How to Be a Good Client for Your Professional Fundraiser

I know … I’ve been there … when you hire a professional fundraiser, your most prevalent thought has more to do with the skills, abilities and behavior of the professional fundraiser rather than how you can be a good client. But even the best professional fundraisers shine more brightly when they have good clients with whom to work. Also, the better client you are, the less likely it is that you will waste money.

So, here are some thoughts on how to be a good client.

Define what you’re looking for in writing. Whether it’s a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) or simply a one-page outline, writing down what you want to accomplish will help you communicate clearly and succinctly and stimulate discussion on what is realistic and what isn’t.

Be sure you have the authority. Get approvals from your management to hire a professional fundraiser. Understand the expectations they have (put it in writing). Make sure the people with the decision authority are in all meetings, unless they give that authority to you. And if they do, be decisive. Also beware that having too many decision makers can destroy a project.

Put it in writing. Contracts protect both you and the professional fundraiser. The contract can be as informal as an email, but it needs to communicate specifically what you are paying for along with the remuneration and time frame. Include what you will deliver to the professional fundraiser, along with what the fundraiser is expected to provide. Terms of payment are important, and so is an arbitration agreement and an “out clause,” which gives both of you a way to end the contract amicably should things not work out.

Give room for creativity. The vision you have in your head may not be what will best accomplish your goals, even if it worked well for a friend. When you consider your professional fundraiser a partner, and clearly communicate your goals and vision, you might be surprised how differently your vision gets expressed by someone who is trained to think in marketing terms.

Be responsive. If you’re going to achieve your goals within your budget and time frame, you’ll need to return calls, answer emails, provide the resources you agreed to provide, line up internal decision makers for approvals and do what’s necessary to avoid delays, scope creep and budget overages.

Promote trust. This is a partnership, and you need to be transparent and respectful.

This isn’t the whole list, of course, but following these guidelines will move you toward a successful outcome in any project with a professional fundraiser.

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Good ePhilanthropy Practices: Email Fundraising

An important non profit technique for ePhilanthropy is email fundraising. The first step you need to take when considering email fundraising is to find an Email Service Provider (ESP). Pathmaker Marketing LLC can help you find an appropriate ESP for your ePhilanthropy efforts. We also can help you develop and implement appropriate strategies. 

There are some basic tips I want to share that will help you evaluate the effectiveness of your non profit email fundraising and newsletters.

Good ePhilanthropy Emails

  • Speak to the reader rather than yourself. You know you’re speaking to readers when you identify the benefits of your offer to them and use the word “you” more often than the words “we” or “our.”
  • Can be skimmed. Your direct mail letters may be many pages long, but your emails need to be just a few paragraphs. Your reader needs to be able to scan the email in a few seconds and see in headlines, subheads, bold text, link text and graphics what you want them to do and why they should do it.
  • Are focused. Don’t send the reader off in too many directions. You want readers to take a specific action, so keep your email to that one ask. And give them several opportunities to click to take that action. Words like “go here” and “learn more” are better than “click here,” since “click here” could get your email sent directly to spam jail. You can use “click here” in images though.

Non-So-Good ePhilanthropy Emails

  • Are too formal. People buy from people they know, trust and like. Your readers may not know you, but you want your emails to sound like they do. You want to write your fundraising emails as if you were speaking to the reader in person. Use informal language, short sentences, and—I can’t emphasize it enough—the word YOU.
  • Bury the action step. If your readers have to read the whole email—and scroll and scroll and scroll—to know what you want from them, you’ve missed the mark and need to consider a rewrite.
  • Are confusing. And that means you’ve covered too many topics, written too long of paragraphs, or offered too many action steps. You need to stick to one topic and one action step.
  • Aren’t well designed. Don’t use the same generic templates your reader could find in their own word processing software. Invest a few bucks into a design that compliments your non profit branding materials.
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Philanthropy Goes Online

A couple of trends are making it vital that non profits, churches and ministries add ePhilanthropy to their fundraising strategies. The “older” donors that filled non profit coffers are now disappearing and being replaced with a new generation of “older” donors: Baby Boomers, who are typically much more connected to the Internet than their predecessors. Also, with the cost of everything going up, online fundraising reaps a healthier ROI than many offline approaches. Email fundraising is a great ePhilanthropy strategy.

