Pedestrian Bridge in the Navy Yard

What Nonprofits Can Learn from Kickstarter

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Nonprofit online fundraising lacks good follow-up. Some nonprofits like charity: water are fantastic with their post donation experience, including thank yous, reporting results, and continued community cultivation. But in general, most nonprofits that participate in giving days or host their own larger online fundraising events fail to deliver in their post donation experience.

Ironically, or perhaps to no surprise, Kickstarter — the standard used in for-profit online fundraising — provides a more rigorous customer-centric solution. The platform requires certain amounts of interaction and follow-up after a pledge has been made. Success demands that businesses and individuals fulfill their commitments with updates, surveys, and of course, product delivery.

Focusing on the Wrong Things

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A charity: water drilling success.

Nonprofits know donors are important. They could not exist without them. Yet most fundraisers are designed to get donations and achieve a dollar goal, as opposed to cultivating relationships with donors who also care about what the nonprofit is trying to achieve. That monetary focus creates the motive for failing to achieve a great post-donation experience.

Even the vaunted Knight Foundation Giving Day Playbook in its follow up section encourages community foundations to analyze the data so they can learn, and grow a bigger giving day (whatever their foundation-centric goal is). Umm, what about interacting with donors after they give? What is the community experience, Knight Foundation?

The biggest problem with the Knight Foundation’s playbook is that it completely focuses on galvanizing a community to raise money (or grow an community foundation’s fund, or…) by activating nonprofits, leveraging partnerships with media and the like, and mass communications. It ignores the donor experience. That would be like the NFL focusing solely on teams and media partners, and completely ignoring the fan experience. Huge mistake. But that is another post for a different day.

As Avinash Kaushik, Google Analytics wizard and product marketing evangelist, says “Suck Less” by focusing on the user (e.g. donor) experience as your primary driver and not data points. Nonprofits have to look at donors small or large as investors. Just like a Kickstarter, people give money for something: To affect change, support a friend, and/or to feel better about a problem.

When a nonprofit fundraises, it is to achieve something. That is the shared value, the goal that all parties want to see.

The customer wants to see and possibly participate in the achievement of that goal, or at least the attempt to get there. Getting back to charity: water, one of my favorite case studies features the nonprofit failing to drill a well in 2010. It was something investors experienced with the brand, and they responded well when the failure occurred. Founder Scott Harrison said at that time, “Perhaps people wanted to see us fail. Perhaps it was a triumph for the cynics and apathetics. But I don’t think so. I think people just want to know the truth.”

Investors want to be communicated with. They want to know what is going on, and they understand that the journey has bumps in it. Communicate with them. Which brings us to the lessons nonprofits can learn from Kickstarter.

Lessons from Kickstarter

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An image from my personal trial Kickstarter for a book, Cuba: Seven in 10.

There are many aspects of the Kickstarter platform that are worth experiencing. From prompts to updates to how to structure a fundraiser and promote it for success, nonprofits can leverage a lot for their own efforts. It’s worth setting up a small personal fundraiser just to experience it. That being said, the three big Kickstarter takeaways for a nonprofit post-event experience include, communicate often and frequently, fulfill your commitments, and make it engaging.

Communicate

Kickstarters require frequent updates. Successful campaigners communicate often, as they deliver not only the product, but also offer a level of transparency into their efforts. That is true during the Kickstarter when someone is soliciting. It is also true afterwards when brands fulfill their promised product or action for their backers.

Nonprofits often communicate frequently during the fundraiser, but afterwards most simply solicit investors for more dollars. Worse, these solicitations tend to bore investors!

Instead, provide regular progress reports. Show your donors/investors how their dollars are making an impact. Do it without asking for a donation every time, too. You might be surprised how well that will go over, and create additional fundraising opportunities in the future.

Fulfill

Kickstarters promise a result. You can communicate all you want with your backers, but if you don’t fulfill it is a fail.

Many people feel the same way about nonprofits, and won’t donate to a cause again if it fails to achieve success. So the biggest way to garner repeat donors is to actually show progress. Demonstrate that you are achieving your mission’s results. If you fail, communicate why and what’s next, just like charity: water did.

Some fundraisers back a specific action or program. The same principle applies in those cases: Show results for that action or program.

