CCM’s top blog posts this year

December is over-the-top busy for some people (year-end giving, anyone?) and quiet for others. If you have some downtime, get a head-start on 2018 with our top blog posts of 2017.

1. I’d like to Teach the World to Click: the Resurgence of Values-Based Marketing

2. Mining Donation Data – A Case Study

3. Remember, remember…the first week of January

4. Is it the destination, or the journey? Journey mapping to better speak to your donors

5. Renewal and Acquisition are BFFs

Remember, remember…the first week of January

I know it seems far away, but January will be here before you know it! Take a few minutes to plan for your post-holiday activities right now, so you don’t miss the opportunities January provides:

  • To send a cohesive, thought-out thank-you to donors at various levels
  • To upgrade monthly donors
  • To invite donors to events at a quiet time of year
  • To talk about anything when other orgs aren’t active

Thanking your holiday donors

Between time off and the rate of gift processing, you may not have had time to properly thank your donors. Send a handwritten note, make a thank-you call, or add to a receipt/thank-you letter already being sent. You might be tempted to focus on volume and get out all the required thank-you notes first, but you need to treat your holiday donors with the same consideration your donors get the rest of the year.

Upgrading monthly donors

Most donors at year-end give because of the lure of that lovely tax receipt. Monthly donors don’t have the same incentive; they can upgrade at any time of year without feeling like they’re missing out or that they should wait. Since most fundraising activity is dormant in January, you can target your monthly donors with a specific ask or even a January campaign targeting the benefits of giving monthly. Bonus: Get a matching donor to incentivize donors to maximize the match. Bonus 2: Set a deadline and goal; invest the time and techonology to get an online gift ‘thermometer’ to incentivize donors.

Send event invites

For some organizations, events in the first quarter can tie in nicely to their mission, and can also benefit from the relative quiet in the fundraising landscape. You might have higher attendance than a similar event in November and December when folks are busy. Focussing on stewardship thanks holiday donors relatively quickly after they give; for fundraising you could target folks who don’t usually give over the holiday or who didn’t last year. Even better if your year-end is approaching and a final fundraising event can help with a final push to meet or exceed your goals.

If nothing else, think of your first January fundraising and stewardship activities as a great test. You know never what’s going to work until you try. Worst-case scenario you tried something innovative; best-case, you had some success and build on it next year.

Did you try something similar in the past? Are you inspired for a campaign for January 2018? Connect with us! You can email us at or tweet us at @ChrisCMarketing.  Maybe we can discuss your successes and learnings in a future post!


You tell us: Feedback from Xlerate Day Vancouver

Thanks to everyone who attended Xlerate Day, and who took our post-conference survey! Here are some of the gems we mined from the survey responses.

Of those who responded, most were either in fundraising, communications or senior leadership. Eighty-nine percent of respondents stayed for the whole day—that’s enthusiasm!

Xlerate Day met or exceeded expectations of 90% of those who took the survey. The speakers themselves met or exceeded expectations of 100% of people who answered, so the gap is in something other than the main education portion of the day. Those who felt Xlerate Day didn’t meet their expectations didn’t give any specific feedback on this, so we welcome further comments on how we can create a day that everyone loves.

When we asked an open-ended question on what people enjoyed, we received some great answers. Highlights include Maude Barlow’s opening plenary, the sessions on Reconciliation and decolonization, and general comments about the value of networking. We agree—many people attend conferences in part to network. We strive to balance excellent sessions with free time to chat and make new connections.

After Ottawa we received feedback about indicating the level of the session, which we incorporated into the descriptions this time around. We also included one ’deep dive’ session this time since that was also requested. This time no one commented on the session level or duration, which we hope means it worked!

A great piece of feedback we received was the need for advice for smaller charities. With bigger budgets, there are more options, but smaller charities need to fundraise too. This is absolutely true, and we’ll work on this for the future events.

Whew! After reading all that, you deserve a special thank-you. Here is the #DecolonizeYourDay video plenary speakers Jada-Gabrielle Pape and Katherine Dodds of Hello Cool World made at Xlerate Day.