Don’t abuse your donors by sending too many emails, but also don’t sell yourself short by being too cautious. Your email list needs to hear from you at least once a month, preferably twice. You can ask for lots of small donations, especially recurring donations. You can also offer premiums, especially if you offer premiums in your direct mail.

In fact, Pathmaker Marketing LLC can help you convert your regular direct mail into a cost-effective ePhilanthropy email fundraising effort. Call us at 623-322-3334 to schedule an appoint to find out how.

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Effective Church Outreach on the Internet

Hard times tend to bring more people to church. According to a December 2008 article in The New York Times, evangelical churches around the country have experienced a swelling in their ranks by up to 50% with each recession cycle since 1968. This current recession is definitely no exception! So what can you do on the Internet to extend and leverage your church outreach efforts to reach both your new members and people looking for a congregation to join?

First, effective church outreach on the Internet necessitates a great website. That doesn’t mean bells and whistles. It means the site is easy on the eyes, offers simple and clear navigation throughout, and provides content that is both useful and fresh. 

Useful church outreach content answers the question, “What’s in it for me?” Sure, people need to know your service times, who is the pastor, and when to show up for upcoming events, but they also need to know why they should come to your church rather than the one down the street. What is it about the pastor, ministries, and congregation that will help the reader’s family get though these tumultuous times with peace and tranquility? How does your youth ministry influence the reader’s teens to stay out of trouble and grow in Christ?  How are people helped through grief, whether by losing a loved one or getting laid off from a job they held for 30 years? You get the picture. Speak to the reader, not yourself.

Second, effective church outreach requires that people can easily find your site, and they want to keep coming back. Once you have a website that speaks to the reader’s needs, there are some simple online church outreach strategies you might want to try.

  1. Sign-Up – You need an email list for the strategies below to work. You can ask people to provide their email addresses in various ways, including through your church bulletin. You can also invite people to sign  up online, asking for their first name and email address in exchange for some benefit, such as a free download of some kind … a special message, a regular eNewsletter, etc. The sign-up form needs to be located in the upper left of you home page because that’s where people’s eyes first go. The form needs to link to More Info on a dedicated landing page that outlines the benefits of signing up.
  2. Traffic Conversion – once you get people to sign up, then you want to pull them deeper into the goings on of the church. You can get more contact information by offering to send something in the mail … a book, a bookmark, a prayer journal, etc.
  3. eWelcome Series – This is an online church outreach version of your welcoming committee. The intent is to introduce people to your church and its ministries. You can send one email a week for 5 to 7 weeks. Each email introduces a different portion of the website or the church –all spelling out the benefits to the reader of the various aspects of your church, ministry, congregation, and church outreach.
  4. Autoresponder Plan – Pathmaker Marketing LLC has worked with a large church in Chicago that challenged people to fast from wrong thinking for 40 days. We helped them set up a 40-day autoresponder system to allow people to participate in the fast from wrong thinking and receive a daily email message about a topic from which they would fast for that day. What kind of multi-day message could your church develop to minister to people during these tough economic times?
  5. Prayer Walls – Pathmaker  has helped several ministries install an interactive Prayer Wall to their websites. This is an effective church outreach strategy because it specifically ministers to people in a non-threatening way, and it helps people realize that they are not alone. The Prayer Wall invites people to leave a prayer so others can pray for them – and of course to pray for others who have left their prayer requests and praises.
  6. Blogging Tool – Pathmaker uses a blogging tool that is a powerhouse for getting your website seen in search engines. It’s based on extensive keyword research. We help churches and ministries develop keywords that are strategic to their church or ministry, and then help them develop a blog that will maximize their church outreach by multiplying each blog entry into several entries that entice search engines to, “Come find me.” This not only increases the visibility of your site in search engines, it provides ministerial content that can benefit readers around the world.

The tough economic and political times in which we find ourselves have people searching for your church. Your church outreach efforts can be extended and leveraged when you employ the strategies listed above. Pathmaker is experienced in helping ministries implement these tools. Call 623-322-3334 to schedule a time to discuss how we might help you.

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Christian Blogging is a Powerful Church or Ministry Outreach Tool

So many people are talking about blogging these days … bloggers … the ever-powerful blogosphere …  that you may be wondering if Christian blogging can help you reach your church or other ministry goals. No doubt, Christian blogging is a powerful outreach tool! But you may want to start at the beginning, in case you’re now too embarrassed to ask the question you should have asked five years ago: What’s a blog?

