Tag Archives: #Sacramentononprofits

The Veggie Return On Investment

Food Literacy Center

Philanthrophile (a.k.a Betsy C. Stone) hasn’t dropped off the face of the planet but she has been detained as she works on a nonfiction-something-or-other through Bennington’s College’s M.F.A. writing program. And – shock face! – the local nonprofit world seems to be surviving just fine without her ministrations.

She did, however, participate in a listening sessions sponsored by the Sacramento Region Community Foundation where there was some interesting dialogue about measurement and evaluation. Philanthrophile (perhaps I should stop speaking of myself in writerly third person right about now) is a fan of measurement. In Washington, D.C., for example, Venture Philanthropy Partners has been using their investment and advocacy power to make measurable differences in the lives of youth.

So I (see? first person! I’ve got this point of view thing nailed!) was delighted to see the evaluation findings in Food Literacy Center‘s annual report, drawn from three years of findings from Capitol Heights Academy:

  • 87% of kids can provide an example of a healthy vegetable (the report notes that in the first year, the kids had never seen broccoli or plums);
  • 91% of kids agree healthy snacks taste good;
  • 80% of kids know how to make a healthy snack and read a recipe;
  • 87% know how to save money by selecting foods that are good for them; and
  • 80% of kids know how to read a nutrition label.

Are these outcome measures? Has Food Literacy Center proved that kids are really eating healthier at home, achieving healthy weights, feeling more energetic or doing better in school? No… but give a small nonprofit a break. I appreciate Food Literacy Center’s commitment to evaluation.

Carrot-y congratulations and broccoli bravos to the staff and volunteers leading California – and now the country! – in food literacy.

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What’s “Good” Nonprofit Facebook Growth?

Being liked on Facebook isn’t enough, but it’s not a bad place to start. Facebook continues to be an important channel for building engagement with community members, volunteers, donors and potential donors.

In March 2010 I started tracking a sampling of Sacramento nonprofits to understand something about the growth of Facebook. By “sampling,” I do not mean that I constructed a representative sample; let’s say I taste-tested them to get a sense of average performance and growth. Though there were baseline numbers out there in the blogosphere, they were generally for big, national organizations. I wanted to know what a local nonprofit should be striving to achieve.

I’ve now got 33* organizations in my sights including a few that I added in this round and a few that I exclude from analysis as outliers.

Here are the highlights from an analysis of 24 local nonprofits:

  • In 2010 (when I was tracking a much smaller comparison group), the average number of likes was around 500. The average is now 973.
  • I was surprised by the continuing growth between June 3, 2012 and June 3, 2013. As the denominator gets bigger, it gets harder to achieve impressive growth. That’s just math. I was also concerned that Facebook’s changes have made it harder for nonprofits’ content to be seen as widely. Among the 24 nonprofits who had at least 500 likes last year, growth ranged from a low of 11% (People Reaching Out) to a high of 63% (United Way California Capital Region).
  • In the group with 500-1,000 likes last year, growth averaged 34%. (United Way fell in this group, with 501 likes as of 6/3/12 and 815 as of 6/2/13).
  • In the group with 1,000+ likes last year, growth averaged 39%. The “winner” in this larger category was Effie Yeaw Nature Center, which grew from 1,125 likes a year ago to 1,763 today. The growth of this larger category impressed me. It suggested that whatever “machine” they ginned up to get to the 1,000 mark is still accelerating.

What about the outliers?

I don’t know what’s going on with Stanford Youth Solutions (formerly Stanford Children’s Home). They started their Facebook page in 2011 and had 393 likes this time last year. Now they have 70. They’ve redone their website but their social link (singular) is buried (unobtrusively displayed on the right several screen swipes down).

Susan G. Komen, which experienced a dramatic drop in racer participants, has also had a huge loss in Facebook friends, dropping from 9,815 in 2012 to 6,948 today, a 29% drop.

