Archive for February, 2014


DATE: February 25th, 2014

Definition: raising small amounts of money from a large number of people.

The principal is easy: many hands make light work. We know that only a few people can afford large amounts of money. We also know that many people, giving just a little money, can do great things. Technology has risen to the task, making it easy for large numbers of people to come together.

DonorChoose, a crowdfunding site that funds US schools, was selected as one of the 50 most innovative companies by Fast Company. It’s an interesting, and I might say, a disruptive concept.

Basically the site invited US school teachers in the public education system to ask for things they need in the classroom. Americans interested supporting local schools simply choose the projects they want to fund. So Mrs. Zlatanovski is asking for $237 to buy materials fro make a dressing room back stage for their annual school production. Mr. Kosko would like $1,381 for 80 copies of The Bone Collector, microscope slides and kits. Mrs. Procknow wants $644 to cover her student’s admission to the Body Works exhibit at their local museum.

So far the site has raised $227 million and over 10 million students have been given the material they need. The disruptive factor is this:

The site is grassroots. Teachers can ask for what they want. There are no government forms to fill out. They are going straight to sources of cash to supply their classroom.

The site is rich in data. They are able to access the health of a school board by looking at the number of teachers requesting funds and what kind of funds they are requesting.

Entrepreneurial teachers can tip the balance by equipping their classes with things unavailable from traditional sources.

Committees are excluded from the mix and unable to determine school priorities.

About 20% of the people who give this year will give again next year. That percentage is in line with most money raised through project funding. It is higher than gifts given in response to an emergency.

But there is a lot to learn about building loyalty on crowdfunding sites.

Here’s some insight from Tom Ferris and Charles Best who actively promote and manage

take a look at start-ups and how they get venture capital. Study their pitches and see how they promote themselves. This provides good insight for you to approach prospective donors.

engage the potential donor. For major donors, don’t start with the offer, start by asking them for advice. You won’t seal the deal on the first date, but you will begin to build a relationship with a loyal and long term donor.

remember that you don’t have to raise it all from one person. That’s the magic of crowdfunding. The purpose is to make the project available to small donors.

make it easy to share the story. Other bloggers may not have the capital to invest in the project, but they do have an audience. Make it really easy for others to share your goal through social media and word of mouth.

be specific. Muddling your message by trying to do too much will decrease the funding.

know your audience. The classic marketing error is assuming that EVERYONE is your customer/donor. They aren’t. You have a specific donor. Find them.

the competition is huge. Technology isn’t a barrier, marketing and PR is.

Technology has given us new outlets for raising funds. Too many organizations rely on the technology, forgetting that the offer, the plan and the hard work of marketing are essential to build a strong and sustainable crowdfunding model. Ferris and Best recommend to research and study. Building your marketing knowledge is core to successful fund development

Building Loyalty – understanding your audience

DATE: February 10th, 2014

An African woman needed to give directions to a group of Canadian volunteers. Not knowing their names, she referred to the leader as the “fat” one. She was cautioned not to do that again, as calling someone “fat” would offend. Terrified to offend again, she asked: “Can I call her the “tall” one?”

Understanding culture and audience is critical in communication that intends to build relationship. I wish I could sit down with every president and/or executive director – and maybe legal — and have a face-to-face about the audience instead of the message.

Communication is a fine art mixed with a whole lot of science. A communicator uses everything at hand to build resonance with their audience.

When I was teaching algebra to a grade 8 class I knew going in there the only thing they knew about algebra was it was hard. Knowing it was hard blocked their minds to any possibilities. As soon as they saw an X  in an equation they closed their minds. Knowing that, I could free their misperceptions by changing the way I approached the lesson.

Not knowing our audience can make them close their minds to engagement before we even have a chance to get to know each other. It’s a bit like dating. Before you even think about cultivating a relationship, work hard to get to know them.

But be smart. It’s not just about where they live, how old they are, what they do for a living. Get to know their ideas, their dreams, what they are passionate about. It’s never been as easy as it is now. Social media opens the door for comments. But be ready – some may be negative. Some may be irrelevant. Some may not actually represent your audience.

I know this is basic, but here are 6 questions that I like to ask myself before I craft a message:

  1. Who am I talking to?
  2. What is the most important thing for me to tell them?
  3. How much do they already know?
  4. Do they care?
  5. What is their perspective on the topic?
  6. What’s the best way to get to them?

Here’s a bit more….

  1. Who am I talking to? I am always surprised at how many times I am told that the message I am crafting is for everybody. Seriously? We are working on a campaign for a feminine hygiene product. Understanding the age and the ideas of the audience is critical. For generations feminine hygiene was taboo – but to older teens, sharing information on the product that works best for you carries no embarrassment. I need to get out of my head and into the head of that 17 year old girl.
  2. What do I want them to know? That sounds pretty basic. But think about it. If you are crafting an ad, can you isolate the ONE thing you want the audience to know – not 3 things, not 15 things – the ONE thing. It’s harder than you think. When everything you craft points to that one message the audience will get it.
  3. 3. What do they know? We don’t give this enough consideration. Going into a presentation, I have a lot more power if I know what the audience knows. I can’t tell you how many proposals we’ve had accepted because we didn’t follow the instructions precisely. Rather, by reading underneath the formal natter we were able to ferret out what the client really wanted. We presented that.  
  4. 4. Do they care? And what happens when your one message is something a lot of people don’t care about? You know it, we have to craft messages for things people take for granted or don’t really care about. Insurance, cost increases, service charges… I can go on. But there are things that our audiences don’t want to hear. If they don’t care, you need to understand them even better, because you need to figure out how to tell the story so they do care. I’m fascinated by charitable communication. 35,000 children will die tomorrow from preventable disease. Yeah, we’ve heard the stat. And I care (sort of), but the number has no meaning for me. But one little girl quietly crying herself to sleep because her tummy is so empty it hurts is a really different message.
  5. 5. Their perspective? Perspective is really important. It’s standing in your audiences’ shoes and understanding what they think of the topic. I think of Blackberry and their abysmal launch of the PlayBook. Their core selling feature was the existence of Flash. I’m not sure, but I think they may have omitted the audience in the research. We know how that one went down.
  6. Best way to get to them? An organization who knows that most their audience is over 78 probably should omit twitter as a key communication method – phone and mail is probably their best bet. How to get to them is a dilemma that is only going to multiply. With some exceptions, your audience is warm to multiple communication strategies. Use them all to their fullest capacity.

Building loyalty is impossible if you don’t know who you are building a relationship with. Get to know your audience/s. Know what they think; what they want; what they value. It’ll be a better relationship all around.