Archive for January, 2014

Building Loyalty: the Impact of Millennials

DATE: January 31st, 2014

The Boston Consulting Group reports that Millennials — the generation of people now 18-34 years old — engage with brands far more extensively and personally than older generations (The Reciprocity Principle: How Millennials Are Changing the Face of Marketing Forever). More than that, in studying Millennials, the report suggests that this generation of consumers and donors expects their values to be reflected in the brands they choose (remember, non-profits are brands).

The digital and social media era has made it possible to develop a reciprocal relationship – and the Millennials expect it. 52% of Millennials use social media to “like” a brand (33% of boomers). More importantly, 39% post product reviews. Peer reviews – product posts by people who have bought the product – impact your brand and the buying (donating) decision. Twice as many Millennials as Gen X look up product information and search for promotions and coupons on their mobile device – while in the store!

Millennials look to their friends, family and even strangers to influence their buying decision. They are four times more likely to be influenced by a celebrity than their boomer parents and grandparents. Millennials also have high expectation of availability. Their smart phone never shuts off – and they expect their favourite brands to stay awake with them. They look for 24/7 availability.

Let’s take Amazon – the world’s largest retailer. They offer a superior online shopping experience. Search, user reviews and in-depth product descriptions make it a primary shopping spot for most North Americans. And it’s not a passive experience. I have the opportunity to review, rate and share. More than that, I can make a wish list – something Amazon takes very seriously by reminding me of the products I “wished” for and often offering me the product at a reduced price to entice me.

What can a non-profit learn from Amazon?

  1. Build loyalty by inviting response. Like, share, comment – all of these encourage a reciprocal relationship. The down side? Be ready for honest and open discussion. Lose the fear of negative comments and learn how to engage in a conversation when critical comments come. Be on the offensive and develop a finely honed skill of avoiding defensive statements.
  2. Build loyalty by sharing information and opportunities with your donors that reflect their areas of interest. That means you have to build your site in a way that encourages loyalty by including a login. Yes, we know that not everyone WANTS to login – but the group that does will be your strongest and most loyal supporters. Why not encourage donors to build their own site, choosing the projects they’re interested in and the information they are collecting?
  3. Build loyalty by sharing information, not pushing out information. It’s not a relationship if you do all the talking. Be creative about building opportunities for your donors to give you information. Social media is one of the most abused forms of communication today. Perhaps that’s why it is lagging on making an impact.
  4. Use multiple venues to engage. Social, digital, video, print, outdoor, events….. your donors don’t lop off one type of communication form to use exclusively. They are engaged in many different ways.
  5. Mobile has to be a part of the mix. While desk tops and tablets are a part of the digital experience, mobile is fast usurping their use. People use their mobile on the fly, when they are shopping, at an event and hanging out with friends.  Making your message mobile friendly is extremely important. Sending an email and linking the donor to an unresponsive web interface is a sure way to lose the donor’s attention fast.

Building loyal customers and donors impacts the bottom line. While we should never stop inviting new customers and donors to engage with our brand, cultivating long term relationships is core to healthy business – especially if your business is raising relationships to help make our world a better place.

Why do we think a pie chart builds trust?

DATE: January 24th, 2014

I just received a direct mail package from a medium-sized Canadian charity. They wanted me to give money to the Philippines. On the back of the response form they included their pie chart of organizational spending.

I am befuddled.

Why do organizations believe that adding a pie chart affirming that their organization sends 81.5% to program (better than the 80% suggested by the Canadian government) will sway donors into giving?

Before you jump on me, yes, I am well aware that the major reason people give for hesitating to give to charities is that they believe overhead costs are too high. Yes, I also know that when we ask donors or non-donors why they give to charities, they inevitably say that they give to charities that have low overheads. In fact, Charity Water, a young, successful charity uses a 100% model as their core differentiation. Basically private donors fund their overhead. Donors love that.

Back to the pie chart… the space on the back of the RD could have been used to profile an international partner who was waiting for the food. It could have used an on-the-ground photo with a great caption that affirmed the need. It could have done so many other things that included real people, real need and relevant and authentic content that affirmed their work.

In a small package, use the space you have as wisely as possible. Every element in your package should lead the donor to a gift, affirm the need, the authenticity of the offer and what the gift will do. I know, it’s fund raising 101 but I am always amazed how many people forget it.

Donors want to see you on the field with the people you are helping. They want to receive a warm and real thank you that says: “Your gift made is possible to…” In the case of the Philippines I want to know that because of my gift a little girl in the Philippines went to bed with a full stomach.

We worked on an awesome campaign with an organization raising money to install water filters into the homes/communities of families who live in very poor regions and are forced to drink bacteria-laden water. The donor signed the certificate and sent it with their gift. As a thank you the organization sent a photo of their signed certificate in the hands of the recipient.


Building loyalty is a difficult task, but the water certificate engenders faith in the organization. It also motivates word-of-mouth – you can imagine people saying:  “Hey, check this out.”

