Fundraising Nerd

Turn your data into donors.


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AASP: panel on leadership

Now a panel on “Becoming an Advancement Services Leader” with a group of incredibly smart folks: Jon Thorsen (George Washington University), Gail Ferris (American University), Jennifer Liu-Cooper (Zuri Group), and Christina Pulawski (Art Institute of Chicago). Robert Weiner (Robert L. Weiner Consulting) is moderating.

How does one become a leader in advancement services? Robert says it’s either “raising your hand or not ducking quickly enough.” That is, pretty much none of us set out to be advancement services leaders when we left college!

Jennifer: Advancement Services is all about orchestrating your knowledge to come up with solutions. She also says, “Problem-solving is like crack.” So true!

Jon: One thing we can bring to our institutions is to slow them down. “We’re the only process-oriented people in any development office.” The battle of the SOPs — standard operating procedures vs. shiny object people.

Good question: At what point in your career do you feel like an actual expert rather than that you are faking it?

Christina: We all have our methods of coping and preparing. Could be costuming (power suit), over-preparation, or research.

Gail: Feeling comfortable in your role does not come from knowing the answers, it comes from knowing the questions.

Robert: Be willing to ask a lot of questions at the risk of seeming dumb.

A number of the panelists have mentioned the value of conferences and continuing education to build knowledge and confidence. Christina also mentions the value of reaching out to other institutions and doing site visits.

Christina: Understand the moving parts and complexity of the environment. There is no solution that fits all situations. Being able to apprehend the landscape and choose specific tools from your toolbox is an important step toward confident leadership.

Gail: The best way to know a topic is to teach it. Present on your area of expertise — this will build your confidence.

Jon: This is a very giving profession. We’ve all been there at some point, so there is a great deal of empathy and willing to share within the field.

How do you manage areas in which you are not a specialist?

Gail: It’s an issue of respect. Be sympathetic and respectful to your staff.

Jennifer: Sit with your staff to shadow their work to better understand it.

Christina: What will further your career is management and people skills. Functional skills may actually hold you back. Managing people is a full-time job, and it requires a different approach than managing a process. Focus on management techniques rather than the functional skills.

Jon: Be honest. Speaking about a specific business analyst team, he says, “They were so much smarter than me, and I’m never going to catch up.” Be honest about what you can and can’t do, and how you can be helpful.

Gail: Know thyself. Don’t set yourself up for failure by taking on responsibilities that you can’t learn or don’t want to do.

Christina: If it’s not working, and you can’t figure out why, ask for help. It may be a paid consultant or other resources.

Jon: Good leaders want to be pushed. They want team members who know things they don’t know.

Robert: Listen to the clients of your department. This will help you find trouble spots.

Question: Have you been or had the opportunity to be a frontline fundraiser?

Gail: No way! “But most of the people to whom I provide data would rather die than do my job.”

Christina: We are seeing more of a merging of the data and frontline worlds. Frontline staff can do on their phones what data analysts used to provide 10 years ago. We are looking for people skills in advancement services staff.

Jon: He disagrees with Christina. Jon thinks there is still a strong dichotomy between the back office and the front office. The skillsets are transferable, but not for everyone. The change we need to make is not seeing frontline as a promotion, but simply as different. APPLAUSE!

Gail: As advancement services leaders, we serve as translators between frontline and technical. The question is whether we use those people skills internally or externally.

Robert: Disagrees with Jon. Thinks that back office folks can make a very successful transition to frontline. And that introverts can make great development officers due to listening skills. But if you are not a people person, you won’t be able to make this transition.


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AASP: Avoiding credit card fraud

Steve MacLaughlin from Blackbaud is covering online fraud. Nonprofits are increasingly targets, as online giving increases. Credit card fraud committers use online giving sites to test stolen card numbers and validate their authenticity by charging low donation amounts like $1.

Sources of fraud: stolen cards, compromised accounts, BIN attacks or carding (generating and testing mass amounts of credit card numbers), social engineering (e.g. phishing or Nigerian mail scams), charge-back schemes (asking for a refund to a different card).

Steve says the number one bad practice is letting donors fill in any gift amount with an open box. This is a leading contributor to fraudulent transactions. Steve recommends using an array. You can include an “other” option, which also has a blank. But set a minimum gift amount. Fraudsters commonly use $1 contributions (which fly under the radar of fraud detectors) to validate a card so that it can be re-sold or used for other transactions.

Another good practice: require the three or four-digit CID/CVV code in addition to the credit card number and expiration date.

