Mike Browne, Founder of Browne Innovation Group, recently joined us for a webinar in which he shared compelling facts and details of not only why nonprofit fundraisers should begin shifting their fundraising to a content marketing-based model, but how easy and inexpensive it is.

In case you missed it, you can watch a replay here:

Full Transcript:

Mike: Sounds good to me. Let’s do it.

Steven: All right, cool. Well, good afternoon everyone, if you’re on the East Coast and good morning if you’re on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar “Content Marketing – The New Fundraising Growth Model” and my name is Steven Shattuck. I’m the VP of marketing here Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.

And just a couple of housekeeping items before we begin just want to let everyone know that we are recording this presentation and I’ll be sending out the recording to everyone a little later on this afternoon as well as the slides. So if you want to review the content or perhaps if you need to leave early, you’ll be able to see the whole program again at your leisure, so just look for an email from me a little later on this afternoon.

And as you’re listening today please feel free to chat in any questions for our guest speaker. Any questions or comments at all. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A and we’ll be collecting those questions throughout. So don’t be shy you have anything that you want to ask our presenter or maybe get clarified, please do that. We’d love to make the end of the presentation a little bit more interactive.

And just in case this is your first webinar with us welcome. We do these educational webinars, just about every Thursday and in addition to that we also have some great donor management software. That’s what Bloomerang does. That’s what Bloomerang is and if you’re interested in that, we would love for you to learn more in our website. You can do that. You can download a video demo. You don’t even have to talk to a sales person. Who likes to talk to feels people after all? Check that out if you’re interested. We’d love to talk to you after the presentation for sure.

And I want to go ahead now and introduce our guest. He is Mike Browne. Hey, Mike. How’s it going?

Mike: Hey great. Glad to be here today.

Steven: Yes, good to have you. I want to introduce you a little bit before you get started. I don’t want to give too much away but just want to brag on you for a minute. If you guys don’t know Mike, he is the founder of Browne Innovation Group. He’s been a nonprofiteer for a while. He’s served on boards for for-profits as well as nonprofits for throughout his career. He’s also a founder. In 2008, he co-founded a nonprofit that is today known as Global Orphan Hope and that’s an orphan care, nonprofit working in Haiti with disabled orphan children. He’s also a regular speaker at trade conferences and conventions. He’s spoken at the Direct Marketing Association, NCDC, Bridge Conference as well as AFP events.

All around nice guy too. I have been enjoying our planning this webinar. So Mike I’m going to pipe down here. I’m not going to take anything else away from you. Why don’t you go ahead and get us started my friend.

Mike: Hey, I appreciated it, Steven. Thank you for that nice introduction. I’m glad to be here today. I don’t come necessarily from the nonprofit world. I kind of fell into it and number of years ago when a friend coaxed me into helping him and it was somewhat later after that that my wife and I joined some other people to create Global Orphan Hope working in Haiti even before the earthquake. So today my focus is on what you’re going to be hearing about as I go forward and I’m very excited about that.

Diane did say a little earlier, I saw in the comment box, that my voice was not as loud as Steven’s, so hopefully I’m going to speak up a bit and hopefully it’ll be okay, Diane, and I hope you can hear me.

But let me just start by saying that you know I travel a lot or at least I used to and I’m old enough to remember when we used atlases to navigate around and today of course we navigate primarily with GPS on our phones, right?

We use the intelligence of technology to not get lost. I can remember in the old Atlas days thinking I was in the right place only to find out that I wasn’t, in the vernacular I was not where I thought I was. Then the same can happen to any of us in any number of situations. We think we know where we are but when we look at the facts on the ground, sometimes we find we’re not where we think we are.

So how do fundraisers keep score today? Donations, right? It’s not changing. But we all know that during the five-year period from 2007 approximately to 2012 corresponding to what they now call the Great Recession, donor trends were all down. And this graph obviously clearly shows that. But we also know that all the trend lines have turned around in the last few years, right? But how about if we go all the way back to 1984 and look at a 30 year donor trend line chart which includes the 2007 to 2012 great recession period but what do you know?

Even the trend line from 2012 to 2014, two years outside the Great Recession time frame shows the trend line down a cumulative 14.5%. So what’s going on here and what direction does the trend line seem to be going? Well, it still looks like it’s going down to me but what are some of the donor trend stats that are up to date behind these recent trend lines?

Let’s just talk about those for a minute. In 2014 for every 100 new donors through the front door, we’re losing 102 out the back door. Our files are shrinking. The stats from the AFP, the DMA, target analytics and even Pew site the increasing difficulty in convincing donors to give to a cause the first time and almost half of all people giving to nonprofit organizations stop giving for reasons, now get this, unrelated to their financial situation. So what’s going on here?

And then this, 81% of donors stop giving or reduce support if they perceive high administrative cost and 75% of current donors said essentially the same thing about the cost of fundraising. Now to me this is really interesting. I’m going to say right up front. I’m a Boomer. You probably got that from the fact that I was using atlases years ago.