I also exclude the Crocker Art Museum because of their size. But they should be feeling great about continuing growth, from 13,860 a year ago to 18,194 today, 31% growth!

How’d they do that?

Facebook doesn’t have to be a part of a nonprofit’s marketing strategy, but I’d be hard pressed to come up with a circumstance when it doesn’t belong in it.

One of the obvious differences between organizations that grew rapidly and those that didn’t is the placement of Facebook on their website page. I suspect that also carries over to other communications – printed materials, emails, etc.

For every rule, however, there’s an exception. Effie Yeaw is obviously doing a great job of promoting their Facebook page, but not on their website. If the link is there, I couldn’t find it!

I’ll do some more sleuthing to see if I can ferret out winning approaches in content as a driver of Facebook growth.

*The organizations I track – all local affiliates:

United Way, American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Clubs, Child Abuse Prevention Center, Children’s Receiving Home, Crocker Art Museum, Diogenes Youth Center, Effie Yeaw, Foodlink, Francis House, Give Local Now, Goodwill, Hands On Sacramento, Junior Achievement, Lilliput, Loaves and Fishes, Make a Wish, People Reaching Out, PRIDE Industries, River City Food Bank, Sacramento Children’s Home, Sacramento Steps Forward, Sacramento Tree Foundation, Sierra Forever Families, Salvation Army, Susan G. Komen, Stanford Youth Solutions, St. John’s Shelter, Volunteers of America, WEAVE, WIND Youth Services, Women’s Empowerment, The Y of Sacramento

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#ArtsDayofGiving: The Learning Continues

How often are you thrilled to receive an online survey? I was yesterday when I received an email invitation to complete an online survey for Arts Day of Giving donors.

What did inquiring minds want to know? Besides the usual demographics, satisfaction, and “how you heard about” questions, the survey should be helpful in answering some of the questions about cannibalization – specifically whether the event brought in existing donors, or new donors.

After asking donors how many nonprofits they supported, it gave donors the opportunity to identify whether the nonprofit(s) they supported were those they:

  • Already support
  • Supported in the past
  • Were aware of but never supported before
  • Never supported before but learned about through the event, or
  • All of the above

It also probed the importance of the match in spurring action, and whether participants helped a nonprofit to pursue and/or win a challenge prize.

Other follow-up notes

Museum of Glass

I received a mailer from Museum of Glass promoting Seattle/Tacoma’s #GiveBig event… which unfortunately came about a week after the fact (it also promoted their annual membership drive – I’ve been a member). It did answer my question about whether some nonprofits mailed promotional materials out to existing supporters; at least in Seattle/Tacoma, they did.

I’ve also been paying attention to which of the 7 organizations I supported through #ArtsDayofGiving sent some kind of follow-up thank you. As mentioned in a previous post, Capital Public Radio’s Arla Gibson was right on it with a personalized thank you email as was Fairytale Town’s Kathy Fleming.

I also received snail mail thank you letters from Fairytale Town, the Crocker Art Museum and the Davis Art Center. Which means – unless I missed it – that I didn’t receive an acknowledgement from three organizations. I was a past (but not current) donor to two, and a new donor to the third.

So here’s a tickler for the organizers of the May 2014. KEEP tracking what happens with new (or resurfaced) donors, and how nonprofits communicate with them, even if just with a few “beta” nonprofits who agree to provide information… my theory is that the organizations who pay attention to new donors will convert more of them to repeat givers.

Three out of seven nonprofits I gave to fell down on the job.

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Arts Day of Giving: Where to Go from Here?

Is that all there is?

Yesterday was almost as good as Christmas morning when I was a kid: I woke up to see that more than $400,000 was donated to local arts-related nonprofits (more about Arts Day of Giving here). And just like a kid, my next question was, “Is there more?”