AVS (Address Verification System) — most credit card processors allow you to turn on high, medium or low settings to verify credit cards against address data. If most of your gifts are coming from the U.S. and Canada, higher AVS settings are acceptable. If you have a higher percentage of gifts (over 10% or so) from outside the U.S./Canada, AVS verification becomes more difficult, creating a barrier to giving. Consider creating separate webforms for domestic vs. international donors.

What about CAPTCHA or reCAPTCHA (“prove that you are a human”)? Steve does not recommend putting CAPTCHA on the form unless you are dealing with egregious levels of fraud. These technologies tend to present more barriers to giving than barriers to fraud.

Another advanced practice — IP throttling can be used to restrict traffic from specific locations. But fraudsters will return the favor with IP masking.

Watch out — new PCI (payment card industry) standards are coming out soon. These standards will address new types of banking information, e.g. debit, in addition to credit cards. Steve believes we’ll see a lot more regulations and guidelines around payment processing.

What about crowd funding? We may start seeing more people using an organization’s name to raise money fraudulently.

Changes in security practices and consumer expectations will likely change our ability to accept credit card gifts through the mail and over the phone. Restrictions might increase (e.g. callers need some sort of certification) and donor discomfort with handing out credit card numbers is likely to increase also.

Steve recommends implementing fraud prevention measures now. One-third of online gifts will be given between now and December 31, and fraudsters pay attention to these things too, so fraud will be on the rise during these months too.


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AASP: Fundraising in the Cloud (Salesforce)

At lunch today, some colleagues and I were talking about big enterprise tech solutions for advancement, and we decided we wanted to see a cage match — Blackbaud v. Ellucian, sponsored by Salesforce. In all seriousness though, I am following Salesforce’s progress pretty closely, and think that they have a real chance to shake up the fundraising data marketplace.

This session is co-presented by Sandra Sanvido from Salesforce.com Foundation, Reed Sheard from Westmont College and Cheryl Cerny from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

The Salesforce Foundation has adopted a 1-1-1 model — they donate 1% of their product, equity and time to nonprofit organizations. They offer the first 10 Salesforce licenses to nonprofits for free, with the remainder at a deep discount. They give grants to nonprofits, and each employee has 6 days off per year for volunteering.

Salesforce entered the cloud 15 years ago. Some benefits of cloud computing: no hardware, no software; and automatic upgrades. Salesforce in particular plays nicely with others, with around 2 billion transactions per day driven via API. They also have 2400 apps that plug into Salesforce.

One of the biggest concerns around storing data in the cloud: security. But realistically, what’s safer? A company that stakes its reputation on high levels of security, or a server in a closet at your nonprofit organization?

Reed is talking about changes in higher ed — student graduation rates are declining, student debt is in the spotlight, and new educational models (read MOOCs) are emerging. This is a big contrast from prior years where it was unquestioned that a degree was the key to professional success.

Reed contends that forcing higher ed institutions to respond to change and competition will make these organizations healthier. Well, organizations that have an “aspiring edge”, that is. Those that remain complacent are likely to lose out as the higher ed industry changes as a whole.

Reed proposes that thriving in the new landscape requires a few factors. For today’s talk, he’ll focus on “getting in the game that is being played”: affordability. Advancement has an important role to play in this.

Some issues facing advancement teams in the new economy: we have to solicit more people to achieve the same results; all donors want more service, but operations budgets are staying flat or declining; we have to move folks from “affinity” to “engagement”.

Westmont decided that a move to a CRM would be key to addressing these issues. Using the CRM has helped Westmont to track, measure and report on metrics, e.g. number of visits. The ability to quickly access data has motivated performance and makes it easier to develop strategies. For example, they’ve grown planned giving from less than a million per year to $16M! Same team, new tools.

Reed points out that CRMs only matter if they are actually used. It’s important to find a software interface that fundraisers want to use. This is so true! I recently did a demo with one of my clients who I was helping to select a system. The development officer said, “I feel bad about this, but I think this is too ugly for me to want to use every day.” I told her not to feel bad — design/interface matters!

Next up: Cheryl Cerny. Cheryl hit her “breaking point” two years ago. She was sick of tech being the limiter to their business processes. It was also frustrating to “report around a bad solution”.

Why do people stick with their old systems? Fear of risk. Implementing Salesforce felt risky because it’s new in the advancement space. However, what’s the risk of sticking with the same old, same old?

The opportunity for a new CRM arose when WPI was looking for a system that could be used to accurately track corporate relationships, a huge challenge for complex institutions.

What was Cheryl looking for? One-click contact reporting that is mobile-friendly and can use native audio recording. Workflows with no requirement to know object-oriented programing or an FTE to manage them. Customizations that don’t make you “dread and loathe” upgrades. Fundraisers away from desks. Innovative development.

