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The Engagement Issue: Rallying Your Employees to Donate

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Guest Post By Tiffany Rowe

Consumers love to hear about companies with philanthropic sides, but the headline “Acme Corp. Gives $250k to Charity” rarely turns heads (or encourages clicks) in the new world of social media. Instead, businesses gain more visibility for their deeds when their entire workforce is engaged in doing good. Unfortunately, motivating workers to participate in donation drives or volunteering is easier said than done.

Employee contributions are incredibly beneficial ― not only do they add to a company’s donations but they have been shown to boost productivity and profits through brand image. Here are some strategies to help any business engage its employees in philanthropic efforts.

Make It Understandable

A significant barrier that prevents many charitable organizations from receiving the donations they deserve is a lack of information. If a potential donor doesn’t understand an organization’s aims, it’s unlikely he or she will cough up any cash. The same is true within your company: If your employees don’t fully comprehend the good they can do by donating or volunteering, they probably won’t waste their money or time.

Therefore, it behooves you to educate your workforce on your philanthropic goals. You can contact the organizations you support and request resources, like brochures, to help explain their causes and practices. Alternatively, you can schedule meetings between your teams and representatives of charities, during which your employees can become educated about donation and volunteering opportunities (and perhaps score some sweet swag).

Social media is an incredibly useful tool when it comes to encouraging charitable activity. You can promote workplace donation by urging your employees to visit the social pages of the organizations you support. There, they can learn more about recent activities hosted by the charities as well as upcoming events that might be of interest. UNICEF and the World Wildlife Fund have particularly effective social sites, though you might want to support an organization closer to home. As long as your employees understand the goals of your company and your charitable partners, you will find it easier to generate employee good will.

Make It Easy

Even when employees fully grasp the implications of their potential good works, many will not participate because it demands too much effort. For example, food and toy drives require employees to spend time shopping for specific items and bringing those items to work ― or worse, to another location where the charities make collections. Fewer employees will bother engaging with charitable goals when it requires additional time and effort.

Instead, you must make it as easy as possible for your employees to contribute. Online donation opportunities are perhaps the best option because they allow your employees to add money in any amount at any time from any place; therefore, they don’t feel any social stigma for contributing too little, and they can add more whenever they catch the benevolent bug. You might also institute payroll deductions, which automatically takes a donation from your employees’ paychecks every payday, so they can participate in doing good without thinking about it.

If you want your employees to make donations of items as well as cash, you should be flexible regarding the type of gifts you’ll accept. Boat Angel is an excellent corporate partner as it accepts vehicles and vessels in nearly any condition and supports a wide range of charities that your employees can feel good about. You shouldn’t be restrictive of the contributions your employees make if you want them to feel engaged in your good works.

Make It Too Good to Miss

Any remaining employees who refuse to engage with your corporate giving attempts might object with the phrase, “What good does it do me?” Fortunately, you can win these holdouts over by incentivizing employee donations and volunteering in a number of ways to ensure that the activity truly does benefit everyone involved.

Plenty of charities offer gifts and rewards for donations, and you can do the same for your employees. For example, contributions of a certain size might earn workers gift certificates; you might even encourage teamwork by holding a catered lunch once donations reach a particular amount. Likely, such opportunities will ignite your employees’ sense of competition, which could earn you the donations you crave.

For the most part, people enjoy doing good. However, in a corporate setting, you must make it obvious and easy to do the right thing. Once your employees become engaged with your philanthropic goals, you won’t have to try so hard to earn donations; they will come to you ― as will the extra productivity and publicity associated with them.

About the Author: Tiffany Rowe is a marketing administrator who assists in contributing resourceful content throughout the World Wide Web. Tiffany prides herself in her strong ability to provide high quality content that readers will find valuable. She enjoys connecting with other bloggers and collaborating for exclusive content in various niches. Favorite quote: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

Engaging Millennials: Don't Give Up on Your Email Marketing!

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By Juliet Davenport, Nonprofit Ambassador at DonationMatch

Do you remember being awed by the answering machine? (Does anyone still own one of those?) Or what about the cordless phone? Now it's all about smartphones and iPads. Millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000) are all about digital, and it can be challenging to keep them engaged with your cause or brand. As Cynthia Hamlin of B2C explains in her blog, "[d]espite Millennials' increased internet usage, when surveyed by Pew Research Center for MILLENNIALS A Portrait of Generation Next, there were no significant differences among Millennials, GenXers and Boomers when asked about the amount of email sent and received in the 24 hours prior to the survey. Millennials were more likely to have Tweeted, updated their online profile or sent a text message in that time period."  Millennials are still using email, but in conjunction with social media and text.  Here are some interesting numbers pointed out in her blog that are just as relevant now as they were then:

  • 90% of Millennial use the internet or send and receive email at least occasionally
  • Millennials are more likely than all other age groups to have a cell phone: 94% have one
  • 88% of Millennials use their cell phones to send and/or receive text
  • One-in-five Millennials (20%) have posted video of themselves online
  • Three-fourths (75%) of Millennials have created a social networking profile
  • Among Millennials, 65% say television and 59% cite the internet as their main source for news

As the numbers show, incorporating social media into your email marketing is a smart way to keep Millennials engaged. Ms. Hamlin's blog shares tips on how to accomplish this. How have you incorporated social media into your email marketing?

Planning Tools Loved by Organized Auction Chairs

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Guest blog post by Sherry Truhlar of Red Apple Auctions

I thought about writing on this topic a few months ago and decided, “Nope. I need to save this topic until January.”

The reason being is that January is the month that many stores -- Home Depot, Walmart, Kmart, Target, Staples, The Container Store (the annual Elfa® sale) -- advertise one particular theme.

Getting organized!

This is THE month that many stores promote organization.

Volunteer Auction Chairs need to be organized. They are often working with many volunteers to plan the fundraising auction. Keeping track of the big picture -- AND the details -- is part of the job.

Here are four organizational tools I’ve seen other Auction Chairs have success using:

  • Google Calendar and Google Docs: This combination is perhaps the most popular online method for staying organized and sharing information. The tools are free and enable your entire committee to keep up-to-date.
  • Standard paper calendar: Whether it’s an “At a Glance” or some other brand, paper calendars are still popular among auction chairs. It allows for the entire month’s activities to be seen on one page, which many people like.
  • Electronic calendars: With so many people using their phone to keep up-to-date, it’s no surprise that tech-savvy Chairs opt to use their mobile phone as their master auction calendar.
  • Subject-related notecards (see photo): Last month I had a meeting with two Auction Chairs. One had brought notecards labeled with auction topics, such as Setup/Decoration, A/V, Silent Auction, Food & Beverage and so forth. As we talked through different subjects, she’d list “to do’s” on each card related to that topic. She could then follow up later on those tasks, or hand it off to the appropriate volunteer managing that activity. Clever!

Benefit auctioneer Sherry Truhlar publishes "Benefit Auction Ideas," a bi-monthly e-zine for auction chairs seeking to improve the financial results of their charity auctions. Get your own copy - and a F'REE gift! - at www.RedAppleAuctions.com.

What other tools have you successfully used to keep yourself organized in the planning process?  We'd love to know in the comments below!

Three Steps to Turning New Guests into Big Bidders

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[Sherry's blog post from last year is just as worth sharing now. Here's to your fundraising success! - Renee, Co-founder, DonationMatch] Courtesy of Sherry Truhlar,  Red Apple Auctions

One of my clients held her school gala last month.  A few days prior, she asked how she could ensure that new parents would feel welcome attending the charity auction.

It's a good question.

The reception you give to new attendees can make a difference in whether they buy, and certainly makes an impression on whether they want to return.

At another auction meeting, one of the co-chairs -- a divorced single Mom -- said that when she drove to the auction the previous year, she sat for several minutes in the parking garage, mustering up the courage to enter.

"I was debating as to whether I really wanted to do this," she told me.  She knew everyone else would be attending with their spouse.  As a single person, she wasn't sure she'd fit in or to whom she'd talk.  "I didn't know anyone," she explained.

Once she made the decision to enter, she was so warmly received that she took a leadership role in the auction the following year.

Do you have guests new to the event coming?  Here are some ways to welcome them.

STEP 1:  Prior to the event, call them.

Point blank tell them you're looking forward to meeting them, perhaps mentioning something specific.

"I'm REALLY looking forward to meeting/visiting you," you'll say, "I'm seating you at my table." Say it with enthusiasm!  These are new people prepared to learn about your cause.  They deserve your energy, and it will help build the anticipation.

If you're not holding a sit-down dinner, offer to make introductions, "Find me at the raffle table because I have someone I'm eager for you to meet."

STEP 2:  At the event, assign people to meet and greet.  

At a recent hospice auction, staff were assigned in pairs to greet guests at the hotel door, right after they'd turned their car over to the valet.  Staff briefly chatted with them before pointing them in the direction of the registration table.

Another client asks three people (two Board members and an outgoing woman who has been involved in the organization for years) to mingle with new guests, being sure to introduce the newbies to others and spending time getting to know them.