According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, a blog is a contraction of the term “web log.” The “web” part of the contraction indicates that your Christian blogging is done online – it’s a website. The “log” part of the contraction refers to the fact that a blog is basically just a log of entries – related or not. You could opine about your trip to Jamaica one day and then evaluate all 31 flavors of your neighborhood Baskin Robbins the next, and all your friends and family could keep up with your musings without you having to write to each one separately. And they can comment on your entries.

And that’s not a bad strategy if your blog is meant only for friends and family. But for church or ministry outreach purposes, you might want to take a more strategic approach to your Christian blogging.

  1. Invest in a good blogging tool. There are several free blogging tools available, but I recommend a tool that will turn your Christian blogging into an outreach power tool for your church or ministry. People have to see your Christian blogging efforts for that to happen. Getting seen by people looking for a church or ministry like yours requires getting your blog listed on the first page of search results on search engines like Google and Yahoo. And that requires being strategic in your use of keywords that relate to what your church or ministry does. To do that, you need a “compended blog.” Pathmaker Marketing LLC blog uses an unique and powerful blogging tool. For a free demo on how this tool can help you in your Christian blogging, call for a free demo at 623-322-3334.Those free tools might seem like a good deal, but they don’t compile each of your blogs into multiple blogs and then optimize them to secure page one listings on search results. You have to do that yourself (and, believe me, it’s a lot of work!). This will make your Christian blogging easier, faster and more effective.
  2. Invest in keyword research. When Pathmaker set up our blog, we gave Compendium a list of strategic keywords that people would search when looking for a service like ours. The Compendium tool automatically compiles our posts into multiple blogs under all appropriate keywords, not just the one into which we posted it. This work-leveraging feature also optimizes the posts to tell the search engines to, “Come find me.”Pathmaker helps clients select keywords that not only are used by people searching for their services but also (a) get a lot of searches and (b) don’t have too much competition for you to break into. We also help clients evaluate where they currently stand in search results for those keywords and then develop strategies to improve those standings.
  3. Develop ministry-oriented content that uses keywords. Not only do you want people to find your blog entries, you want them to find the information useful enough to convince them to visit or contact your church or ministry and get the benefits you offer them. Christian blogging should be ministerial in nature, and you should provide contact information so people who need the ministries you offer can easily find you.

When you use the right kind of blogging tool, put adequate time into choosing keywords and develop concise but helpful content using those keywords, your Christian blogging can become an effective online extension of your church or ministry outreach efforts.

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Virtual Tours in Non Profit Website Design

Ever consider making a virtual tour a vital part of your non profit website design? The typical virtual tour is typically 360 degree still shots of the inside and outside of your facility. But Pathmaker Marketing LLC is working on a tour that is much more.

We’re serving a client whose facility in Europe represents an important part of world history. We’re working to film their regular visitor tour. We’re using the audio from that tour along with video of the docents wearing period attire. While listening to the tour, virtual visitors will be able to interact with the room to make the history come to life.  This Virtual Tour will become a part of their arsenal of incredible online marketing tools.

We’re partnering with a wonderful organization to help us put together this unique tool. If a virtual tour is a part of your non profit website design future, you might want to give Pathmaker Marketing a phone call at 623-322-3334. You can find our Virtual Tour partner online at: Regal 360.

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Non Profit Website Design Musts

Whether you currently have a website or not, it might be time for you to begin to think through some important non profit website design rules. Here are a few that can help.

Design – it isn’t about you. 
Your non profit website design should cater to what your visitors like, not you. Here are some things to avoid.

  • Blinking or scrolling text, animated GIF’s and auto-loading sound do more than distract your visitors … they cause people quickly to click away from your site. If you’re slyly looking at a non profit website from a small cubicle next to your boss, do you want sound blaring what you’re up to? Neither does anyone else. As for blinking text and banners, they’re just plain annoying and scream, “I don’t really care what you like … this is fun for me to design!”
  • Pop ups are so annoying that most browsers block them. Many people click away from non profit websites because they thought internal links weren’t working when the only problem was that their browsers were blocking pop-ups of your on profit’s vital information.
  • Large file sizes in images. They make non profit website pages load slowly, and people will only stick around for about three seconds to let photos load. Re-size large images to the exact size specified in the design, and optimize them for the web to get file size down. Also, avoid using background images, since that makes it difficult to read in addition to making your non profit website load slowly.
  • Long lines of text that go on forever. Lines of text should be no more than 600 pixels wide. Break it up with optimized images, bold text and sub-heads.
  • Small text. If you have to squint to read a non profit website, you’ll lose visitors. Make the text at least 10 to 12 points large (that’s Size 2 or 3 in HTML). Many people who give to non profits are older, and they simply can’t read anything smaller.
  • Avoid all caps. They’re difficult to read, and today words in all caps are considered yelling. Do you want a non profit website yelling at you?