Because I’m pretty sure that my parents’ generation from the Depression era never even looked at an organization’s financials in determining whether to give. They gave because it was the right thing to do. Obviously something has changed. Now 64% said they would stop giving to nonprofits who over solicited, up from 41% in 2005. That trend lines going up.

But here’s a real hard one for me to take and I know for you too. Seventy five percent of first time donors don’t give a second gift. You want to know where that was 30 years ago. No trust me, you don’t want to know where that was 30 years ago. I don’t know about you but I’m beginning to understand why in a Chronicle of Philanthropy story last year they reported that 4 in 10 fundraisers including the top people were thinking of leaving the fundraising industry entirely. So from my perspective of the toughest jobs in America, I think we need to add fundraisers to that list.

Now I’m really not a boxing fan. We were talking a bit before we started. Obviously I’m a football fan, obviously a basketball fan, but you probably wouldn’t think that quoting a boxer in a fundraising webinars, let alone quoting Mike Tyson, is making a point that’s very credible. But the truth is for what we’re talking about here today, Mike Tyson has said something that all of us need to hear today. Mike Tyson said, “Everybody has a plan until you get hit in the face. Everybody has a plan until you get hit in the face.” Your plans aren’t working like they were 10 or 20 years ago and if you’re a startup nonprofit, you may already have hit the wall, or started to see momentum slowing.

We’ve all heard the usual suspects, so I’m not going to waste your time with that. I appreciate that the that you took time from your busy day with the many pressing issues to listen to this webinar in the hope that you would hear something that could change things, turn the trend lines up, bring in more money, and I’m here to tell you that that can happen for you. It’s called content marketing, obviously the subject that all of you saw when you were looking at whether I should go to this webinar not.

Over the last decade a new branch of marketing has emerged that is perfectly aligned with the Internet or online world and it’s called content marketing and not only does it align with online communications but it also aligns around the way, you and me think about connecting with and supporting organizations that we care about.

Stanford Smith a well-known author and blogger on social marketing has written, “I believe content marketing is the most important marketing innovation since branding.” And another guy that some of you may have heard of, a guy by the name of Seth Godin, one of the most respected and prolific marketing voices of our age has written over 10 books and whose blog has, I have heard, over 5000 subscribers recently said, “Content marketing is the only marketing we have left.”

Now Stanford Smith going back to him says that the content marketing rests on three simple notions and I want you to really pay attention to this. Number one, people are smart, interesting, and fair. Number two, organizations are smart, interesting, and fair and by the way the people that work in those organizations as well. Number three, content is the smart, interesting, and fair way to connect people with your mission.

Okay. Now think about the implications of what I just said. Now for instance do you really think that politicians in Washington think the American people are smart, interesting, and fair? What do you think maybe they think they can sell us by saying one thing as they’re running for office but then govern very differently and somehow we’re not going to notice that. But by the way who’s at the bottom of the least admired professions? Members of Congress right down there with used car salesman.

But let’s get closer to home. Do you think your constituents in potential donors are smart, interesting, and fair? Do you and I’m really talking to you personally. Do you enjoy receiving solicitations whether in the mail or otherwise from other nonprofit organizations even those you currently support? My wise old uncle once told me that if you’re walking down the street you see someone coming towards you that you owe money to, you’ll cross to the other side of the street to avoid meeting them. So when I received a solicitation, I’m talking about me, when I receive a solicitation from a nonprofit in the mail or an invite to a fundraising dinner or yes, even an invite to go play golf for a worthy cause, I’m conflicted. I’m conflicted. I admit it.

You get conflicted when these things come at you. You get conflicted too I’m guessing. But if a friend sends you a wedding invitation or calls you for lunch or to play golf outside of the time constraints that we all have, are you conflicted the way you are when you’re solicited for a charity? My guess is no. One is based on a deep relationship that’s not about money but today the charity solicitations that we get or the invites are always about money.

Every one of us has those causes or organizations that are nearest and dearest to our heart. I helped start one. When Gallup, the famous polling and research company really wants to find out what causes a person really cares about or what organizations they really care about and I mean really care about, they asked to fill in the blank question, “I can’t imagine a world without” and then they fill in the blank. If your organization is a name they say, then you know that it is really coming from their heart.

Now think about that for a moment. If your organization is a name that person says, you have moved into that rarefied circle of family with that person and it’s extremely likely that when that person prepares their will your organization will receive part of their estate with their heirs. And today you get a few of those wonderful bequests, don’t you? Those people leaving you a bequest feel that they have a relationship with not only your organization or community but the work that you’re doing and that worked well, in fact very well for the mature generations of World War II and Depression era. Their ethos was to give money out of a sense of duty.

