr bout 5k men, Bsides women n kids.”

Congratulations and pat yourself on the back if you can read this without going online to check Webopedia for character translations.  You’ve mastered text language, and GBU (God Bless You)!

Colleagues, the mobile app is here for a very long time.  Mobilestatistics.com reports that the Apple App Store has more than 650,000 apps available.  Apps for various mobile devices can be a fantastic way to reach out to your constituents with easy communication, another giving option, brief surveys, address updates, links to your portals and updated information from your website.  There are even mobile apps that use push technology to send out a brief, timely message to anyone using your app.

Busse-MegLiving in the mobile age presents new and interesting challenges.  The opening passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew found above may not be speaking in tongues but it is definitely speaking in fragments.  Perhaps you are like me in wondering whether I can keep up with what seem to be daily upgrades … and not just me personally, but me professionally.

Communicating with our constituents is so much more involved than BEM (before email), isn’t it?  We have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+.  We tweet, text and blog.  Our Nooks, Kindles and tablets carry thousands of books without breaking our backs and they can hold our JPEGs, GIFs, MP3s and PNGs.  If you think about it, we became this world of acronyms in a little more than 30 years.

But where do we start?  I am not a tech expert, but I believe applying the maxim, “Charity begins at home,” is an excellent place to start your adventure.  If you have not created a personal Facebook or Twitter account, do it now and jump into it head first.  Learn the basics and you will see immediately how to translate this global communication method into more timely information for your constituents.  It will help you understand the nuances of mobile communication, and is great practice for writing the concise messages that are necessary today.  As an added bonus, you might reconnect with past friends and find yourself energized about technology.

As another communication tool, a mobile app offers our organizations an introduction to the world through iPhones, iPads, Blackberries, Androids and Windows phones.  It expands the reach of our stories and mission, and it doesn’t have to blow up the budget.  One of our vendors at Concordia University Chicago markets an app for nonprofits that comes in around $2,500 annually.  It easily links to our website and allows constituents to select only the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds they are interested in reading.  Other vendors market similar apps for even less, sometimes much less, with varying levels of features and support offered.  Whatever you choose, make sure the mobile app connects people to your social media offerings.

Get in on mobile apps now, and they can help set you apart.  But wait much longer, and you could fall behind.

There’s a world of technology that can help you and your organization grow — try it out, and you’ll soon be hooked!

TTFN (Ta Ta for now)

Meg Busse is Senior Director of Annual Giving at Concordia University Chicago in River Forest, Ill.