Ease of use – make it easy to find your content. Put as much time into thinking about how to organize your site as you did thinking about your non profit website design. Visitors need to be able to see easily what your non profit has to offer, get to it and navigate to other portions of the site without getting lost, confused or annoyed. If you make people click too many times to get to your non profit’s unbelievably great offer, you’ll lose them before they ever see it. Be sure to put a link back to your non profit’s home page on every page, along with main site navigation that is easy to find and more understandable than cute.

Copywriting – less is best. Writing tight, succinct copy for your non profit website can be a challenge. If you can’t do it, hire someone else who can. You need to say everything that needs to be said in no more than a couple of screens of text at a time. In these days of busy schedules and information overload, people won’t read more. To keep your copy interesting, use active voice, and write to about the sixth to eight grade level.  (The contrasting point would be to write extensive copy about any subject that you are attempting to establish your credibility as an expert).

Interactivity – involve your visitors. Games involve people quite well, but for non profit website design, your form of interactivity might be to get users to give you information about themselves. Offer them something for free (such as a newsletter or a white paper) in exchange for their contact information. People often will get scared off if you ask for too much (it’s kind of like offering a marriage proposal with the first handshake).  You can try asking for the first name and email address in exchange for downloading something they would find useful (such as a free message from your non profit’s CEO). On the thank you page, you could ask them for more information in exchange for receiving something free in the mail (such as your CEO’s new book).

Technology – use it to facilitate meaningful conversation. Capture email addresses. Learn people’s likes and interests by the way they browse your site and the appeals to which they respond. Offer online polls to get opinions (and learn what visitors like and what interests them). Offer a way for your non profit website visitors to forward your information to a friend (often called viral marketing). Include a calendar of your non profit’s upcoming events. Allow visitors to submit testimonials or prayers. But don’t use technology in your non profit website design just because you like the bells and whistles. That’s quick way to spend a lot of money for no return. Make sure all of the technology you use on your non profit website contributes to your brand.

Content – make it useful. There’s no use in making a website look good if the content turns people off and causes them to click away. Good content is something that your target audience wants or needs. In Non Profit Marketing 101, we learned that we must find a problem and solve it. That is what your website content needs to do. Your non profit has a niche, and the content needs to appeal to people to want to give to a non profit in that niche. Don’t use content that you think is useful – make sure your readers think it’s useful.

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Incorporating eCommerce into Your Non Profit Website Design

If you want to do fund raising online, your non profit website design needs to incorporate eCommerce. That may sound like a term reserved for the for profit world, but your non profit can benefit greatly from not only learning from your for profit colleagues but also taking the concept to new heights in your non profit website design. Here are some tips.

  1. Plan your online store carefully. As with everything else you do – including driving across town – you need to know where you want to go before you understand how to get there.Your eCommerce strategy needs to include traditional products that non profits offer (e.g., books, mugs, pens, t-shirts, hats, etc.) along with “products” that only a non profit could offer. These include sponsorships, memberships, and aspects of your projects (e.g., buy a cow for a family in a third world country, plant a tree in the rainforest, save a whale, etc.).

    Key components of your non profit store design strategy include (1) understanding the resources necessary (people, finances, education, etc.) and (2) getting commitment from the decision makes to provide and maintain these resources.

  2. Set up your store as professionally as the for profits do. The days are gone when you can simply create a static page on your non profit website that tells people to call to make a donation. Your non profit website design needs to include a store with a catalog, search and browsing functions, a shopping cart (and don’t be concerned that people will be offended by putting your virtual products in a shopping cart – if they buy things online, they know what this concept means and are comfortable with it) and an easy checkout process.The search/browse function is vital to making it easy for people to find your products, whether they be t-shirts or trees in the rainforest.

