Archives for April 2009

Integrating Direct Mail with Email Fundraising

Many non profit organizations do quarterly or monthly direct mail appeals, but did you know you can—change that to should—convert these valuable efforts into email fundraising?

Pathmaker Marketing LLC has worked with several non profit clients with highly developed monthly direct mail efforts. We’ve helped them develop and implement strategies email strategies (from snail mail) that have boosted their email income by $100,000-$150,000 per year. Here are five basics you’ll want to keep in mind when converting your direct mail to email fundraising.

  1. Direct mail appeal letters are too long to be sent “as is” in an email. You’ll want to split the direct mail letter into several parts, including email, landing page, and any additional pages necessary to deliver special offers.
  2. Subject lines are extremely important in email fundraising. It’s similar to the teaser on the envelope of your direct mail in terms of enticing people to open the email. Give them a lot of thought, and make them action- and benefit-oriented.
  3. The purpose of the email is to get people to click. Keep the email short and to the point (5-7 short paragraphs in length). Offer several opportunities for readers to click to a landing page or a donation form. Use the landing page to further explain the offer, the benefits of responding, the premium, etc.
  4. Omit site navigation from landing pages. Your purpose is to get people to respond tothis offer. Response will go down if you give them the opportunity to browse the rest of the site. Also, you’ll want to manage where they go so you can track donations from each fundraising email. Landing pages should make it clear what you want people to do and how to do it. Make sure your donation form works properly and all links to it function the way they should.
  5. Test and resend. Split test more than one subject line on each fundraising email. You’ll want to do multiple sends before calling it a wrap. Pathmaker can help you develop and implement this important email fundraising strategy.
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Social Networking Web Sites

Even if you don’t frequent them, you’ve probably heard sites such as MyspaceFacebook and Linkedin.  You may see these sites as youth-based social circles for kids to interact with each other via the Internet.  But you can take advantage of these sites to benefit your non profit fund raising program.   

These sites are known as social networks … places for individuals to interact with each other and share information.  These sites can be very useful tools for building contact groups and relationships with specific communities and markets.  

One of the greatest features of these types of sites is the amount of interaction you can have with your network of friends.  For example, if you are an author, you can send out an announcement to all of your friends about your newest book release.  In a sense, you can use these sites as mini press releases.  So, not only are you able to connect and share information at a lightning speed, but it is also free!  All it takes is a little bit of time and energy on your part.  The more time you put into it, the more you can get out of it. 

Social networking sites also offer many amazing features—from bulletin boards to blogs to event calendars.  Features like this help to keep your network informed. You can also have direct links to your newsletter sign-up sheet (for email fundraising),your website and web stores through social networking sites. These sites can be used a sampler of what your site actually offers. A newer development with these networks is that they are now available through cell phones using the 3G networks.  This means that there is a constant connection between you and your social network, fan base or friends, which ever you feel most comfortable calling them.   

A bonus with social networking is its link development or link building abilities.  This helps to drive traffic to you or your cause and assists in your online fund raising needs.  I highly recommend social network web sites and services to improve your sites overall popularity and link rankings.

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Incorporating Article Marketing into Your Non Profit Online Fund Raising

Article Marketing is nothing new. Ever since there was a printing press, businesses have been writing articles pertinent to their niche and trying to convince publications to distribute them. It helps increase awareness of your business and creates an image of expertise on the author’s part. It helps the publication by giving them good content for less investment than having staff do do the writing, and the publication can charge other businesses for the right of advertising on those pages.

What has changed is how people are using Article Marketing in non profit online fund raising. Most good content sites won’t pay for your article. You still get the good exposure (what amounts to free advertising), and they still get the chance to charge others to pay for that page of your content. But online Article Marketing can turbo charge your non profit online fund raising efforts!

You can use your articles of search engine optimization, for example. Write well-researched articles that fill the needs and concerns of readers of a certain niche of people. Use keywords appropriately, so search engines will find your articles. Be sure to include language that tactfully persuades readers to click to your website. Find websites that cater to that niche, and then dole out your articles to a variety of content publishers. The link back to your website increases your site traffic, and if the publishing site distributes your articles via RSS feeds, the number of exposures to your article—and the people clicking on links to your site—greatly increases.

Another advantage of links to your website from within a widely-distributed article is that search engines rank sites higher in search results when you have more links to your site. This gives you even more exposure than just the article creates.