Cheryl’s high-level needs were for a mobile, scalable, highly agile, social/collaborative, and easy CRM. She pointed out (in the same point that Donald Farmer made at the DRIVE conference) that we have 21st century tech at home, and we work off of 1990s tech in the office. We deserve better!

Implementing a collaborative, shared environment also required Cheryl to customize the system so that certain data, e.g. contact notes, could be kept confidential from other units. She also set up a workflow that makes it easy for the President to record contact reports using audio. Once he submits the report, it is automatically sent (with a link) to his assistant, who can correct the text (damn, you autocorrect!) in the system.

I’ve been trying to keep this post a bit neutral, to be useful for folks who are not on Salesforce, and because I am not in the business of endorsing particular products. However, Salesforce does have one unique feature that bears mention: Chatter, which acts as an internal Facebook-like feed. Cheryl was surprised at how quickly the team embraced this feature, and how much it’s improved internal communications.

Lessons learned: change management is hard; you can never over-train; requirements gathering can be comprehensive but will never be 100%; never under-estimate the importance of good implementation consultants; don’t tell anyone your go-live date until the day after; and take the risk!


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AASP: I won an award!

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I was incredibly surprised and honored to learn that I won AASP’s Emerging Leader award this year. AASP is such an amazing organization with so many incredible people involved — I feel so lucky and special to be recognized in this way.

And, the award is nice and pointy, so besides being a beautiful addition to my office, it will also come in handy in case of zombie apocalypse.


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AASP: First steps in predictive modeling

Mark Mathyer, Tre Geoghegan and Pamela Jenkins are presenting on an analytics project that the Museum of Science and Industry undertook.

The Museum had a big gap between $250 and $1000 — not many donors were giving at this level. ($250 was the highest membership level, and $1K was the lowest donor recognition society level.) Surprise: people weren’t giving at this level because they weren’t being asked at this level.

The Museum also realized that there was a distinction between members (buying access) and donors (supporting specific projects). And — that the opportunity was to upgrade members, not to downgrade donors! When the Museum created new higher-level memberships, they were successful in upgrading donors to new levels of giving.

Prior to this point, the Museum was relying on vendors for predictive analytics. They decided to create an in-house analytics program, starting with predicting the likelihood of members giving to the annual fund.

What does it take to do your own predictive modeling? You do not necessarily need to be an expert, but you do need to be data-savvy. Ideally, build a team with both prospect research experience and statistics experience.

Project steps: Define the project. Collect the data. Analyze the data (cleanse, transform, model). Use statistics to validate and test your hypothesis. Deploy the model (make business decisions).

When defining your project, determine what question you are trying to answer. For example, are you looking at prospects likely to make a major gift? Prospects likely to respond to email? Constituents likely to attend a fundraising event?

In data collection, figure out what data you already have. Are the records accurate? Do you need to do a data append first (e.g. buy addresses or age data))? Look at the consistency of the data — has data entry changed over time? Is there useful data living outside your constituent database, i.e. “shadow systems”?

What team members should you partner with? Consider involving your data team, your annual giving team, your prospect research team.

What are the tools you need? Analytics software, unrestricted access to data, and plenty of time.

Advantages to in-house models: you can answer a variety of questions with the same data, your model can be dynamic (that is, you can update scoring as needed, rather than having a static results returned by a vendor).

The tools used by the Museum: Rapid Insight — helpful providers of hands-on assistance. Now the Museum is transitioning to SPSS. There are a ton of tools out there, and these both have a great reputation. Tre recommends that when you are doing a model, consider how much support the vendor can provide to help you walk through your first projects.

So, what were the results? They solicited as they normally would (all constituents), and their Tier 1 donors (those identified as most likely to give) performed much better than the norm. Twenty-eight percent of Tier 1 donors gave, and only between 1 to 4% of the other tiers gave.

If the Museum had decided not to mail to those who were rated least likely by the model, they could have actually saved a lot of money on direct mail. If they had sent to only the top 5 tiers, they would have captured 91% of donors. This is a great demonstration of the power of predictive modeling!

Tre recommends budgeting for data appends if you are going to do analytics. She also discussed the importance of partnering with other staff to really understand the data — if you don’t know how the data relates to the business processes, then it’s impossible to draw meaningful conclusions.

Pamela is sharing some of the factors that were predictive of giving. It’s interesting to me that the external data they appended (average home value, purchasing power, age, ethnicity) was very helpful. The only models I’ve done thus far have relied on in-house data only, so I hope I can find a guinea pig organization that will be willing to buy external data before I model!

Be sure to allot sufficient time for modeling — not only your time, but that of the partners within your organization! And generally, when starting an analytics program, it will be on top of work that is already being done, so plan on some long hours when you are proving the concept.