Like Peggy says. Peggy’s on the left there. Peggy says, “It’s about doing what’s right.” But let’s be honest, do Baby Boomers give to a cause or a mission out of a sense of duty or the younger generations of Gen X and millennials? Pretty much everybody in this session today, I’m guessing, is from the Baby Boomer, Gen X, or millennial generations so we understand that the ethos and the attitudes of our generation is not to give out of a sense of duty. There’s a reason why they call the Boomers “the me generation.” And why am I talking about Boomers so much? Well, not only am I a Boomer but because today Boomers control 80% of all the wealth in the United States. Now, if you’re listing from overseas, it’s probably the same.

What percentage do Boomers make up of our current donor base, of your current donor base? Most of the organizations I audited while I was consulting a number of years ago before I developed the online program, their files were 55 to 80% in Matures and today Matures only make up 12% of the population. And when it comes to Boomers and even the younger generations, what would your financial picture look like if instead of focusing first on getting a gift, you could focus first on building relationships because that’s kind of what they’re about?

Some of you may be rolling your eyes and saying to yourself how can I spend X number of thousands of dollars, mailing out an appeal, having a dinner, hosting an event with the sole focus of developing relationships? How could that pay for itself? I want you to stay with me here because we’re going to hit that. The two big societal shift that we’ve all heard about for fundraisers in particular that we’re living through today are number one, the shift in society to online digital communications and number two, the generational shift that we’ve already alluded to as the historic supporters of your organizations the Matures pass the torch to the Boomer and younger generations.

America is in the midst of a demographic transformation that is redefining fundraising as we know it. In fact in 2014 and a Harvard Business Review study the authors concluded that in the past decade what marketers do to engage customers has changed almost beyond recognition with the possible exception of information technology, the authors can’t think of another discipline that he’s evolved so quickly. Tools and strategy that we’re cutting edge just a few years ago are becoming obsolete and new approaches are appearing almost every day.

For fundraisers attempting to connect with Boomers and younger generations, how do you develop relationships first? Because if you don’t you risk disengagement and that’s kind of what we were talking about 100 coming in 102 going out the back door. The central challenge today for fundraisers is disengagement, so let’s go there.

Now here’s a graph that shows the trajectory of most donor relationships today because they are using a methodology that focuses first on donations. In study after study Boomers and younger generations don’t just consume or interact with brands they follow, they actually engage or clearly want to engage in relationship with them. But today in our transaction-centered, ask for the money upfront methodology, which by the way was developed for the previous generations to get Boomers and younger generations to give at the height of the donor loyalty, we start taking them for granted. Then what do we do? We send more invitations to give and we wonder why we’re bringing in 100 in the front door and a 102 going out the back door.

Let’s look at this from a human relationship perspective. Boy meets girl, boy courts girl, boy proposes marriage, they get married. Boy begins to take his wife for granted, conflict ensues. Boy starts paying more attention to his wife seeking forgiveness and hoping to avoid the relationship falling apart.

You see maybe some of the same dynamics playing out with the Boomers and younger generations that begin to support you. Unfortunately for fundraisers the cost of your current fundraising methodology is accelerating. It’s getting more expensive and that cycle is accelerating. And with flat to declining response rates whether it’s advance or direct mail this inevitably leads to net income shrinking and that’s pretty much where a lot of fundraisers are today.

You don’t build relationships with Boomers and younger generations the same way you did for the Matures. Boomers don’t want to be sold and with the causes we support we want to feel connected. We want relationship not just to be the organization’s ATM. Most development organizations focus only on raising money. That’s what they measure first. They don’t even think about having supporters grow with them except in terms of growing dollar gifts for supporters. We want supporters to give more every year but do we help them grow in relationship?

Now this is a pyramid that really comes out of social science. We call what supporters with no place to grow. Study after study shows that the Boomers are coming in and the way we were marketing to them today and connecting is involvement about four layers up, right? But what we really want is we want to develop long-term lifetime supporters.

But let’s look at this from the perspective again going back to how it mirrors human relationship because this is the way relationships really build. They build on a base. No awareness, then awareness, interest, identification, then involvement. That’s what we’re talking about. Engagement is fueled by human energy.

Okay, so as we said this big shift is on. The matures represented by Peggy on the left says it’s about doing what’s right but when you look at both James and Juanita on the right, the Boomers and by the way the Boomers are such a huge cohort that they’ve kind of divided them.

James here’s 61. Juanita is 50. James is saying I want to choose how I can help and what Juanita is saying is I’m at the start. I’m searching for meaning. What do they mean by that? They’re searching for something that affects them, right? That’s what we’re facing. We’re moving from a group that did what was right in their mind to groups that are saying you know I’m looking for meaning. We have to fill that void.

So then the question, what’s the path? Well, now we’re going to come back to the answer, content marketing. What is content marketing? How do we define that? Joe Pulizzi, the founder of the content marketing Institute has what I think is the best definition. He says, “Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant, invaluable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined audience with the objective of driving customer action.