I think there is. If Give Local Now is successful, they will radically change the culture of giving in our community. I’ve always thought of Sacramento as involved; the amazing contributions of service clubs like Active 20-30 #1, Junior League of Sacramento, Rotary and others have made this a great place to live. But do Sacramentans give? Not at the same level of other communities our size, according to the Sacramento Generosity Project. I can make a difference but I can’t do what a well-run nonprofit can: make a real impact on a problem that is too big to be solved by a few well-intentioned people.

Technology-enabled charitable giving is a great way to attract new donors to the party.

What could that mean for Sacramento nonprofits? With a sector-wide giving day, we should be able to generate millions for nonprofits — but even more importantly, expose thousands of people to the experience of giving charitably. Fortunately, such a sector-wide giving day is in the planning stages for next May.

Here are my suggestions of things to do and not do as online giving events get rolling in Sacramento. Some of these are directed to the organizers of Arts Day of Giving, but others are directed to the nonprofits who participated.

Do!

1.  Close the feedback loop. Now that new donors have said “hello” by stopping by to donate, what can nonprofits do to make them feel really great about what they did? Thank you is always nice, but according to previous research by Giving USA, one reason that people don’t give is that they don’t know what happened as a result of their donation. I don’t know what access nonprofits have to donors who gave during Arts Day of Giving (presuming that the donors did not ask to remain anonymous), but ideally the nonprofits would be able to send a personalized email explaining how the new donations will be put to work. [Author’s update: This just in! My first thank you note just came through from Capitol Public Radio. Looks like they matched my email to donor info since the email came through thanking “Mr. and Mrs…” See ***below.]

2.  Learn more about the giver/nonprofit experience and build on it. The Case Foundation/Razoo report about Washington DC’s experience with its Give2Max campaign included results from post-event surveys of donors and nonprofits: “A whopping 96 percent of donors said they were likely to give more money to their selected nonprofits as a result of their participation in Give to the Max Day,” according to the report. This finding was also encouraging: “Fifty-eight percent of nonprofits recruited new donors, and 56 percent said they increased public awareness of their organizations among people in the region.” If there’s no funding to support a follow-up survey with this go-round, it would be great to build quick post-interaction survey technology into the website for the planned May 2014 event.

3.  Start getting nonprofits “socially” ready now for the May 2014 event. Looking at the websites for several of the established and successful one-day, sector-wide giving events, they appear to have secured the involvement of more media partners and more outreach partners (also known as “activators”). If April 29’s top-earners were more effective on Twitter (as I suspect), then it’s important to start building that capability now among nonprofits who are interested in the May 2014 event. It takes time to build connections.

I know what leaders of nonprofits are thinking. Twitter, ugh, who has the time? It’s a hate-love relationship at best. Until now, nonprofits haven’t had much evidence that there is a linkage between social media and donations. Online events like this one have the potential to change that dynamic.

4. Start now building relationships with more activators. I know the Arts Day of Giving folks had an event for people with the potential to be ambassadors and influencers for the event. And that tweets sent by @SacRegcf and @GiveLocalNow were re-tweeted by friends like @3FoldComm. But almost certainly more could be done to tap into Twitter users who create lists and use hashtags to “share the love” about causes and organizations that fit with their interests. Another great under-utilized communications resources in town is bloggers. Right here in River City there are political bloggers who write about causes; food bloggers who care about hunger, food literacy, health and nutrition; Mommy bloggers who write about things that affect children and the future of our community; fashion and thrift bloggers. Power Twitter users and bloggers could have even more impact that traditional news media for the one-day giving event; people who see their posts or tweets are already online and can most easily click to donate.

Give to the Max MN screen shot5.  Cultivate more media partners. In Minneapolis, for example, their Give to the Max Day (which raised $16+ million from over 53,000 donors) really pushed hard to for outreach partners and media partners.

Please don’t!

I fret about a few things when I ponder the future of online giving events here in Sacramento:

1.  Save us from contests, and don’t over-saturate us with Day of Giving events! I agree with this Forbes article that contests (“help us get the most votes to win $1,000!”) have largely worn out their welcome. As I was sniffing around the Internet, I noted that some communities, having proved the success of sector-wide giving events, are now planning multiple events per year. At that point, I think it could cannibalize donor sources of nonprofits or cause people ignore such events.