Downton Abbey…. and fundraising

DATE: January 3rd, 2014

The masses have fallen for the Crawley’s. A delightful excuse for indulgence in an evening soap – the intertwined relationships between the floors of Downton are perfect to curl up to as the temperature dips.

Robert Crawley, the Viscount of Downton, Earl of Grantham (don’t you love the titles?) reminds me of many non-profits I’ve met.

They fully understand that they’re living in changing times, but they are hesitant to change because it matters so much… “I’ve given my life to Downton. I was born here and I hope to die here. I claim no career beyond the nurture of this house and the estate. It is my third parent and my fourth child. Do I care about it? Yes, I do.” (Robert)

Poor Robert. His father dwindled the resourced down to nothing, forcing his son to marry an American heiress (adding to the plot as elegant Britain meets brash America). Then, just as he’s getting the feel of things, the war slams the world to a halt, changing everything – forever. Girls are driving cars, marrying the chauffeur and (OMG) looking for a worthwhile career. The world he was raised in, trained for and gave his life for is falling down around him.

We are at a very similar point in the world of marketing and fund raising.

Even though we have been reading the signs for at least a decade, changes in generations, lifestyles and technology are transforming our audiences.  There are critical changes that impact the way we communicate….

TV has collapsed.

Let’s be honest, TV has been evolving throughout the decades. The days of 3 channels and stationary viewing has changed forever by the remote control. Suddenly ads had to attract our attention. Once the remote was placed in the hand of the man of the house, we no longer had a passive audience to interrupt. Netflix and the ability to download and view on demand has handed the largest revenue from advertising to Google. Television continues to struggle. So for organizations that have perfected their TV spots and long formats – it’s not working like it used to.

Canada Post is taking out the mail boxes.

While the mail box at the end of the lane remains iconic in the America landscape, Canada is moving to super boxes. Direct mail, for cultivation purposes, has remained pretty strong. Slight shifts in responses are apparent, but it still maintains a healthy return on investment. Acquisition through direct mail has tanked. We don’t yet know what will happen when our donors only get their mail at the end of the block in their super box.

I no longer have to go to a computer to check my email.

My first computer was “portable.” A lovely Apple 2C. It fit into a large apple box in my trunk. It was awesome. I could write a whole chapter of a book and save it on just one floppy disk. I know half of the people reading this have never seen a floppy disk. A floppy disk didn’t fit into a pocket – my phone does. “Two screen” environments are normal… My husband continues to be irritated as I watch Downton Abbey with him with a tablet on my lap and my smart phone beside me. (Oops, 3 screens). While we are connected to our screens (whatever shape or form) and we are buying stuff on them, we are not donating on them at the levels that our parents donated by writing a cheque.

Mobile is real, relevant and not going away.

We know that most people carry their lives in their pocket on a small smart phone. Their data is stored in the cloud. While it’s secure – we really don’t know the ramifications of the cloud.  When we hear Snapchat had 4.6 million accounts hacked, their personal phone numbers available online… well, if we’re not freaked out, we should be.

Relationships are more complex.

Poor Robert had to suck it up when his daughter escaped with the chauffeur – and Executive Directors and Presidents have to suck it up and look to ways they can make their organizations more agile, adapting to changes in technology and communication patters. They also have to understand that social media is not the one way relationship that TV, radio and direct mail was. Simply pushing out content is not effective. And engaging dialogue is risky.

Word of mouth can go viral

A funny video can cross cultural and geographical boarders with unprecedented stealth. My brother-in-law and his wife became the “most Canadian couple” within 24 hours as a silly video he posted for his grandchildren went viral (it’s funny, quirky and, for sophisticated urban audiences, kind of like Corner Gas without a script). We celebrate when our content goes viral. But our bloopers, errors and bad donor/customer moments can also go viral. For the first time in history, Ted, from Thompson, Manitoba can reach the masses from his smart phone.

Content matters but veracity may be compromised

Consumers and donors can research on their own.  Our audience can access huge amounts of content. They look to content to understand the details of what you are promising. Make sure your content is audience-centric, accurate and easy to access.

Silos are ineffective

There is no longer an upstairs and a downstairs. The blurring of organizational lines is one of the most difficult changes affecting marketing and customer/donor care. I friend was telling me the journey he had getting his smart phone sorted out. Seriously, the right hand did not know what the left hand was doing. Insert an outsourced helped desk group and you just multiply the horribleness of the experience. Marketing, brand, sales and customer care need to be on the same infographic. The days of silos are gone.

When I look at these changes, I think we can get caught up in the change. I know marketing directors who are slashing their mail budgets and pouring money into social. I know others who are stubbornly insisting nothing has changed.

Neither is an appropriate response to change. The biggest challenge we have is to take one step back, set goals that can be tracked and then develop a plan that will grow our businesses and nonprofits. The plan that will win will take the wisdom of the past, integrate it with the new. It’s not a trade – it’s a merger.