Now again, content marketing has already taken off in the commercial world, already taken off in the commercial world. You already heard that Seth Godin, what he said about content marketing. Content marketing is the only marketing we have left. But why did he say that? Today we’re beginning to see a very clear marketing divide line between what we call the traditional marketing world that we all grew up in, built around traditional media and the online world. And content marketing was built for the online world. Though under traditional media, we all know that that was really what was called “advertising,” pushing out messages.

Under content marketing on the right side, it’s about putting content up and pulling people to your content. Second bullet under traditional marketing, scarce and expensive media. So if you and I owned the only television station in town and people wanted to get their message out, they had to come to us and we’d charge them for it, right? But what’s the opposite of scarce? Abundant, right? And under content marketing the second bullet media is abundant and free, not only media but also platforms. And back to traditional marketing of course because it’s expensive media we have to have a sale or a transaction, right? But under content marketing because we can get this information out there much less expensively, we can focus first on developing that relationship be experience centered.

All right, so let’s kind of summarize some of the top 10 points that we’ve covered thus far today. Number one, today fundraisers still are judged by how much money they bring in and it’s getting harder and that’s what we’ve kind of talked about here. Why it is hard? Maybe it’s that our model is wrong.

Number two, the 30 year donor acquisition and annual giving trend line is moving down. Even though we’re making changes and times or better, still moving down.

Number three, today fundraisers are facing one of the toughest jobs in America for all the reasons we’ve touched on.

Number four, our current ask for the money upfront transaction-centered methodology that was essentially built for Mature and earlier generations isn’t working anymore with the Boomers.

Number five, the Matures who gave out of a sense of duty are declining.

Number six but the Boomers who are the rising generation of supporters, and by the way, Boomers control 80% of the wealth. They’re the ones that we’ve got to focus on.

Number seven with the Boomers it’s about them. They want to be connected in a relationship with the causes they support. They want to be engaged and that’s very different from the way the Matures defined their relationships with the organizations they supported.

Number eight, for fundraisers today the central challenge is disengagement. We’re bringing them in but they go right out the door because we’re really not engaging them. Content marketing is less expensive and focus first on relationship development.

Finally as Seth Godin says content marketing is really the only marketing we’ve got left with this world.

But I don’t want to mislead you. Content marketing is no overnight silver bullet since I came into this whole nonprofit world and kind of figured things out, seems like everybody’s looking for a quick hit. This is not an overnight silver bullet in fact, once you begin utilizing content marketing to develop relationships just like any new effort it start small and slowly and builds.

But just like those of you that had direct mail program started years ago in the beginning you only had a small donor file but it grew. And if you have Facebook pages today then you know what I’m talking about as well. Remember when you only had a handful of followers but the good news is just like direct mail and Facebook today and some of the social media’s, content marketing can scale, it can grow.

Could this be the online strategy you’ve been looking for? And here’s another really important point. It doesn’t matter if you’re a large nonprofit fundraising organizations with dozens of staff or a small group because content marketing is online, it levels the playing field.

Let me introduce you to a friend of mine. Her name is Sister Catherine Wybourne. She’s Benedictine nun from Hereford, England. She’s the Prioress. That’s the leader of the community of religious nuns there. In fact when they founded their religious community a few years ago she joked that it was three nuns in a dog. Today they have grown. When she started they had no money but Sister Catherine understood the reach and the power of the Internet. And even before people called it content marketing, Sister Catherine was practicing it. If you Google “the tweeting nun” you’ll find Sister Catherine.

Today her community has supporters all over the world and just on Twitter over 16,000. I shared the stage with Sister Catherine a few years ago and she will tell you that anyone can be effective with content marketing and you can touch people all over the world and in fact, she’ll say very effective.

And isn’t it ironic. Isn’t it ironic that a woman that is in essentially medieval garb is practicing 21st century communication and fundraising that surpasses what 99.9% of American fundraisers are doing today because they’re not utilizing this new tool.

My goal for you today is that you don’t leave this webinar feeling overwhelmed and convinced that fundraising is changing in a way that’s too hard for you to keep up with. Nothing could be further from the truth. But your journey does start here today and we can help, we want to help, but there’s a lot of resources available.

Yes. The way you do fundraising will change but that’s because technology and generations are changing and we just have to keep up. But isn’t that the way it’s always been your entire journey in fundraising, constantly learning and changing and adapting? But every journey begins with the first step and that first step is educating yourself and your leadership team and your team on how content marketing works for fundraisers. The good news is there’s excellent resources available, many of them free or very inexpensive. And these resources can help you answer questions like well basic questions, “who’s using content marketing in the commercial world and who’s using content marketing in the fundraising world?” Or more advanced questions like, “what does content marketing fundraising model look like? How do I implement content marketing in fundraising? Do I keep my traditional model of fundraising going while starting up content marketing base fundraising and what’s the investment?”