Getting the green light from management to build an analytics program can be a challenge — sometimes you have to start modeling and show your results before you can make the case for more investment.

Very interesting: MSI is looking at building a model for corporate giving. Fascinating! I hope to see this team present on that project at next year’s Summit.


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AASP: Metrics Best Practices

Jon Thorsen (one of my favorite peeps!) of George Washington University and Ellen Duero Rohwer of JCA, Inc. are co-facilitating a session on metrics best practices.

Those of you who’ve talked to me about metrics know I have some strong feelings on the topic. I’m looking forward to this talk.

Jon says: “Everyone wants standards and performance measures… right up to the point where they are measured.”

And if we are not measuring performance, we are cheating our donors. It’s akin to asking folks to invest in a company that does not look at its bottom line.

Jon points out how important face to face communication is with major gift officers, who are face to face people.

If you are in a higher ed setting, use student workers to shore up data entry. In other settings, rely on your admin folks. Send them to talk to development officers in person to get info into the system. It’s not how the data gets in, it’s that it gets in.

Focus on the business process, not the database. Use the database to support the business processes, instead of vice-versa.

Serve as a translator. If you are a data person, don’t take your terminology for granted. Data folks suffer from the “curse of knowledge” and don’t necessarily explain processes in language that frontline fundraisers will understand.

Use metrics visibility to stimulate data entry. Peer pressure can convince development officers to track their metrics. As I say, “If it’s not in the database, it didn’t happen.”

But be careful: make sure your metrics are not encouraging so much competition that they are dampening collegiality. “Shared credit” or “assist credit” can be a way to ameliorate this — that encourages development officers to work together. It’s vital that this be an actual factor in performance reviews — all metrics should be included in performance reviews, not just dollars raised. And what about credit for researchers and donor relations?

Watch out for “Juneables” — what can we close by fiscal year end? One solution: look at close amount vs. capacity rating to ensure that development officers aren’t asking too small.

Definitions are important. What is a “visit”? At Jon’s institution, visits are defined as “pre-planned”, i.e. running into someone at the grocery store does not count. They also look at portfolio penetration or “unique visits” to ensure that development officers are not taking the same prospect to lunch each month with no new prospects in the mix.

Another unique idea: count characters in a contact report to determine whether it’s valuable. A 30-character contact report (“Had lunch. It was great.”) is simply not valuable.

What about portfolio sizes? Factors that influence size are gift size (principal gift officers are expected to have smaller portfolios), management responsibilities, and tenure (newer officers have smaller portfolios).

Advancement Services should not be the enforcer of metrics. I always used to say, “We don’t make the news, we just report the news.” It’s crucial to partner with senior leadership, so that the development officer’s manager is responsible for accountability.


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AASP: Leveraging LinkedIn & Facebook data

Brent Grinna from Evertrue and Kathy McCann from Union College are presenting on “Big Data, Massive Potential”.

A recent study by CASE found that senior leadership within universities rate social media as both challenging and unimportant (and presumably, not a priority). It’s generally viewed as separate from other giving programs, like annual or major.

EverTrue did an analysis and found that 80% of donor records have inaccurate or incomplete career data.

Around 80% of all university constituents have a Facebook profile, regardless of graduation date. LinkedIn is following hot on its heels. Not only this, but there is a huge move to mobile happening right now.

Brent and Kathy are talking about the traditional method of segmenting donors by engagement and capacity to give a gift. Social media can play a valuable role in identifying engagement (Facebook) and capacity factors (LinkedIn).

About half of the “mass affluent” use LInkedIn, 72% use Facebook and 27% use Twitter. Additionally, LinkedIn users are more likely to give. And about 60% of rated prospects are on LinkedIn, according to studies by Evertrue.

When constituents interact with us on Facebook, e.g. sharing, liking or commenting on a photo, how frequently do we actually review them for further engagement? Further, how often are we actually aggregating that data for analysis purposes?

Facebook likers are 91% more likely to give than non-likers. The more likes on your organization’s page, the more likely the person is to be a donor. Major prospects use Facebook and “like” posts as well.

Recent alumni are often more likely to engage via Facebook than to open an email.

Brent is making a compelling case for joining internal organizational and external constituent data to identify engaged constituents. In an era of “too many prospects”, any factors we can use to home in on our best prospects are worth consideration. Especially when we consider long-tern pipeline needs, social media makes sense as a method of both identifying and increasing engagement.

Another cool idea: share targeted content that aligns with fundraising priorities, and use this to identify people who are particularly interested in this area.

Also, if you want people to see your posts on Facebook, then pay for it. Posting without payment = buried.