    Checkout is often where non profits lose donors. You need to make the process simple and collect enough information without over doing it. Initially, you may only need the name and email address, but you will be collecting more inforamtion as part of taking a credit card.

  3. Cross promote. You see it happen on “People who bought this product also liked these.” You can do it too: “People who bought this hat also liked this book” or “People who proudly wear this t-shirt often also like to sponsor this event or provide funding for this project.” You can also offer certificates to people who buy the virtual products.
  4. Build relationships. As you collect information about people, find out what parts of your non profit interest them. Be sure to include a privacy policy on the site to ease people’s concerns about providing their information.Once you’ve gotten their permission, keep them informed about what your non profit is doing and what kinds of funding needs you have. Don’t abuse them by selling their information or sending too many emails, but stay in touch. You’ll want to email them a couple times a month with information that they will find valuable.

    As you craft your relationship-building messages, remember people want to know “what’s in it for me.”

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Credit Cards are Essential for Online Fund Raising

Credit cards are an essential tool for online fund raising. You have several options for setting up your site to take credit card donations.

    1. Open your own merchant account. You can do this through your bank or credit card company, and you may want to shop around until you find the one with the best fee. The company will do a credit check, so give yourself plenty of time for this process. Read the fine print in the agreement carefully. The biggest advantages for opening your own merchant account for online fund raising are (1) you can design your site so funds flow directly into your bank account and (2) your non profit’s name shows up on the users statement. The latter helps eliminate confusion and protests to changes.
    2. Choose a third party processor. A well known third party processor is PayPal, which charges your non profit a fee for using their merchant account to take credit card donations for your online fund raising. It’s relatively easy to set up and use an account such as PayPal, and many users trust PayPal. The disadvantage is the confusion that could result when users don’t see your company’s name on their statement and have already forgotten about the donation. Charge backs could result. If you choose to go the third party processor route for your online fund raising, be sure to include a message on your “Thank You” page about what the user will see on their credit card statement.
    3. Spring for the cost of a Credit Card Processing program. This option is most affordable for the online fund raising of larger non profits. The advantage is that the system includes tools to help you efficiently manage customer relationships. Disadvantages are costs and the limited number of companies that offer this service. Smaller non profits will want to stick to one of the first two options.
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Measuring Success in Non Profit Website Design

It isn’t enough to have a nice website. Your decisions about content management and non profit website design need to be based on measurable results rather than guesswork. Decisions based on what you like or you think your non profit website visitors will like can often lead you down the wrong path. So how do you measure success?

The answer is conversion rates. When you invest money in a website and the methods you use to bring traffic to it, your return on investment (ROI) is a conversion from visitor to subscribers (new email addresses), sales, donations, etc. Your non profit website design and content need to be based on careful analytics and informed decisions.

Here are some steps you can take to improve your conversation rate.

  1. Reduce clicks. The more clicks you place between a visitor on the action you want them to take, the more chances you take of losing them.
  2. Eavesdrop. Watch where your visitors go, what they do, and what they don’t do. In many cases, your website host offers analytics that will allow you to see where your visitors go on your site. A good starting point is Google Analytics — it’ll help you analyze what pages are attracting visitors, keeping them there long enough to read the messages you’ve presented, and enticing them to fill out your forms or click through to donation pages. You’ll want to know from where visitors are leaving the site, and you’ll want to know how many people abandon your shopping cart in the middle of making a donation.
  3. Analyze. Once you have the right analytics installed on your site, and you’re effectively using linking codes that tell you where your visitors come from, you can make an Excel spreadsheet that shows what promotions are bringing people to the site and the percentage of those visitors who are converting. This will help you determine what promotional methods are working the best and which pages are doing the best at converting.
  4. Study and tweak. Learn as much as you can about the behaviors of people who convert and what caused them to convert, along with people who didn’t convert. Tweak your website design and content until your conversion rates get to where you think they should be. Be sure to make small changes and then study for about a week so you know what changes made a difference. If you make too many changes all at the same time, you’ll never know which ones were the right ones.

Good non profit website design is not only about making a site look good or sound appealing to you. It’s about conversion rates. If you follow the tips above, you can carefully track what works and what doesn’t so you can make more informed decisions, not only about your site, but also about where and how you promote your site.

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