Thank you so much for your feedback on Xlerate Day Vancouver! You made it a success and your feedback will make Xlerate Day Toronto even better. Sign up to stay in touch and informed on Xlerate Day and other events. We’ll see you there!

Is it the destination, or the journey? Journey mapping to better speak to your donors

You are more than likely speaking regularly to your supporters, thanking them, stewarding them, letting them know about the important services your charity is performing.  You may have also asked yourself, is this communication working?  Is there a way to build process around communications to allow for measuring, segmentation and testing?  Is there a better way?

The answer is a resounding yes!  By mapping out your communication touch points through journey mapping, you can start to structure your communication to welcome, thank and steward your supporters – as well as discover the gaps. There is no way you can have (tens of) thousands of individual conversations with your donors each month to maintain loyalty to your cause. Mapping the organization’s donor journey helps structure communication with a large pool of donors and prospective donors using as close to an individual approach as resources allow.

The first important step is understanding who your donors are.  Often, critical information can be unearthed through data mining, market research and supporter feedback.  By analyzing this data, you can begin to create segments, or groups of supporters who share similar traits and relationships to your charity who are structured into personas.  From here you can begin to understand how these groups like to interact with you, what sort of information they want and how they want to receive it.

Critically, journey mapping also focuses on automation of the process as far as possible, allowing charities to deliver the improved and personalized supporter experiences that today’s donor demands but within the smaller budgets non-profits are faced with. Fortunately, new methods and technologies are helping marketers and fundraisers deliver messages and paths that focus on the needs and interests of each potential donor to present a clear and consistent message on the impact of giving to the mission; then moves to convert, retain and upgrade donors through lifecycle marketing.

It’s important to refine, personalize and manage each donor’s entire journey with your cause from information gathering, evaluation, and donation decision experience.  By formalizing your communications your can continually test and optimize your journey map.  For instance, does calling each new mid-level donor over the age of 50 to personally thank them in the first month lead to a better chance of a higher second gift?  For 2-plus years lapsed, test an email with a survey asking why they stopped giving and to reiterate how their donation makes a difference.

From awareness, to acquisition, to cultivation, to stewardship and then reactivation, each group will have different needs and communication preferences.

Journey mapping is ideally undertaken by cross-functional teams who come together to capture a full 360-degree view of your organization:

  • Team members determine the starting and ending point of each journey
  • Post-it notes are used to identify touch points and channels, with different colours representing different channels
  • Most importantly, the groups are asked to identify the moments that matter — the peaks and valleys
  • The next step is to determine the defining moments that would hinder or help the persona to get to the end of their journey

Each group is then instructed to complete their business case and present it to the rest of the room. This involves presenting their persona, reviewing their donor journey from start to finish, and pitching their business case for a potential solution to improve the donor experience. Lastly, each group is asked to build their ideal journey.

Coming out of the journey mapping process you are left with a clear picture of what the plan should look like, focused on understanding how an individual or company comes into your organization and what steps need to be in place to welcome, steward and retain them.

Through documentation, benchmark setting, testing and refinement, you can build your optimal donor journey to ensure that your valued supporters are given the attention they deserve with transparent, relevant and timely communications.

Best wishes for a wonderful journey!

Mining Donation Data – A Case Study

With the proliferation of data, non-profit organizations may start to wonder how they can maximize the value of their data. Take for example the Better Health Foundation (BHF), a hypothetical non-profit organization, which wants to mine its donation data to identify potential opportunities to improve fundraising and grow their revenue. Below is part of BHF’s analysis process.

To begin, BHF would like to get a high-level view of their fundraising performance over the years (Figure 1. Revenue Trend). It sees that its revenue has been in steady decline since 2014. However, BHF was reassured by the fact that their 2014 and 2015 revenue was disproportionally high, possibly due to some major donations.

In fact, despite a decline from the previous two years, 2016 revenue outperforms the revenue from 2008 to 2013, which has consistently been below $1.5M in the final three years (Figure 2. Revenue from 2008 to 2013).


To ensure that major donations were the main cause of the drastic revenue increase in 2014, BHF decides to go with a bar chart view, and changes the breakdown to a monthly basis (Figure 3. Monthly Revenue from 2008 to 2016). By hovering over the March 2014 bar, it sees that although the median Donation was $100, the average donation was almost $9,000. This drastic disparity between median and average indicates that there were indeed a few major donations in that month that drove the revenue up.