Following this session, I talk to Steven about this earlier, I said you know I’d love to send an email out to everybody that signs up for this because we’ve got resources from the Content Marketing Institute most of which are free as well as other resources that have some costs like Joe Pullizi the founder of the Content Marketing Institute has put out a book called “Epic Content Marketing,” tremendous background. We offer our very own course in content marketing customized just for content marketers or just for fundraisers. It’s called acquiring the next generation of supporters. There’s some cost to that course but it’s minimal. But now Steven, how about some questions?

Steven: Yeah, I just put out a call out to everyone to please send some questions in if you haven’t already. A couple people already have, so thanks for that. Mike, thanks for the presentation. Hopefully people are few overwhelmed like you said. But I wanted to kind of you know dig into things a little bit if you wouldn’t mind maybe sharing. Have you seen, you said the non-example, what are some of the campaigns you’ve seen to kind of stand out to you and that you know were effective? Maybe clients of yours or even clients that aren’t yours. People who aren’t your clients using effectively to fundraising.

Mike: Yeah, that’s a great question. That’s a great question. Let me mention some commercial entities which people have heard of because one of the things that I find when I talk to nonprofit groups is they don’t realize content marketing is already being used in the commercial world and of course, it’s actually already being used in the nonprofit world as well.

Let me give you some examples. Ever heard of Coca-Cola? Jonathan Mildenhall who’s the vice president of global advertising strategy for Coca-Cola literally wrote a how to book on how Coca-Cola was going to shift the content marketing. In fact, you can Google “Coca-Cola content 2020” and you can see videos you can see what he wrote. It’s phenomenal.

Ever heard of Red Bull? Red Bull does very little traditional advertising yet they’re number one in their categories. In fact because Red Bull is so driven by content some analysts have said the Red Bull is a publishing company, hence content, that also happens to sell beverages. And if you do if you Google “Red Bull content marketing” whole lot of things to look at.

But how about an old line company like General Electric. Think about this, you can Google “General Electric content marketing” as well. General Electric is a conglomerate of a lot of different businesses but a lot of those companies that they own let’s say nuclear reactors, jet engines, they know that they’re talking to scientists, tech people. The best way to do that is through an online magazine and they connect and this online magazine today has phenomenal, phenomenal numbers of people subscribing to it.

But how about in the in the nonprofit world? That was that was one of your questions? Anybody ever heard of Charity: Water? When Scott Harrison found a Charity: water he didn’t come from the nonprofit world. He famously said the words he looked at getting into this and starting this because he had to fund how he was going to do this. He said basically the nonprofit fundraising model is broken. Charity: Water, this is really interesting. Charity: Water began in 2007 right before the Great Recession we talked about earlier but unlike most fundraisers Charity: Water doubled every year from 2007 to about 2011.

And also Steven there’s 80 plus nonprofits who have been through our online course since January of 2013 when we launched it and they’re in various stages of developing and launching their content marketing-based fundraising strategy.

Interestingly, we have not only Sister Catherine but we have many religious communities like Sister Catharine’s who years ago had magazines and their older members will tell you these magazines were really how people connected with us and understood what we were about. But in the last 10 or 15 years they’ve closed up all those publications because it got too expensive but now they’re bringing the magazines back online. Isn’t that interesting?

Steven: Yeah, I’m sure the costs are much lower that way.

Mike: Absolutely. Print and district distribution gone.

Steven: It’s interesting. It seems like there maybe a lot of organizations who were doing content marketing but maybe they were too ahead of the curve and that the technology wasn’t there to help them distribute it effectively or cost effectively. It’s pretty interesting.

Mike: Yeah, that’s true. We would say the bleeding edge and leading edge. Well, the good news is, especially in the in the for-profit world, you’re seeing more and more people that are moving their marketing online and they have to. And they’re selling a product. One of the things that needs to be said is content-based fundraising for nonprofits is a people to people model.

Now I know that that seems counterintuitive. You’d think that because content marketing-based fundraising is mostly online that somehow it’s distant or virtual or people are kind of at arm’s length but that’s not true. That’s not true in the nonprofit world. In fact this is where the nonprofit content marketing model diverges from most of the commercial content marketing because you’re not selling anything.

You’re seeking to form a relationship with people that have a heart for the work, right, and these online tools keep us connected to actual people in the actual organization. I mean few years ago we had a missionary group and when they understood that instead of just writing stories and printing them up and sending them out of their direct mail letters. They could actually have these missionaries do videos, post these online, and people could see them and hear them. This is hugely powerful and what is that? Content marketing.

Steven: Well here’s a question from Lee and a couple other people asked a variation of this question. Wondering what your thoughts are. Let’s say you start implementing your content marketing so maybe you create a blog, you start sending out stories about donors and about volunteers and people you serve, you start distributing that kind of content. How long should you expect for you to see sort of returns on that? Is it the immediate returns? Is it going to take a year? What sort of a timeline that maybe you can expect to see some kind of results or change?