2.  What will happen to the user experience when hundreds of nonprofits are listed? The online tool set up for Arts Day of Giving was dead easy to navigate in part because there were only 80 organizations, and they were sliced into sub-categories like Visual Arts and Arts Education. It’s hard to imagine how easy it will be to surf and scan when potentially 10 times that many nonprofits are listed. I do know that some will exclude themselves by not getting around to creating profiles. But there are lots of nonprofits in Sacramento!

3.  The risks of cannibalization – or losing donors to other organizations. As more people “get” what these online giving days are about, and nonprofits adopt social media more, there are some downside risks. More people may donate through this channel rather than to the nonprofit directly, with slightly higher administrative costs. (Razoo.com, which supports many of the online fundraising events around the country, is nearly doubling its admin fees — from 2.9% to 4.9%, noting that great technology costs money to keep current.) However, we know that as many as half of the donors coming in through giving events are new to the charities AND that Sacramento lags national averages for giving. For a long while to come, all boats should rise with collaborative online giving events.

Give2Max tweet on home page4. Think twice or thrice before allowing individuals to fundraise. Razoo allows nonprofits or individuals to fundraise via their platform leading to tweets like the one at right. Razoo is a for-profit company (not that there’s anything wrong with that) that benefits from anything that increases contributions through its sites. I doubt that the Give Local Now folks would allow such individual appeals but I hope they continue to wave the banner of transparency for nonprofits. Raising awareness and promoting the integrity of nonprofits is just as important to this effort as is the actual money raised.

***As just added in “Do’s” #1, I did receive an electronic thank you with this bit at the bottom: P.S. “Your official donation acknowledgement/reciept from Capital Public Radio will be arriving by U.S. Postal Mail.”

Capitol Public Radio Thanks

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Finally! Online Community Giving Blitz Comes to Sacramento

#artsdayofgiving

In 2011, I wrote about Washington DC’s “Give to the Max” online fundraising blitz, and I’ve been anxiously waiting for something like that to come to Sacramento. This Monday, April 29, that moment arrives as Give Local Now, the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, For Arts’ Sake, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission and the Nonprofit Resource Center bring us the Arts Day of Giving. As happy as I am for the arts organizations that will benefit, I’m even more excited about what it potentially means for all local nonprofits. I caught up with Susan Frazier of Give Local Now to learn more about the event — and the progress of Give Local Now’s efforts to energize local giving.

Let’s start with the basics: what do you want people to do on April 29?

We want them to go onto givelocalnow.com, where they will be redirected to a special giving page. The page will be up over the weekend but they won’t be able to donate until 4:29 a.m. on Monday, April 29. It’s very simple and quick to get to a list of nonprofits and pick the one you want to donate to. The page can handle 10,000 transactions a minute so it’s not going to slow down. Check out the tutorial about a minute in:

You can also help by spreading the word. Local arts organizations stand to win prizes including $1,000 for the organization that generates the most posts on Facebook and Twitter during the 24-hour-period, but posts must be public and use the hashtag #artsdayofgiving.

Is this the first 24-hour online giving event in the area that benefits a group of nonprofits?

It is. You have to have sophisticated technology in place, which we now have, thanks to the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. The next online giving event will benefit the full sector of nonprofits, in May of next year.

The Sacramento Region Community Foundation has been terrific. The amount of labor and investment that they’ve taken on has been stunning. It’s a real gift to the region. They both funded and staffed the development of the technology.

Technology is more and more important to nonprofits. What technology was required to make this online giving event possible?

