Last week I was looking back at our most viewed blogs from 2015. I was surprised to see that the highest views, by far, were to a blog post that was originally posted in 2012. It was titled Do you know your donor attrition rate?

Attrition (and retention) continue to be an important topic in fundraising today so we wanted to post a quick tool to help you calculate your retention rate. 

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Have you entered all of your donations through the end of the calendar year? If so, you’ve probably already been looking through results to see how good year-end was for your organization.

Did your online giving go up? My guess is yes, because this is the case for most organizations. But how much analysis do you do to determine what channel actually prompted those online gifts?

Donors don’t just decide to make a gift. There’s always something that prompts them. In fact, direct mail is one of the biggest drivers for online gifts. Many direct mail donors will visit your website after they receive your letter. Some will still make their gift through the mail, but many will choose to give online.

We push all of our clients to do this analysis, to learn how donors are moving through different channels. We generally recommend that you don’t try to re-allocate the revenue (as that can cause disputes between departments), but it’s important that you know how many of your direct mail donors made their gift online.

We did this analysis for one of our clients after they discovered their direct mail program was $100,000 short of targets for the year. Online giving was way up, nearly $100,000 over target. Our analysis showed that direct mail donors gave more than $115,000 in online gifts, within 2 weeks of receiving the various appeals through the year. It was pretty clear that those online gifts were being prompted by direct mail.

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Today is January 8th. Is your new year’s resolution still going strong? Studies show that only 75% of people can maintain their new year’s resolution through the first week. The scarier number? Only 8% of people keep their resolution all year.

The same thing can happen with your fundraising. I’m sure you have a big list of things you want to accomplish for your organization in 2016. But many of them may be too large, which can make them much tougher to accomplish.

So rather than setting a bunch of big goals for 2016, try to break your goals down into smaller, more achievable goals throughout the year. This will make you feel good as you complete the various steps, and you’ll actually be much more effective in completing your end goal.

If your goals are centered around growing your online fundraising (as they are for many organizations) it’s important to remember that not all of your goals should be financial. While that’s certainly the end goal many of your online channels (especially social media) are primarily engagement channels. Yes, you can certainly raise money through them, but you shouldn’t be expecting social media to replace your direct mail program anytime soon.

So next week while you have a few minutes look at your To Do list and your goals and start to break them down into smaller goals you’ll complete throughout the year. This way you won’t start off 2017 with the same list you had in 2016.

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The big day is here. You have been planning and campaigning for months and Christmas is finally tomorrow. From everyone here at HMA we hope that your holiday campaigns have been a great success and wish you the best of luck starting the New Year.

I would like to leave you with one last note for the year 2015.

The holidays are a time when some non-profits receive up to 50% of their revenue for the year. The entire foundation office and volunteer team work tirelessly trying to get everything done in time. In fundraising we put a lot of emphasis on stewardship and thanking our donors for making a gift and supporting our causes but today I encourage you to send out your appreciation within the walls of your organization.

Acknowledgment for hard work and positive reinforcement are some of the greatest gifts you can give to an employee or volunteer. The Christmas party you likely hosted this holiday season was great I'm sure but there is nothing more meaningful than a personal thank you. Just like donors, your volunteers and foundation staff want to be inspired, and  feel appreciated. Often enough volunteers and employees also make monetary gifts to your organization and when you build loyalty internally you are also giving the organization the best possible chance at success. Pick up the phone, send a personalized letter or note, even an email will do. Just say thank you.

Sending you warm wishes, joy and laughter this Christmas and a very happy New Years.

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You’re likely in one of two spots right now. Either, you’ve completed all your holiday shopping early. Or, you’re stressed about finding all of the gifts you need in the next 10 days.

Your fundraising might be in a similar spot. Many organizations have been planning their year-end campaign for months, ensuring everything is just right. Others have been too busy to really do any planning and are scrambling to coordinate year-end fundraising activities.

If you’re the latter, the good news is that year-end fundraising is not nearly as stressful as last minute shopping.

Even if you’ll be out of the office there is still lots you can do this week to maximize year-end giving.

The first thing is sending an e-mail. Even if you only have a few hundred e-mail addresses on your database it’s still worth sending a year-end email between December 28th – 31st. Focus your e-mail on the tax benefits of giving before the end of the year and have a specific goal for how much you’re looking to raise before December 31st. The more specific you can be, the more money you’ll raise.

If you’re not in the office over the Christmas break you can create a scheduled e-mail that will send while you’re away. This can be easily done through Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, and many other e-mail providers.

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Giving Tuesday is all about giving back and supporting the charities that you care most about. At HMA, we like to celebrate Giving Tuesday by working with smaller organizations that wouldn’t normally be able to hire professional consultants to help grow their programs.

