January 2008 Posts

A Race to the Finish

The covers of the New York Times and the Washington Post are about the race to the White House, but there’s something much more exciting going on right now in the world of philanthropy. Right now, several grassroots fundraisers are battling it out for the top fundraiser spot in America’s Giving Challenge on GlobalGiving. The top fundraisers will get $50,000 from the Case Foundation, which is sponsoring the Challenge.

On GlobalGiving, we have several fundraisers which are trying to get top position. In the last few days, there’s been a major shake up in fundraising efforts, with several long standing leaders dropping down as new fundraisers have mobilized their bases and gotten over 500 donations in the last week. I’m including links to the top six fundraisers who have gotten over 700 donations as of the time of this posting, but the Challenge doesn’t end until tomorrow, January 31, 2008, at 3 pm, so anything can change. Be sure to check out the leaderboard for the most update to date standings! Good luck to all of the fundraisers!

Non Formal Education for Tribal Children in India

Invest in International Development Leaders

Fuel Efficient stove for 300 Hondurans in need with SHH

Route Out of Poverty for Cambodian Children

Education for 900 Rural Girls in Burkina Faso

Computers for children of women trafficked for sex

GG Giving Season Stats

Earlier today, Allan Benamer wrote a very interesting blog post, “Who Won the Giving Season…” on his Non-Profit Tech Blog. In it, he compares year-end web traffic data of four players in the online giving/lending space. We’re one of those four, so i thought I’d just add a little bit of additional data to the mix.

From our perspective the real winners of the giving season are the people who live in struggling communities around the world, whose lives may be a tad better because of the nearly $800,000 of donations that came through the GlobalGiving platform in December. About half of that came through our website, or the special “co-branded” site we created for the Parade/Case Challenge that Allan refers to. The data don’t lie – our traffic went up in December. And in November. Here’s what we know worked in generating traffic at year end:

  • Banner Ads. Through the generosity of a number of corporate partners, we had banner ads running on a bunch of websites. We also bought a tiny bit of “sponsorship” on NPR. Those ads kicked in at higher levels right after Thanksgiving, and account for about 30% of the traffic increases.
  • The Parade/Case America’s Giving Challenge – which accounted for some of the velocity but not all, and accounted for ~11% of traffic in December. (The real story on this is January…stay tuned)
  • Repeat traffic from visitors who know of us through word of mouth (consistently 50+% of traffic throughout the year)
  • Our own online marketing strategies – via Care2, StumbleUpon, blog outreach about our gift card, and of course search marketing
  • PR – we actively pursued print and radio earned media that resulted in over two dozen traditional media stories that Allan duly noted and linked to
  • Our own email marketing efforts (One e-comm/week, each segmented in various ways) and a “tell-a-friend” campaign we ran in early December.

Having said all that, the giving season story for us is always more about conversion rate than traffic. This chart shows the story in stark relief:

For most of the year, unless we are running special campaigns/incentives our conversion rate pretty consistently hovers between .75% and 1%. In December, it was 2.7%. This is due to higher conversion rates for the Parade Challenge, to be sure. People are more highly committed by the time they get to us via Parade.

But it’s more about how philanthropy works – year end, year end, year end. Gifts and tax deductions. People literally tell us in post-checkout surveys that “I remembered reading about you in Nick Kristof’s article in the NY Times in the Spring,” or “I heard an NPR story in the summer.” And this year we launched a physical, biodegradable gift card. It was a hit. We “sold” about 1,800 them. People knew what they were coming to buy.

So, we drove more traffic, we saw higher conversions. More projects get funding. A good giving season all around.

CSR Continued…

Here’s a follow-up to my recent post about Corporate Social Responsibility.

Persuasive Partnerships

“Clearly CSR has arrived,” stated the Economist in a recent special report on Corporate Social Responsibility. The report shows that in today’s business world, CSR – now another tool used to add value to the customer experience – is no longer a question of “to do, or not to do,” but rather, “how?”

The most recent corporation to answer this question was Dell. They’ve teamed up with Bill Gates and Bono to introduce a line of (Product) RED consumer computing hardware that will compete directly with Apple’s recently debuted Mac Air.

This partnership creates shared value among the participating organizations:

1. Dell hopes to win new customers and retain old by giving them the warm-and-fuzzy value-add they demand, and

2.The Global Fund/(Product) RED receives funding to further realize their organizational goals

It will be interesting to see whether this strategic offer from Dell is compelling enough to persuade laptop buyers to purchase “socially good” product rather than the technolocially-superior, and aesthetically-pleasing Apple product (excuse my bias – I’ve been a mac fanatic since I got my first PowerBook three years ago). Was it a good marketing move? Will the revenues deliver the value they promise? When it comes to spending $2,000, consumers may choose to spend for the better hardware and save their giving for a separate occasion.

7 Key Ingredients for Online Marketing

Jocelyn at the Nonprofit Technology Blog wrote a great post on Wednesday about how to create a successful viral marketing campaign inspired by this Washington Post article

To summarize, in Dave Kori (Lake Braddock Secondary School Student) v. Dean Tistadt (Chief Operating Officer for Fairfax County, VA Public Schools), Dave Kori called Dean Tistadt at home to ask why schools had not been closed after last week’s snow storm.  Unfortunately, Dean Tistadt’s wife returned the call with a voicemail, upbrading the student for calling a home number with his complaint.  Dave, a product of iGeneration, posted the controversial message on YouTube and Facebook – initiating a viral storm.

Jocelyn commented that this story was actually an excellent case study about how to leverage the Internet and social networking to achieve advocacy goals. 

6 Key Ingredients for Online Marketing

  1. Make sure your campaign is ugent and timely.
  2. Make your “ask for support” concrete and easy to do.
  3. Speak in your own voice; in other words, be real.
  4. Send your appeal to the right audience.
  5. Use communications vehicles that can easily go viral.
  6. Diversify.

Bonus optional ingredient: Be controversial.

You can find Jocelyn’s further analysis of these steps on her blog, but as I suggested in the title of this post (and commented on her blog), I think there’s a 7th ingredient – albeit more difficult to find.  And that’s the “X Factor”.  Its unidentifiable nature leads to its allusiveness.  Sure, controversy can be the X Factor, but is that the only way?  And in the nonprofit world, is drama or controversy really the way to go

How can nonprofits break through all of the din in the online world to create something that goes viral?  Are we doing enough to make a distinction between what we hope resonates online and what actually does make an impact?  I think, in the end, it’s unfortunately an acceptance of powerlessness.  Usually the most successful viral campaigns are the result of genuine grassroots movements – and not artificial or oversaturated marketing (or astroturfing, I suppose).  People are more inclined to spread the word if they feel like they thought it was a good idea first, not if it is constantly in their faces with blinking lights, shouting from a megaphone: “I’m a good idea!  Tell your friends!”

Still, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do.  Lesson learned: create your network to the best of your ability and trust them.  When it comes to making things go viral, let your network be your guide.  You’re going to have to provide them with the ammunition and make things interesting and relevant to their lives.  But when something works, they’ll make it stick.