Engage

Kickstarters are inherently exciting and engaging. With Kickstarters people create videos, add stretch goals, and send fun promos, which are all part of the solicitation process.The post process should continue that experience. Let people have a say, let them experience the execution of the product first hand. The meaningful part of engaging in an activity or with a cause cannot be underestimated.

One of the better executions I’ve seen was a contest my client Meyer-Optik ran for its customers. They bought a product, the Trioplan 100, and it has shipped. Was that the end? No, you could win a contest with pictures you are taking with the product.

The point is find ways to let people experience how your cause is changing the world. Invite them to an event, let them see field work via video, or meet the executive director via a Hangout.

A nonprofit can always create other ways for people to engage beyond donating, too. Volunteer, or send messages of encouragement, or advocate. Find ways.

What do you think?

Thank You for the Civilination Help

Before people gamed every post for “Content Marketing” optimization, people used blogs to converse, including expressions of gratitude. I guess I am old school, so forget Google. It’s time to thank folks for their help last week with the Punish Geoff Fundraiser for Civilination.

In all we raised almost $3,000 together for online civility.  Though we came short of the $5,000 goal, but did some commendable work to change the online conversation for the better.

Unfortunately a $2,000+ shortfall does mean that we will not be “Punishing Geoff” by making me dress in drag for a full day of work.  A couple of private comments did come in that suggested this punishment may be uncivil in the eyes of GLBT community, so perhaps it’s for the best.

Civilination founder Andrea Weckerle has raised more than $1,000 independently.  You can still donate here, as Andrea’s larger efforts will continue for another two weeks.  Before I thank folks individually, I did ask Andrea to say a few words:

“Thank you so much to everyone who participated in and contributed to Geoff’s CiviliNation’s Indiegogo campaign fundraising last week! It was wonderful to see people tweet messages, leave comments discussing the importance of creating the Academy for Online Conflict Management, and making financial donations to the campaign. Thank you so much!”

Shout Outs

So many of you donated to the fundraiser, and I greatly appreciate that. In that old school way, I’d like to offer a little link love. In alphabetical order here are our donors. Those of you that did donate $100 or more are noted with an asterisk, and will receive an autographed copy of Exodus when it is released.

David Alston*
Jay Baer*
Randy Bowden
Leslie Bradshaw*
Heather Coleman
Shaun Dakin
Kaarina Dillabough
Ric Dragon*
Paul Duning
Lisa Gerber
Kerry O’Shea Gorgone
Jason Konopinski*
Ananda Leeke
Andre Mirkine
Allison Mittlestadt*
Debbi Morello
Rogier Noort
Jess Ostroff
Ellis Pines
Tammy Portnoy*
Patrick Riccards*
Mayra Ruiz-McPherson*
Lauren Vargas*
Andrew Waber
Zena Weist*

In last Wednesday’s blog post The Waste Bin of Mindfulness I promised five commenters a copy of Andrea’s book. She has agreed to autograph and send them to the recipients. They are Joe Abusamra, Gloria Bell, Michelle Spear, Brian Vickery, and Marc Zazeela. Congratulations!

There are so many people to thank for spreading the word publicly, as well as private back channel encouragement, it’s impossible to thank them all. Needless to say, you all stood up and made a difference, and I appreciate it.

I want to thank two that shared in particular, Brian Solis and Chris Brogan. Not because they are A-Listers, but because they have been on the receiving end of so many uncivil remarks, including some from me. They deserve better. Thank you for your support, gentlemen.

And Chris, if you read this, I did want to reaffirm what I said on Twitter last week. You received a ton of grief about Google+ from me and others. Like so many early adopters, you received hell for making a bold statement, and in the end, the proof was in the pudding. Today Google+ a force to be reckoned with and a must for any content marketer, even if only for search purposes. You were right. My hat is off to you.

Thanks again to everyone who helped Civilination last week! Cheers.

Just Say Thank You!

What happened to the lost art of thank you?

Returning to basic relationship principles is a constant theme in marketing conversation. If you want to build on relationships, then say thank you.

Yet, in this fast age of Internet business and new millennium expectations, people say thanks less frequently.

Consider the receipt or post transaction communication most people get from companies, either online or in real person. You get hit up with coupons and requests to buy more. Personally, one of the best parts about buying the old fashioned way in a store are the smart clerks who invariably thank you and shake your hand. Go Nordstroms!

Continue reading “Just Say Thank You!”