We integrated two pieces of existing technology: a database and an ecommerce/campaign tool. The database comes from Guidestar; they branded it as DonorEdge but we renamed it GivingEdge. The secure ecommerce/campaign tool provides the landing page for the day, which will instantly track and display each donation and all kinds of statistics as the day goes along. You’ll be able to tell which nonprofits are getting what and how we’re doing against our goal.

The database allows donors to see really robust information about a nonprofit’s programs, financials, management and governance. We only have the arts organizations profiles now but by fall we hope to have good representation of all sectors of the local nonprofit community. While Guidestar includes all IRS-registered nonprofits, those organizations will have to choose to complete a profile for GivingEdge. The database shines a lot of light and transparency on organizations.

What do you hope will be raised for the arts?

We hope to raise as much as $500,000. We have $100,000 in matching donations from a variety of corporate sponsors and businesses and restaurants that are offering discounts or freebies to contributors who show a receipt for their donation via print out or on their smart phone. And this was just added: Bistro 33 locations are offering a 20% discount to donors and Harv’s Car Wash will provide a free wash. We’re deeply grateful for the support of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, Western Health Advantage, Wells Fargo Bank, Barry and Lynda Keller, Enlow and Mel Ose Endowment for the Arts, Safe Credit Union, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, and the Jean Runyon Endowment for the Arts Fund, which will give a cash prize of $1,767 to the arts organization that raises the most overall during the event.

Why the particular focus on the arts?

The original initiative idea came from “For Arts’ Sake,” through Mayor Kevin Johnson’s office. They thought it would be a great use of their initiative and they knew they couldn’t do it alone.

What are you hearing from local nonprofits about their fundraising success as the local economy begins to slowly improve?

I’m hearing about a slight uptick, but there’s also a lot of concern among donors. As one donor said to me, “Darn, I thought this economic downturn would get rid of some of these nonprofits.” What’s behind that is some skepticism about whether the sector has too much duplication. Nonprofits are really frustrated with that, that they may not be able to attract donors, often because of a misperception. That’s something that this database can help with. It may show that they fill a need that other nonprofits do not, or suggest opportunities for collaboration.

What’s next for Give Local Now?

We’re gearing up with a bunch of different strategies. One of them is the nonprofit capacity piece, working through the Nonprofit Resource Center to build fundraising skills of nonprofits and their Boards through training, and to make them better stewards of the resources they have. We can help them with their message about why they’re worthy to invest in, as opposed to “help us because we’re desperate.” We’ve written a grant for a series of training sessions that will bring executive directors and Boards together to help them understand fund development better – their different roles and responsibilities as well as best practice strategies.

Another focus is measurement. In September 2011, we announced three ambitious goals: to increase the regional average of households that give to charities; increase the average household contribution of households that give; and increase the share of giving that stays here in the area vs. benefiting national or international charities. To help us track progress, we’re developing a set of measures using nonprofit partners’ results as the data source. But first, we need to get local nonprofits on the GivingEdge tool.

The third thing we’re doing is developing a whole suite of new tools that will help local nonprofits connect with donors. We are changing out the website to have a lot more donor tools on it, and to enable donors to get a lot more information about local nonprofits.

The fourth strategy is just an awareness and outreach strategy, with an underlying idea of building regional pride. If information about the cool things that are happening here were more broadly known, there would be a greater sense of pride in philanthropy.

What are some of the cool things you’re seeing?

One example is “Reason to Party,” which organizes events benefiting a cause they select as a way for 20-somethings to have fun and donate. It’s pretty inspiring. Another is the El Dorado Giving Circle, a group of several hundred women in the foothills who contribute individually and pool their donations to make an impact on a cause they select together. The Metro Chamber’s Project Inspire is another innovative way approach to philanthropy, where anyone who donates $250 or more can participate in supporting an exciting project benefiting the Sacramento area community.

Any parting words?

There’s nothing static about Give Local Now. New ideas come in everyday. I really see it as a snowball rolling down hill that’s picking up pieces as it goes. It’s a catalyst. We’re starting to attract people that can see this as a vehicle for change.

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