To determine why 2015 saw the second highest revenue since 2008, with ~$1M more than the 2016 revenue, BHF looked at the comparative figure (Figure 4. Monthly Revenue of 2015 vs. 2016). By hovering over the bars, BHF discovered that for December 2016, although there was ~6% increase in the number of donors and donations, there was ~75% decrease in revenue. And for January 2016, the percent decrease in number of donations (~2%) was disproportionate to that of the average revenue (~89%). This means that major donations were again the determining factor in 2015’s high revenue. For the other months, both 2015 and 2016 scored wins.

After better understanding their revenue, BHF decides to dive deeper into other performance indicators with a detailed data view (Figure 5. Detailed Donation Statistics View). Since 2009, the number of donors has steadily decreased by ~850; however, the number of donations have increased by ~500, which means that BHF has been doing well in multiple asks, but will benefit from cultivating more new donors and making gift appeals more effective for different constituents.

Because the annual galas are BHF’s most important fundraising event, BHF wants to know how well they are performing. After filtering the donations by appeals related to galas only (Figure 6. Gala Performance from 2008 to 2016), BHF sees that gala revenue has been steadily increasing, after a dip in 2013.

After analyzing the revenue, BHF wants to take a closer look at the breakdown of the donors by analyzing their recency, frequency, and monetary (RFM) value. To begin, BHF investigates its donor retention rate from one year to another (Figure 7). Recency is defined as how long ago since the constituent donated. For example, a recency of “1 to 2 years” on December 31, 2016 means the constituent last donated during the year of 2015. By selecting the desired recency at the bottom of the graph, BHF sees that the retention rate () has been consistent (~60%), as it fluctuates almost proportionally with the number of donors from the year before.

Since one of BHF’s goals is to increase its donor retention rate, it downloads the list of constituents (Figure 8. Detailed Recency Breakdown of 2016) who donated in 2015 but not 2016, in hopes to send a donor survey to learn how BHF can improve their fundraising approach.

Finally, BHF assesses the monetary breakdown of the donations (Figure 9. Monetary Breakdown of Donations from 2016). The top two tiers, “$1000+” and “$100 – $500” donations, account for 83% and 8% of the 2016 revenue, respectively. Thus, BHF determines that they will be important constituent segments for fundraising. As for the segment with the largest amount of donations (31% of total number of donations), “$10 – $25,” BHF will put more efforts into transitioning them into the “$25 – $50” segment. In addition, BHF is pleased to see that the “$1000+” segment has been increasing over the past three years (Figure 10. Trend of $1000+ Tier from 2009 to 2016).

This concludes BHF’s brief survey of its data. We would love to hear from you about how else you think BHF can mine its data! As a side note, BHF uses Iceni Data to create the dashboards, but with some manual work, you could just as easily accomplish all of the above in Excel!

Which came first, the channel or the shoe?

When planning integrated marketing campaigns, many of us inadvertently start the wrong way around. We look at our communication options, and say, “Let’s update the website, send out an email, and do a Facebook campaign.” And then we figure out the content for these channels after deciding which ones we’ll use.

In this case it helps to consider best practices from the for-profit world: when Nike is planning their next campaign, do they figure out where to advertise before they design a shoe? No, they have an awesome new product to sell first, then they decide how to sell it.

Non-profit marketers should do the same thing for our campaigns: figure out the key message of your fundraising campaign and then decide how to share it. Ideally the ask should be as general as possible to maximize potential donors, but targeted to those who are most likely to give. Once you’ve figured out your donor personas, you’ll know which specific messaging resonates with your donors and can tailor the message to encourage them to give.

For example, you might have in the past had environmental messaging with a science bent, or messaging about spending time outdoors, or talked about the purity or the natural world, or focussed on gardening and backyards, or shared doom-and-gloom scenarios. Maybe the science-y posts get attention on social media, and people like your events about gardening, but if talking about spending time outdoors is what your donors like, you should tailor your campaign around that.