This year, we’ve selected three different organizations which we’ll be providing our services to completely free of charge:

Richmond Animal Protection Society (

Mission Services of Hamilton (

Think Upstream (

If you’re interested in donating to any of these organizations or any of your favourite non-profits make sure you share your support through social media with #GivingTuesdayCA. This will help to spread the word about Giving Tuesday ensuring that even more organizations benefit. 

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If you have teenagers (or have been one), you know the person the world revolves around.

Or if by some quirk of nature your kids are model cherubs, think back to that blind date. "Enough about me," your companion said. "Let's talk about you. What do you think of me?"

Have you ever spent time with someone who talked only about him- or herself and never once asked a question about you? Of course you have. If this hasn't happened to you, then maybe you are that person!

Or perhaps it's an elderly neighbor you meet on the street. You ask with civility, "How are you?" only to be subjected to a list of ailments spanning your neighbor's entire anatomy.

In short, Me is everyone's favorite subject.

So it's no surprise that a would-be supporter's first question (whether spoken or not) is ... Why me?

It's a loaded question. By asking it, the donor is trying to situate himself in the world, or at least in your world. Going through her mind—simultaneously—are related concerns: How do you see me? Do I approve of the way you see me? Do you really know me? Do you care about me? Am I important to you for reasons other than my money?

You are looking for common ground that helps a donor to express his or her values. The "Why me?" question can also be answered with:

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One of my favourite questions to ask when presenting at conferences is ‘What percentage of retail sales come from e-commerce (online purchases)?’ The guesses are usually pretty high – 30%, 50%, 70%. I’ve even heard some people say 90%. The correct answer is 7.2% (yes, that’s 7 point 2, not 72%) This is according to the US Department of Commerce. This is a figure far lower than most people expect. Many of us feel like we do so much online shopping, but it’s still a small percentage of our overall purchases.

According to Blackbaud, the percentage of total fundraising that came from online donations is approximately 6.7%. Essentially even with retail sales.

The 2015 DMA Response Rate Report also tells a similar story. This research shows that direct mail outperforms all digital channels combined by nearly 600%. Last year direct mail saw a 3.7% response with house names, and a 1.0% response with prospect names. The best digital channel was Mobile with a combined 0.2% response. E-mail was second at 0.1%.

So while online/digital giving is certainly still rising at a fast pace it’s a very small portion of what most organizations are bringing in today. So what does this mean for you? Should you give up on social media and stop e-mailing your donors? Certainly not. These are still very valuable channels, but they’re not channels that you should rely on to raise you a ton of money. Direct mail is still the best channel for that.

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This weekend you will encounter some of the scariest creatures of all. Ghosts, ghouls and goblins. But for some organizations these haunting hallows-eve characters don’t come close to giving you the same fear and anxiety as online integration.

This Halloween I urge you to no longer be afraid but to face your online fears. If you are just starting to plan your holiday communication and are thinking of trying to incorporate online integration into your campaign this year here are a few top tips to a successful integrated campaign.

  • Create a holiday brand that works across print, social media and e-mail channels.
  • Create a social media and e-mail schedule that includes all communication and event pieces for the remaining part of the year to rule out any messaging conflicts.
  • The holidays are very busy so ensuring you are making a daily presence on Twitter and Facebook feeds. Consider testing pictures, video or text to get a true sense of what your followers respond to best.
  • Create a specific web banner for your homepage to help drive your holiday campaign awareness.
  • If you are driving people to your website ensure you test your donation page for any broken links or irregular messages.
  • Less is more. Although you need to be present in online channels the shorter the content the more likely someone will read the whole thing. Studies show our attention spans only last 8 seconds so use it wisely.

Happy Halloween! 

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The Walking Dead premieres for its sixth season this Sunday. It’s remained one of the top shows on TV for many seasons now. The show is of course all about the zombie apocalypse, but there’s more to it than just that. In fact, there’s a few fundraising lessons that can be gleaned from the show too:

Lesson # 1 – You’re most effective when you work together as a team

If you’re a fan of the show you know that anytime someone goes off alone there’s a good chance they’re not coming back. While the consequences with fundraising might not be as dire, there are still risks when you fundraise alone. To ensure you’re maximizing your revenue, it’s important that your annual giving team is working effectively with your online team to ensure that all your fundraising is integrated across multiple channels. This means using consistent content and creative to ensure that donors are getting the same message as they connect with you through your various channels.

Lesson #2 – People are more similar than you might think

Wouldn’t it be nice if your donors were somewhat like the zombies in The Walking Dead? Grouping together and literally knocking down your front door? Well this might not quite be the case your donors likely are a lot more similar than you might think…

There’s an assumption that social media and online are the channels that will be best for finding ‘younger’ donors. The truth is that younger donors are just as likely to respond to a direct mail pack. And older donors are increasingly using online and social media channels.

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