You’ll need to be sure to link back to pages that convert the visitors to assets (email lists, sales, donations, etc.) Pathmaker Marketing LLC can help you devise a traffic conversion strategy that complements your non profit online fund raising efforts.

Questions to help you be more strategic when incorporating Article Marketing into your non profit online fund raising include:

  • Will you be promoting the business, the website or yourself? Tailor your articles to focus on the one you’re trying to promote.
  • Are you a good enough writer? People won’t read your articles if they aren’t interesting and well crafted.
  • What are you going to write about? Don’t go down any other path, no matter how tempting it is to overcome writer’s block by writing about what’s on your mind on a particular day. Remember that your goal is to appeal to a niche and secure relevant links to your site.
  • Where will you send your articles? Find as many relevant article directories as possible, and make sure they have good traffic. Don’t duplicate the articles on your own site because content sites won’t want to use content that is used in too many places. It could also hurt your own site’s search engine rankings.
  • How much are you going to write? As long as you keep having good ideas for articles in a specific niche want to read, keep writing. When you run dry, don’t write. It will hurt the quality of the content along with your overall Article Marketing strategy. In terms of article length, keep to the 500 to 800 word range.

As experts in Search Engine Marketing, Pathmaker Marketing LLC, wants to help you create as many good paths to your site as possible, and Article Marketing is one of many. Contact us for a free analysis of your Search Engine Marketing efforts.

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Five Overarching Principles for Non Profit Website Design

During this week’s blog posts, I’m going to introduce you to five overarching principles and many practical tips for developing and maintaining a website with exceptional website design that maximizes your ministry outreach for non profit marketing and fund raising. That’s a whole lot better than the alternative, which would be a website that gives you innumerable headaches.

Migraine headaches.  I know from experience that those are really lousy to live with. My wife, Carmel, will celebrate 22 years of marriage this coming September.  Those have been two really good decades together.  We’ve had our share of challenges too though.

For example, ever since Carmel gave birth to our first child, Caitlyn, nearly 15 years ago, she has suffered with headaches: low-grade everyday annoying headaches you keep 100 tab bottles of Excedrin around the house to deal with… to life-stopping, head-pounding, full-blown migraine headaches you get needle shots of Toradol to deal with, but always feel helpless and hopeless around.

For years, she has endured the pain. When they were small ones, they made our lives miserable. But when they were big ones they brought everything to an immediate, grinding standstill.

I confess I’ve never felt more helpless than when Carmel would experience migraine headaches – she would have to retreat to the darkest room in the house, huddled up in pain, begging for the elimination of any noise, nauseated, while I watched her suffer in pain and distress, wondering “What could I do?” or “What should I do?”

Thank goodness for exceptional doctors like Dr. Merle Diamond at the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, who also suffers from migraines, and was immediately compassionate toward Carmel, when we finally entered her offices after attempting for years to get help from numerous other sources.

Over time, Dr. Merle helped Carmel gain control of this debilitating problem, and established a reasonable ability to manage and control her headaches.

To do that, it meant new routines — managing her diet, avoiding a stress-filled lifestyle, exercising regularly, and finally, just learning to deal with the genetic makeup she had acquired in life that made headache predisposed.

Headaches.  Some of us suffer from them physically. Some of us some suffer from them emotionally. Some of us suffer from them professionally – all too often, through our websites.

Which brings me back to my subject material – Non Profit Website Design.

So let’s follow along with headaches as our backdrop for covering this subject. In a nutshell for today’s post, learning the basics of good website design will save you numerous headaches, while also enhancing your ministry, expanding its outreach and increasing its online fund raising.

Let me repeat that so you can write it down:

Learning the basics of good non profit website design will save you numerous headaches, while also enhancing your ministry, expanding its outreach. and increasing its online fund raising.

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How Important is Grammar in Online Fundraising?

Whether or not proper grammar matters in online fundraising depends upon to whom you are talking. If the reader of your email fundraising letter doesn’t know that it’s “commitment” and not “committment” or that commas always go inside the quotation marks, then it probably doesn’t matter to that person. But some people, espeically those who write for a living, have a hard time getting past those little blunders, and that could hurt response. So here are some grammar basics to use in your online fundraising.