Once you have your message and ask in place, think about how to reach the people who are most likely to give and target those channels. Facebook will be happy if you spend your campaign budget with them, but if your Facebook followers don’t respond to asks, you might as well be offering them a poorly-designed shoe.

Renewal and Acquisition are BFFs

Fundraisers are always looking at their donor giving, wondering what the secret is to keep supporters engaged, renewing and upgrading. Conversely, we also want to minimize downgrading and attrition. Balancing these efforts is how we maximize our fundraising dollars and do the most good for our organization with the resources available to us.

It’s easy to forget that renewal and acquisition go together: you get so focussed on your database you don’t remember that attrition is inevitable and you neglect prospects. Or you work so hard to get new donors you forgot to ask your existing donors to give. That’s why the right mix is important, and knowing the stats for your donors and each segment will help you figure out where to invest, where to save and when to do both.

Renewal and acquisition are BFFs: to keep your database healthy, you have to remember them both. Thank and steward your donors to get them to renew and upgrade, then ideally become monthly supporters and legacy prospects. Continue to thank and steward throughout the year, since we know renewing existing donors is more cost-effective than acquiring a new donor.

However, attrition is inevitable—even if your supporters are 100% happy with you, natural life changes will mean some of them don’t give due to their job situation, moves, starting a family or retiring. So you need to get new donors to make up for these ‘missing’ supporters. Attrition can seem more challenging than renewal, but with journey mapping, segmenting and targeting, you can maximize your organization’s investment to boost new donors and retain more of them.

Renewal and acquisition are your BFFS too, so don’t neglect them! Figure out the right mix of spending in each area and keep your database healthy to sustain your mission for years to come.

Have you made a donation lately?

Are you a donor as well as a fundraiser? As non-profit professionals, we have a different perspective on giving than most people do. We’re insiders, so we look at thank-you letters and email campaigns the way a gardener sees a flower—it’s something we know intellectually, no longer emotionally. However, our donors are driven primarily by emotion, not intellect. So if our donor touches strike the wrong note, they may not be effective and we, the hard-working professionals, may not know why.

Of course, professional development helps us with this—we are asked to consider our asks, our touch-points, our thank-yous, our campaigns, and our landing pages, to make sure they’re current, relevant and getting our message through. However, another way to shed light on our fundraising practices is to become a donor again.

You may already make donations, but if you haven’t made a gift to a new charity lately, you’re missing out on the welcome series. Pick a couple causes you think are worthy of a small gift and donate whatever you’re comfortable with; for extra credit, sign up for newsletters for a couple more. (Don’t forget to write down the date you donated so you’re not wracking your memory later.)

After you’ve donated, sit back and see what happens. Do you get a thank you by email, by mail, or both? When do you get the next ask, and how? Is it after the first thank-you, a second thank-you, or later? Do they offer any benefits for donating, like membership, events, or newsletters, and did they communicate that before you gave? Do they tell you where your donation went? Are you addressed as part of a giving level or club, like “animal champions”? Do they personalize the appeal? Consider their messaging—how do they frame their work and where the funds go? Who does the appeal come from, whether online or by mail? The six months or so after you give is key for looking at the welcome, thank-you, and renewal and will likely be rich with information.

The questions are similar for the newsletter sign-ups: how soon did you get your first message? Was the welcome just one email or a series? When did you get the first ‘regular’ email? When did they include their first ask? Is there an ask in every email? Who are the emails from? Do they explain the mission, invite you to events, talk about fundraising goals, share projects that were completed, link to articles? How often are they sent out?  How are they branded?

This exercise should help you look at your work in a new way. You’re looking to see what the other organizations are doing right, as in what makes you feel good as a supporter; you’re also looking at what could be improved. You’re hopefully going to see some choices that aren’t necessarily right or wrong, even though they may be different from how you do things: in this case consider how they fit into the larger picture and whether they may work for a different type of donor or whether they work because of how they’ve built out their entire plan. And if there are things that are wildly different from what you’re doing that are very effective, that can inform your own work as well: could this work for me, how could I tweak it, would it supplement something I’m already doing?

In the best of all possible worlds, you would realize you’re already doing everything right—which would be great! Probably, you’ll learn some things that you can apply to your own fundraising, and for the low cost of a couple gifts to worthy causes. Everybody wins!