Mike: Well, that’s a great question, Steven, for a lot of reasons and I’m going to answer it on a couple of levels. The core of the question gets down to well when can we start making money, which also equates to “well what’s the cost of this content marketing?” And one of the things that I say when I get up in front of groups is I say, “Look if you’re not planning to double your revenue in five years, what do you doing?”

Because that’s that needs to be pretty much the bellwether. Content marketing based fundraising is essentially a fixed cost fundraising model. And again, I just said a little while ago, it starts out slow but anything starts out slow. Don’t expect that you’re going to be bringing it because what you’re doing is you’re building relationships upfront and after you’ve got relationships you’re essentially asking friends, right?

So we all know that for instance in direct mail production there are costs up front. We know that and we call those in economic terms of variable cost depending on the volume so if you mail 10,000 versus 100,000 there’s a variable cost there. Content marketing has very little or no variable costs and what is even more important because it is virtually online, get this. You plug into online tools that are very inexpensive. Now I didn’t set this answer up to promote Bloomerang, but let’s use them as an example.

Those of you that have been in fundraising or development for years, let’s talk about like the Bloomerang CRM system. What did database cost 10 or 15 years ago? Costs of online technology is going through the floor and I’m not just talking about CRM systems. Any of these other applications, it’s software. We talk a lot about that in our course. It’s going through the floor not the roof. Its costs are coming down not going up.

And by the way, CRM, Customer Relationship Management, fits the focus. It is about developing relationships and that’s what we’re really talking about here. But I think the answer that the people are getting at is how quickly can we see revenue come in. And I’m going to take a second here and pop back to one of the slides that I had earlier because we do a lot of work with large and small organizations and every step of this pyramid is a metric.

I don’t want you to think this is a squishy somehow just I mean like television advertising, how many people really saw you read. This is black and white. We know what no awareness is. Nobody knows who you are but what is awareness. Awareness could be that they’ve come to your web page. You can track that and then they show interest. They ask for something. They begin to identify with what you’re doing. We can measure that by seeing if they share things online and social media involvement.

Obviously when somebody hits identification and they’re ready to give. They’ve told you. They are ready to give. Right now when you send direct mail out, when you invite people to your dinners or whatever event, you have no idea that they’re interested in giving or not giving. But this is a metric driven process that carries you all the way down the road. I hope that makes sense but by doing that you know now all of a sudden you can connect into people at the right time, at the right place and know exactly when they’re ready to support you. Some are going to go really quick. Some are going to take a while but the good news is it scales. Does that make sense?

Steve: It does and here’s a question that kind of dovetails into it and it comes from Joan. I hope I’m pronouncing that name right.

She’s wondering what do you need organizationally within your employees and your staff to sort of make this happen and I think the question is you know who’s going to make all this content, who’s going to be writing blog posts and interviewing donors and interviewing the people you serve and creating stories and writing newsletters and making videos. Is that the role of the fundraiser? Do you have to hire a person to do all that? Can the people that you have currently and the staff do that? Obviously people are overworked already so there may be some resistance to that. What would you say to the organization structure specifically for wanting to get this started?

Mike: Well, it’s it is something new. I mean the one thing that you have to understand is this is a publishing model. That Content Marketing Institute and again if you start slow, just start reading some of these articles at the Content Marketing Institute, subscribe to our blog. I talk about all of these issues all the way along. If you start looking at what this model looks like and by the way in our course we spend you know 10 sessions of drilling into the to the details to carry people through this. It is a different model but it’s a model that is less expensive. That there’s elements that you can outsource.

One of the things and I think you’ll all really appreciate this if you Google today, what was that one? The Coca-Cola one. Coca-Cola content 2020, I always forget the year at the end but Google “Coca-Cola 20 . . . content 2020” watch that video and think about what they’re doing there.

What they’re telling you is you start the content process but pretty soon other people are creating content for you. Talk about involvement, I mean that’s just part of what this process is about and it can start very, very slow. We have groups that start with literally one person and they just start building up and getting content out there and another people are coming in because you’re asking people who have a heart for what you do to . . . you know we always talk about everybody can bring time talent and treasure, all we’ve been focusing for the last 60 years on his treasure.

People have time and people have talent and in this model you’re not only plugging into the people that you have on the inside, paid staff as well as some volunteers, but you’re pulling in online people that really can help connect. I hope that answered that question, Steven.

Steven: I think it does and I’m glad you brought up the crowdsourcing idea because it seems like your donors and volunteers. They’re highly engaged once at least. They would be great candidates can maybe create some of this content for you like “why I give or why I support this organization or why I volunteer every month?”

Mike: Absolutely.

Steven: How do you go about sort of generating that content from them? Is it as simple as calling them up and saying, “hey we you know we’re trying to put maybe a couple stories together for next newsletter. Would you be willing to help?” How do you actually approach those people to crowdsource some of that content?