  1. Try to write to the 6th to 8th grade level. It’s harder than you might think, and it requires you to clearly explain yourself.
  2. Use active voice. “I went to the store” is more interesting to read than “I have gone to the store.” It also uses fewer words, which is a good goal.
  3. Compose your non profit websites and emails in an application that checks your grammar, spelling and punctuation as you write (such as Microsoft Word), and then carefully proof it yourself. These programs won’t warn you when you’ve used the wrong form of a word: “fare” vs. “fair,” for example, so you need to be sure nothing is amiss.
  4. Americans don’t usually care if you use formal writing, but you need to decide what form you’re going to use … and then stick with it. For casual writing, which is appropriate for non profit website design and email fundraising, you can easily get away with using casual writing techniques such as contractions (“don’t” instead  of “do not,” for example). Just be consistent.
  5. Another form of casual writing is the use of the word “one” rather than the word “you” (“One should know” rather than “You should know” for example). If you’re like me, you prefer to be referred to as you, not one.The word “you” is much more personal and will get more responses in email fundraising as well as non-profit websites.
  6. Pick a style for your use of dashes and elipses … and stick with it.
    Do you put one long dash between words (commonly called an M Dash)? Do you put spaces before and after the dash? Do you use elipses (three periods strung together)? If so, do you include spaces before and after them? I typically include no spaces between M Dashes and the words they separate, but I do use spaces before and after elipses. Different people will have different ideas on what is correct, but the important thing is to be consistent.
  7. Stay away from run-on sentences and fragments. Run-on sentences are too long and complex. Fragments are fine occasionally, especially when you’re trying to make a case, but don’t over do it.
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How To Use HTML Meta Tags in Non Profit Website Design

I couldn’t believe my ears the other day when someone said, “Why bother with Meta tags? No one even uses them anymore.”

Back up the truck! Sure, Meta tags don’t pull search engine results the way they used to … thanks to lots of people who pushed Meta tag content to the breaking point. But these little bits of information between the “head” tags in your HTML can help improve what people see about your organization in search engines. There are some Meta tag basics you should pay attention in non profit website design and content.

Overall, just remember this.

  • While the Title tag isn’t a Meta tag, it needs to contain not only the title of the page but also a keyword or phrase for which you want people to find the page. This will improve page ranking in search engines. This is the “headline” that shows us in the search results.
  • Meta Description is the information under the “headline” that people will see in the search results (on search engines that support it). It won’t do anything to improve search engine ranking, but it does a lot to convince people to click through to your site. Keep it to 200 to 250 words.
  • Meta Robots should only be used if you don’t want the page indexed by search engines (like when you’re developing it or it is for internal purposes only).

Here’s the format to use.

<HEAD>
<TITLE>Title of Page – short description that contains the most relevant keyword</TITLE>
<META NAME=”DESCRIPTION” CONTENT=”200 to 250 words that succinctly describes your non profit”>
</HEAD>

If you want to use the Meta Robots tag to keep a page from being indexed, place it under the description like this: <META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOINDEX”>

Meta Anything Else is probably unnecessary.

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Online PR Can Expand Your Website and Email Fundraising Reach

When budgets get tight, often the first thing to go is efforts to secure publicity. That’s because publicity is a long-term strategy that builds awareness, trust , and brand recognition rather than securing short-term income. It’s a mistake to exclude long-term goodwill and reputation management even when times are hard. Here are some online PR efforts that you shouldn’t cut even when budgets get tight.

Upload a monthly press release to an area of your website marked “News” or something like that. This shows that your non-profit is alive and active in spite of tough economic times. You don’t have to have huge announcements to justify a press release that is only one page long. Did someone in your organization earn an award? Announce it! Have you added new staff? Announce it! Think about all the things – large and small – that your non-profit is up to and announce something at least once a month.

Find information sites that apply to your niche and get known for providing quality information. Submit your monthly news releases, but also provide short articles that appeal to their readers. For example, Crosswalk.com and Beliefnet.com love to get short articles (500 words or so) on religious topics. Find out who is the right person to whom who can submit your news releases and articles, and develop a cordial relationship with them through phone and email. Learn what they want and fill their need. You can also submit content to Google Knol and Squidoo.

Establish a page on Wikipedia. This online encyclopedia was launched in 2001 and has grown into one of the largest reference sites on the Web, currently attracting about 684 million visitors annually. Volunteer editors from across the globe adhere to strict writing guidelines and know that their content can be edited by anyone else who has Internet access. Most edits consist of corrections to typos, grammatical errors and factual errors. Wikipedia recommends that someone other than the organization submit articles about notable persons or organizations, so write it as factually and non-self-serving as possible, have a third party post it, and you have a good chance of getting it accepted. You might even spend a few dollars to get someone else like Pathmaker to do it on your behalf.

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