It’s June, so start thinking about December

Welcome to June! The weather is lovely, kids are getting out of school soon, and hopefully you’re thinking about a summer vacation—which also means it’s time to start planning your holiday/end-of-year campaign.

“So soon?” You’re probably thinking. “It’s barely summer, I don’t want to think about snow and winter holidays and year-end gifts already!” I know, it seems premature—but trust me on this. A recurring challenge with nonprofits is not enough time: we’re always trying to keep staff lean, and consequently often feel under-resourced. This year, get in front of it: take advantage of the lead time you have now to plan ahead.

This is a challenge, but you’re up to the task! To help you start thinking about your year-end campaign in time to not only pull it off successfully but also finish with a smile on your face, here are some things to get your planning started.

What did you do last year?

We are creatures of habit: when planning this year we look at last year. That’s a great place to work from! It can tell you a great many things, but it’s also important not to let it restrict this year’s plan. You can:

–learn what your donors are used to, i.e. we usually have a matching gift with a direct mail piece and an email campaign.

–review what’s changed and what it effect it had, i.e. we used to have a calendar offer with every gift, now it’s a minimum $20 gift—did that affect the total amount given, or average gift size?

–consider all the variations on messaging, big or small, and whether they had an effect. Did you ask for a ‘special gift’, or ask people to ‘start today’? Did you ask for a gift amount, or have a benefit attached to a certain amount? Do you have a fundraising target for your campaign, that people could track in real-time?

Don’t forget to reconsider your assumptions: maybe every year you’ve been doing the same thing without much change. It may be because it’s successful, but it may be because no ever asked why we do it that way.

How did donors respond?

Dive deep into the data and figure out who responds to what. How many donors only give at the holidays/the end of the year? How many people make their biggest gift in December? How many new donors do you get from your year-end campaign? Can we figure out where the new donors are coming from? How many monthly donors make additional gifts at the end of the year? How many year-end gifts are new monthly gifts vs one-time? What is the average gift size, and how does it compare to the rest of the year? When did the most gifts come in?

By answering these questions you can develop some great new tactics, taking your campaigns in directions you haven’t considered before.

Who do we target, and what is the goal?

Your data mining told you about your donors’ giving at this time of year, and if haven’t done it already, now is the time to start being strategic with your year-end resources.

–do we want new donors, or do we want existing donors to renew?

–do we want one-time gifts, since most people are considering year-end receipts, or do we want monthly gifts, since people may be feeling charitable at this time of year?

–do we want to encourage the way people are learning about us and making donations, or do we want to try a different strategy?

Who and what should be involved?

Now that you’ve had a chance to review, use that to inform your plan. Figure out which channels performed best, which messages resulted in the most gifts, and build your integrated campaign around that. This step may mean you need more people than usual involved to implement the campaign (like your digital team) as a result of re-examining your goals, what has been affected, and how you roll it out. That’s why you need to start early! There may be bumps in the road when it comes to messaging, funding decisions between various budgets, and existing plans that need to be sorted out to fit in the revamped campaign.

Extra credit: check your donations page

A donations page with clear messaging that’s simple to use will make it easy for your supporters to donate. If you haven’t reviewed your page recently, take a look to make sure it’s clear and simple to navigate.

Start small if necessary, but start

Planning out a whole campaign can seem intimidating, but doing things differently this year probably amounts to tweaks to what you’re already doing. If you’re dreaming big but your budget is smaller, just look at one or two things you can change and where you can get the most results for your efforts.

Now enjoy the summer! But don’t forget to think about the end of the year.

I’d Like to Teach the World to Click: the Resurgence of Values-Based Marketing

Quick: have you seen any values-based marketing campaigns? They’re popping up everywhere lately, by companies and even non-profits taking advantage of a drastic shift in marketing trends.

Which of these campaigns come to mind first? First, here are some of the biggest and splashiest.

The New York Times’ Oscars campaign:


Tiffany & Co:

And perhaps the values-based campaign that started it all in the 70s, Coke’s “The Hilltop”:

In an article in Adweek, Deutsh’s Pete Favat describes the era in which Coke’s famous campaign debuted: “It was a terrible time in culture. It was extremely negative. There was violence everywhere. And then this piece of film comes on TV. And basically it was a bunch of these kids singing on a hilltop about sharing a Coke.”