Mike: Well again, as your making contact with people, they are making contact with you and what I mean by contact is as they come into contact with your content. And everything you’re saying whether it’s a video, whether it’s a picture, whether it’s on Facebook, whether it’s on your website and by the way, your website starts to look more like an online magazine but that’s good because that’s what we want to do. We want to start telling stories. It’s not about raising money. It’s not about asking for money and say donate now and that type of thing. It’s about building relationship so you do have something that’s changing here and this is a very real change. But the dynamics of that are that people come in, people see what you what you’ve done, and they’re donating their time, and they’re plugging in and literally helping you out and again I think that’s just absolutely phenomenal for this.

Steve: Yeah, so here’s one from Laura and I think she understands that you’ve got to engage people with the content, kind of get them in the door. When then do you transition I guess to an ask? Can you ask within the content? Is the content completely standalone and then maybe the second touch is an ask or the third touch is an ask? What’s the actual sort of timeline for that? Can you put an ask in a great piece of content that is engaging and that does communicate something, or do you want to kind of keep those things separate?

Mike: Well this is great question Lauren thank you for asking that because it gives me the opportunity to say that one of one of the things that we recognize about fundraising today is obviously we focus so much on just getting donations. And that’s the focus of our message is, if you on the other hand understand that is we shift from generation to generation from them Matures they gave gifts.

Matures gave gifts to organization. Gift as in no strings attached. Remember when we talked about Peggy doing it is the right thing to do. All of a sudden when we get to the Boomers, Boomers don’t think about just giving with no strings attached. They can say there’s no strings attached but there’s always strings attached because it’s about them.

Boomers and younger generations invest which means that from the time they make a first donation, they’re constantly looking at how are you communicating with me? How are you connecting with me? What are you doing with the money? One of the one of the things we advocate in our program is you only asked for money once a year but you ask for monthly. The foundation of what you do is monthly giving which is so easy to do online. I mean you know it isn’t back in the days where we have to send out envelope and have people put in their monthly deal.

Many nonprofits, fundraising groups, have had a small group of their donor base that gave monthly for years but it’s a small group. What we say is everybody can give money and start low because some people can only get $3 a month. Now, that’s way too low for a direct marketing campaign but online that’s great and by the way three dollars a month is $36. Many organizations aren’t even receiving $36 dollars on average to their direct mail appeals and then you can go to four to five. You can begin to do this.

And of course you know we all know Charity: Water does peer to peer giving. Peer to peer giving is a good model but it’s not a great model. It is a model of giving that obviously can scale in the early years but it kind of peaks. What you really want is you want giving to be a product of the individual’s commitment to the organization. So can you imagine a like talking about money once a year and the rest of the time you’re connecting with him, you’re involving them, you’re getting them into the experience of what it is to be involved in the mission, and the changes the paradigm. Doesn’t it, Steven?

Steven: Right. Here’s a here’s a question from Peter and I’m glad he asked it has because it’s something that I personally experience myself as a marketer and as a communicator and as a fundraiser. So Peter says he’s new in his position. They’ve created a communication plan. They are sending out content. They’re doing the kinds of things you talk about. And he says even though I clearly state that I’m not asking for money in this piece of content, I’m finding that a handful don’t believe me and immediately assume I’m asking for money when said I’m just trying to build their relationship, just trying to steward them.

I feel like maybe some people have become really attuned to content marketing and they kind of know that there is something sort of behind it. Maybe they’re a little bit more cynical. What would you say to Peter to maybe help him convince them that this is sincere? We are just trying to steward you. We are just trying to give you an update without an ask. We just want you to know kind of what’s going on maybe through this story or through this video. What advice would you have for Peter or maybe people who are a little more cynical?

Mike: Good. Peter, that is a great question. As you’re listening out there I want you to write down the name, Clayton Christiansen. That’s with E. It’s not S-O-N. It’s S-E-N. Clayton Christiansen who is a Boomer my age back in 1996 wrote a book called “The Innovator’s Dilemma” and what he was talking about was when an innovation comes along, the Internet, people have a choice they can.

And I’m talking about people like you in your organization. You can do nothing. You can try to figure out how you’re going to transition the way your current business model is, in our case we’re talking fundraising to content marketing. Or what you can do is the third thing is keep doing what you’re doing to the people who are used to the way you’re doing it and over here start this other group that is pure, it is purely relationship-based marketing.

There isn’t any question. You never on your websites on your stories, you don’t talk about money you talk about mission, pretty soon, they’re going to get it. They’re going to get it. The stuff that they see online, the stories that they hear, they’re going to become involved with you based upon getting it, you’re not asking for money. And as you connect with them because they will reach out and connect and remember all we need is first name, last name, and email address, right?

As we connect with them we’ll be tracking them up that pyramid. Remember the pyramid of relationship that I talked about. We will know when it’s appropriate to ask for money but it’s not about it’s not a money driven focus but the interesting thing is . . . I’m mean look at Charity: Water. They literally were doubling every year by not using an old model. It was strictly telling their stories, showing people what they were doing with the money, and asking them to maybe participate in . . . you know if you can if you want to sponsor a well do it that way.