You might consider identifying new guests in a specific way, such as a "new parent" ribbon or a subtle star on a name badge.

I've seen this done successfully, though some guests might not appreciate the gesture and instead feel like a target.  Decide what works for your group.

STEP 3: After the event, pick up the phone. Nothing says "Wow!" like a prompt thank you.

If you need a slam-dunk strategy for next year's donations, this is it.

The day after the auction, set aside receipts and written thank you's.  Instead, pick up the phone and start dialing.  Here's the proof.

Fundraising colleague Gail Perry introduced me to Penelope Burk's work.  Penelope, a well-respected fundraising expert, shared some statistics on board member thank you calls back in 2004 at an AFP International Conference.

Donors who received a thank you phone call from a board member within 24 hours of making the gift were 39% more likely than other donors to give the next time they were solicited.

39%!

And after 14 months, they were giving 42% more.

Talk about a super strategy for improving your auction donations for the following year....

Engage your Board members.  Anyone Board member who felt uncomfortable asking for an auction item or sponsorship money should be enlisted in this activity. Provide them a script.  They can start dialing to say, "Thank you so much for your donation last night!  We are so thrilled you attended."

Three simple steps and these new buyers can become lifelong auction supporters.

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Benefit auctioneer Sherry Truhlar publishes "Benefit Auction Ideas," a bi-monthly e-zine for auction chairs seeking to improve the financial results of their charity auctions. Get your own copy -- and a F'REE gift! - at www.RedAppleAuctions.com.

Out of Date Donor Information Can Prove Costly

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By Juliet Davenport, Nonprofit Ambassador, DonationMatch As Kim Kupferman of Heller Consulting admits in this Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) blog post, this isn’t the most exciting topic, but maintaining accurate donor data is actually quite important. How frustrating is it when we receive mail with our names spelled incorrectly, or which contains outdated or inaccurate information? What does this say about the company who sent the mailing? Knowing who your donors are, what they donate, and why they donate are vital information. Even though you may use some type of CRM to track this data, inaccuracies can be a major issue.

At DonationMatch, we are constantly striving to achieve the highest level of accuracy with our data. When it comes to donors, we understand that it’s important not only to know WHO to contact, but HOW to contact them. A bonus is that the WHO and WHAT of donor information is updated by companies themselves on DonationMatch, eliminating guesswork and streamlining the donation request process for both parties. As companies are learning to be more efficient, many both on and off our system are no longer accepting mailed requests (this preference can usually be found on their websites). When an organization fails to recognize this, it wastes paper and postage and risks offending potential or current donors.

Are you getting ready to mass-mail in-kind donation request letters for your fundraising event? Hop on over to DonationMatch first. Post your events and find out which products you can get in just clicks, then only send letters to donors who are not on our system. (You can even invite them to DonationMatch if you have their emails and think they may want to go paperless).

It shows respect and care to your donors when you are able to identify and acknowledge who they are, what they have recently done for you, and their preferences. This communicates the right message that can lead to better relationships and success.

What have you done lately to ensure data accuracy?

Don't Burn Out Your Volunteers

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Help

By Renee Zau, Co-founder, DonationMatch The inevitable happened. I suspected it was a possibility, but it still took me by surprise. "I just don't think I have it in me." Just like that, my son's elementary school's annual fundraiser was cancelled.

This isn't the first time I've seen a leading volunteer burn out, nor will it be the last. Imagine how much work it is to organize the equivalent of a wedding every year, then DOUBLE it. That's how many hours the average charitable fundraising event takes to plan (about 600 hours!) This will drain even the most experienced volunteers year after year, and we found some advice on alleviating pain:

Get Help. "Auctions are best enjoyed – and planned – with others.... Believe it or not, a good number of your best volunteers may not even have personal ties to the nonprofit, but instead have ties to the auction chair!" - Sherry Truhlar, Red Apple Auctions, from "Five Steps to a Great Fundraising Auction"

Stop the (PTO) Drama. Tim Sullivan of PTO Today addressed this in a blog post where he acknowledged the difficulties of authority or leadership in volunteer situations. He tackled this head-on with several suggestions.

Show Appreciation. While your committees are already securing prizes for auctions and raffles, why not add an ask for volunteer gifts, too? I love that the San Diego Zoo does a raffle at each of their Food & Wine Celebration planning meetings. Another idea? The same companies providing goodies for event swag bags will also often be happy to include extras for volunteers. After all, they are potential customers, too, and a little goodwill goes a long way.

Value Their Time. This has more to do with the tools you provide. It could be an app, software, or updated equipment that can save MANY hours of work or headaches. New products to help with event fundraising are being introduced constantly, including Planana for event sharing and DonationMatch for in-kind donation procurement. The best ones will reduce repetitive tasks, increase sales, and/or stay organized (i.e. prevent busy people from being overwhelmed.)