Does this sound familiar? It sounds a lot like the current milieu: a divisive election resulting in starkly drawn cultural and political lines, during which a cola behemoth makes a commercial showing us how they can make it all better. Except Pepsi’s version in 2017 angered basically everyone (except, probably, Coke) when Kendall Jenner used their fizzy beverage to blur the lines between resistance and oppression in the most tone-deaf fashion possible.


Dove too recently struck the wrong note. Their “Campaign for real Beauty” usually resonates with their uses, but the recent ad campaign showing Dove bottles in different shapes was discordant and people responded accordingly.

So yes, values-based marketing has a lot of potential: it can reach and connect and inspire, but it can also crash and burn and take the whole brand down with it. When a values-based ad goes wrong, it goes wrong more disastrously than any regular boring ad ever would. I suspect Pepsi is going to stick with traditional advertising ploys for the time being.

But where did values-based marketing appear? What is driving its growth, and how can charities take advantage of this trend?

Younger demographics are driving this shift, and companies are responding. Global brands like Pepsi and even companies like the New York Times realize that getting consumer loyalty from people in their 20s and 30s results in a lifetime of profits. The results of the 2016 election didn’t actually reflects the electorate, by several million votes (and those are only those who cast votes: if the votes reflects the country at large; that’s many millions of people who didn’t like the result of the election). Appealing to these disenfranchised voters means millions more potential customers than directing your message to those happy with the election’s outcome: if people’s values don’t align with those in power, they seek sympathetic elsewhere, and brands are only to happy to deliver.

Does AirBnb care about politics, or about its bottom line? Regardless of the answer, AirBnb wants to appeal to the values of its demographic, younger people with a little money to spend but who want to save, who are likely more open to new ideas experiences than people who wouldn’t travel across the world and rent a stranger’s spare room. In addition, older generations have entrenched loyalty to specific brands—their favourite hotel for example—so it’s much harder to convince them to try something now than a younger person with a tighter budget who’s willing to use an app to find a place to stay. Companies will happily get new users on board with  values messaging while reaping the profits.

Charities can take a lesson from this: loyalty is high among donors as well as consumers. Charities don’t often specifically target people in their 20s and 30s since they’re not typically as charitable as older generations or often have as much disposable income to donate. However, the advantages of finding a supporter who’ll be loyal to your organization for the next 40 years are just as clear, especially if your stewardship, renewal and upgrade programs are in place. Today’s engaged and caring 25-year-old with entrepreneurial zeal is tomorrow’s major donor: ten dollars a month or even ten dollars a year from a supporter now could turn into tens of thousands in the years to come. Charities have an opportunity to engage not only new supporters and but also new supporters in demographics they might not have otherwise considered with an appeal to values. And while consumers are more likely to distrust brands, charities are in a better place to used values-based marketing convincingly.

There have been several examples of this in the last year, but can you think of a charity that has been doing this for decades?

Greenpeace’s early model was values-based: a clear message based around a single issue, originally nuclear disarmament. Because Greenpeace’s work was values-based, the connection to values-based branding was simple and natural—much more so than for a profit-driven brand to make a heartfelt, resonant values-based message, which shows how charities can have an advantage in this regard.

Recently, the Human Rights Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood have all risen to the challenges they’ve faced instead of being forced into a corner by current events.

Charities that position themselves now have the potential to become marquis non-profit brands in the future, carrying their new supporters with them. And given how few charities are using values-based marketing, there is more potential for those that do so early. So many charities look at their donor demographics and realize how few of their donors are under 40, wondering how they can appeal to younger people without a literal rock star spokesperson or a slick campaign well beyond a charity budget. Values-based marketing can help solve that problem, traversing the ‘cool’ barrier with messaging that 20- and 30-somethings can get behind, like resistance, change and inclusion.

The key elements are to engage and leverage connections on social media. If your values are well-received but supporters don’t know what to do, even the best messaging will fall flat. It’s important not to get stuck on the medium (Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat?) but instead to have a clear message and call to action, regardless of where it’s being shared.

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