They weren’t spending their time talking about asking for money. I know the cynicism. I get it but the reality is over here in this old traditional model you’ve got people and that’s what they expect from you so keep doing that but over here make it a pure content based relationship model. And before you launch that model start reading about and finding out what content marketing is all about because it’s a different type of a model of how you’re going to do this. And you’re all professionals listening to this so you get that. I hope I answered that. Do you think . . . Go ahead, Steven.

Steven: I think, yeah. I do. I just say Peter, as a fellow communicator who has run into that as well, keep doing what you’re doing. As long as you’re sincere, I think people will come around. I mean Bloomerang obviously puts out a ton of content. That’s really all I do in my job and they’re people who think, are you going to charge me for this? When am I going to get the bill. I don’t believe you. And you know we are really just doing it because we want to share knowledge? So keep it up here, Peter, keep doing it.

Mike: I’m glad you set yourself as an example, Steven, because that’s exactly what Bloomerang does. Bloomerang is a content marketer.

Steven: Yeah, absolutely. Well we probably got time for maybe one more question I don’t want to keep people too long, especially if they haven’t even launch. Maybe you can leave it on one last subject, Mike, and that’s acknowledgements, thank you’s. A couple people have asked hey can we consider thank you a piece of content. When does a thank you transition to just being kind of a receipt to being a truly valuable piece of content that actually engages the donor and makes them feel really loved and appreciated? Have you seen examples of how to do that, maybe are your gift acknowledgements, your letters or even phone calls maybe? Couple people asked about phone calls as well.

Mike: Well, here’s the thing here’s the thing, it’s a great question and I know exactly where it’s coming from but when you think about it thank you’s and acknowledgements are more a function of trying to develop a relationship utilizing the old model.

So for instance, I support my local food bank and I get the thing in the mail or you know if tell them I don’t send me mail just send me something at the end of the year, send me an email and I’ll send it to you. They always make a big deal about sending me a handwritten note and things like that. There’s nothing the matter with that.

But the core of your question really gets to the core of what content marketing is all about. It isn’t just the thank you and the acknowledgement that is reaching out to try to develop a relationship that’s what you’re doing three 365 days a year. Think about that. If you get to the point that you only asked for money once a year and that money in that ask is monthly giving, it changes everything.

You’re not having to worry so much about what your thank you is because your thank you is expressed every day in the stories that you’re writing, in the connections that you’re giving to what people are really connected with online. You’re developing a relationship with them and taking them up and up and up and up in the pyramid of relationship. And that’s what this is about. I hope that makes sense, Steven. You think that made sense?

Steven: Yeah, I think so.

Mike: Good.

Steven: Well, cool I think we’ve got to leave it there. We got about a minute left.

Mike, I know we didn’t get to all the questions but fair to say you’ll be able to take some questions maybe through e-mail or Twitter? Are you willing to do that if we sent some things out?

Mike: Absolutely, absolutely. Yep, they can they can find me on Twitter just Browne Innovation Group or Mike Browne. I think it’s @Mike1, they can catch me and I’m happy to answer any emails or any other way. And I said Steven offered, we could send this e-mail out to all of you the registered, these are resources just plug in to, just many of them are free and start figuring out what the Content Marketing Institute is about. Most of the stuff I’m going to tell you that they do is for the commercial world but they still have some really good stuff and check out the Coca-Cola content 2020. There’s a video there that is just kick butt. I mean it is fantastic and it really talks about what this content marketing shift is all about.

Steven: Well, speaking of content, we would love for you to check out all the content on Bloomerang’s website. We’ve got our blog posts of course. We’ve got our Thursday webinars, lots of other things you can check out there. We’d love for you to check out some of that educational content. Lot’s a really good webinars coming up as well I want to highlight two.

One of them is two weeks from today, September 17th, Kent Stroman is going to be our guest. Some of you may recognize his name. He’s going to talk about how you can bridge the gap between your fundraising events, your physical onsite events, and major gifts, so maybe getting some major gifts from those events rather than just that one time annual gift. So check that out if your major gift fundraiser.

And then later in October, we’re going to talk about how you can share another some powerful stories at your live events that’s – with Lori Jacobwith. She’s just a swell presenter as well. So check those out. There’s a couple other webinars you register for on our webinar page there and of course there are always free. Usually they’re on Thursdays around 1p.m. Eastern.

So check those out maybe you’ll find a piece of content there that piques your interest.

So we will call it a day there. Mike, thanks so much for spending an hour out of your day and thank you to all of you. I know you’re super busy thanks for taking an hour out of your day to listen along with us. So look for an email from me with the recording and the slides and hopefully we will see you again sometime soon. So have a great rest your day and we’ll talk to you guys sometime soon. Bye now.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.
Kristen Hay