What helps you stay motivated? What have you done to successfully retain volunteers? We'd love to know in the comments below!

Fresh Ideas for Your School Spring Fundraiser

By Renee Zau, Co-founder, DonationMatch If you have children, you've undoubted noticed that many schools have fundraisers in the Spring, now that parents and teachers have gotten settled and the Winter holidays are over. Packages from local businesses are wonderful, especially since for some parents this is the only fundraising event they will attend all year.  However, schools have opportunities to offer unique, priceless items in auctions that are personally meaningful to parent bidders, and we want to make sure you're all utilizing these ideas to your school's advantage.  (All images from RidgeRaising 2011, courtesy of Sycamore Ridge Elementary and Harper Shay Photography)

1) One-of-a-Kind Class Projects - Each classroom creates a unique, group piece that is not only attractive to any bidder, but memorializes the year, fellow students, and friends. Be sure these are signed and dated.

Class projects, courtesy of Sycamore Ridge Elem, Harper Shay Photography
RidgeRaising 2011, courtesy of Sycamore Ridge Elem, Harper Shay Photography
RidgeRaising 2011, courtesy of Sycamore Ridge Elem, Harper Shay Photography
Courtesy of Sycamore Ridge Elem, Harper Shay Photography

2) VIPParking Spaces - Great parking is always a hot commodity at school functions, so why let parents "buy" their own parking spots for a year?

3) Time Out with the Principal/Teacher - Make getting sent to the principal's office or staying after school with a teacher a GOOD thing!  Quality time can be spent making fun decisions and/or taking local excursions.  Mani/pedi afternoons, trips to fun attractions, and even a meal at a favorite restaurant becomes a special occasion for children. This also typically raises much more than the allowance/cost allocated.

RidgeRaising 2011, courtesy of Sycamore Ridge Elementary and Harper Shay Photography

I hope these inspire new packages that delight parents, create a fun auction atmosphere, and result in more fundraising for your child's educational experience! What unique packages have YOU seen at school fundraisers?

In-Kind Partnerships with Nonprofits, Part 2

By Renee Zau, Co-founder, DonationMatch My last post on this topic focused on opportunities tied to nonprofit events. Although these typically offer the most immediate exposure, they are often seasonal. Here are some ideas for in-kind charitable partnerships year-round:

Microsoft Store
  1. Be a venue for gatherings. You don't have to be a hotel or restaurant to have a desirable place. Spa Gregorie's Del Mar offers a board room for small get-togethers and meetings. Curves women's fitness centers often host meetings for Chambers of Commerce, Zumba fundraisers, and members' clubs. The Microsoft Store has raised the retail bar for community outreach with store space and free group trainings. Invite a nonprofit over and show them you're friendly!
  2. Give tools and support. PopChips started snacking habits in offices all over town with case giveaways. Microsoft Store free trainings make sure their software is used well. DonationMatch co-hosted a fundraising auction workshop with Red Apple Auctions to help nonprofits run better fundraising events. Though not "flashy," free assistance can put you at the top of a nonprofit's go-to list.
  3. Offer services or samples for a donation. By cross-promoting with nonprofits, Aveda sets up their store, complete with signage, to give mini treatments in exchange for a 100% charitable donation.
  4. A portion of sales helps, too.Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes advertises FunRaisers that donate 15% of related receipts on given nights to nonprofit groups. Macy's gives $1 for every stamped letter to Santa deposited in special letter boxes in their stores to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Even if you can't give something outright, a percentage can be enough.
  5. Offer your expertise. Nonprofits small and large are always looking for specific professional talent in their volunteers. It's become so popular that websites like CatchaFire and VolunteerMatch (not affiliated with DonationMatch) were created to make better volunteer connections.
  6. Not a lot of time? Even simply recognizing synergy within your own circles of friends and making introductions can lead to phenomenal results.

What are your success stories?  Please share about the positive impact that charitable partnering has made on your business!

Related articles

We Need More Efficient and Effective Nonprofits, Not More

By Renee Zau, Co-founder, DonationMatch Why compete when you can work together? "At a time when nonprofit organizations are being pushed to greater program efficiencies, mergers, and other administrative economies, why do boomer entrepreneurs seem to think that starting millions of brand-new entities is the most effective way to make a societal contribution? Why can’t they work through existing organizations to start their creative new programs, improve existing ones, or concentrate resources instead of multiplying administrative and overhead costs?"

Read the article on Philanthropy.com