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News from The Blog
By admin on 3/19/2014
Design experts understand that great design addresses every product detail. Think about companies that are experts at design – Bose, Apple, Kohler – how do we integrate great design into reporting and analytics? We read mixed case 15%-20% faster than upper case. The mind recognizes letters and additionally the shapes of words. Concepts like this are very important since ease of use is a critical aspect of design. A piece of information should be able to convey its principle message in just a few seconds. We want our consumers to “reach the brand” or “engage the brand” and design helps them to do this. Information should adhere to the organization’s brand –design your information so it has credibility, the right focus, conveys the right message and has an effective brand. Are colors you use in graphs using the same color palette as your logo? Good design helps viewers organize information easily. One approach is to have a style guide or standards so your information has the same look and feel. If the report…
By admin on 3/14/2014
Ignaz Semmelweis changed the world by showing that if doctors washed their hands there was a much smaller chance of transmitting infections. This discovery, like many others was based on data. People that did calculations with data during the life of Ignaz were called computers. Over time, the meaning of computer has obviously changed as machines have taken over the mundane calculating, but people are still using their powers of questions and curiosity to discover answers to problems. Machines are challenged when it comes to making inferences – humans are more comfortable with the semantic inferences involved in relating data to decisions. Think about how people use spreadsheets – many that have “grown up” with spreadsheets often look at formulas to make sure that they are correct – but they may stop at that point. Even if the formulas are working, this doesn’t provide insight into stories that the information may be telling. In this case we may be relying too much on the machine for insight. We need…
By admin on 3/7/2014
Fundraising analytics may be defined or termed as “closed loop decision making.” Analytics help focus on making the right decisions, based on past, present and predictive data. This is a holistic view – not just focused on predicting the future using predictive models but combining many data points to point us in the right direction. For major gift shops, how do we re-align gift officer portfolios and focus our gift officers on the right donors? Which major gift officers will donors respond more effectively to? Which unit in the organization, such as athletics should a prospect be assigned? How can analytics inform this decision and how should we subsequently code this in our system? A successful analytics program needs to have a roadmap; it just doesn’t happen on its own. A roadmap needs to leverage changes in processes, people, data quality, have appropriate governance and sponsorship, be pragmatic. The roadmap needs to provide the right people with the right information and help them make business decisions…
By admin on 12/16/2013
How should you change your asset allocation based on changes in market conditions over the last number of years? Having just gone through an extensive review of a Statement of Investment Policies and Procedures – here are some suggestions you may wish to consider when reviewing and/or changing your investment policies and procedures. Small and medium sized non-profit organizations are challenged in managing investments. Their investments are often not at the size where they can justify a full-time treasury function. Boards and committee members from large organizations typically have these functions in-house and can expect non-profit staff to have the same knowledge their own treasury functions do. This is a gap. A first suggestion would be to engage outside expertise when reviewing your policy – both from an expertise and a project management perspective. This can add value to the process by providing staff with additional knowledge, modeling of different asset mixes and helping to shepherd the board…
By admin on 6/11/2013
One of the joys of the “post PC” world and the growth in the mobile space is that more and more operating systems are touch based. There is starting to be a plethora, well maybe not quite, but a lot of new hardware (other than tablets and smart phones) that want to take advantage of touch – and eventually gestures – and I did say want. What does this mean for long-time laptop/desktop users who are used to a certain way of working? Well, in the short term, I think some frustration will be upon us. Touch enabled laptops in particular from both a software and hardware perspective have a ways to go. It’s easy to touch on a dialog that says yes or no, it’s easy to swipe and use gestures to scroll and move applications off the screen – so the basics are in place. However, “big” applications are problematic, and will require a significant change in interface design. New designs will need to allow switching back and for the between conventional mouse and keyboard and touch. Example – icons on a laptop need to…
By admin on 5/14/2013
A record month in April where I included the $100 million gift American philanthropist Richard Schwarzman to Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. The funds will support American students and others to attend university in China. The goal is help young people broaden their perspective of China. This is a bellweather event that moves the needle of charitable giving towards viewing life through a GLOBAL Lens. Not included in the list but just as important was the announcement of 6 billionaires getting together to pledge funds towards the elimination of polio. Carlos Slim of Mexico pledged $100 million to the Global Polio Eradication Intiative led by Seattle’s Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also pledged $100 million. Joining this group are Ray Dalio, who leads Bridgewater Associates hedge fund, with his $50 million donation; Prince Alwaleed bin Talal donated $30 million, Carl Ichan made a $20 million donation through his Foundation for a Greater Opportunity; an Indonesian…
By admin on 4/30/2013
There is a reason why social media can be the perfect platform for launching an effective fundraising campaign. The reason is that social media is all about personal networks and fundraising can be much more effective when it involves peer networks. Of course, not every fundraising campaign that uses social media like Twitter or Facebook is bound to be a success. The fact is that social media can be a great platform for fundraising and using it optimally can help strengthen a fundraising campaign and make it highly successful. So what are the different ways in which social media can be used for boosting fundraising campaigns? Let’s look at a few. 1. Use social media to share and interact with existing supporters – it is always important to interact with the community of supporters that you already have. Not only because they are interested in knowing how the campaign progresses but also because they can help make the campaign grow and progress further. Social media can be used to keep supporters and donors…
By admin on 3/5/2013
What do you need to do to win? Organize your information and make it universally available to everyone in your organization. Is your analytics “the largest library, with all the books on the floor?” How do you find the pieces of information that you need, how do you transmit this knowledge throughout your organization and provide what’s relevant? We’ll talk about this a little and look at some examples from Google. Every day, 16% of all searches on Google are new – questions that have never been asked before. Google’s contribution to analytics was creating a sea-change in the way advertising was done – the contribution was that Google is constantly driving the need for improving all aspects of analytics to serve up and deliver ads – and they’re even using analytics to create self-driving cars. These ideas are changing the world – how can you use data to radically transform the world? What are some of the challenges in using analytics? Fundraising is more data driven today than it has been in the past. There…
By admin on 2/26/2013
State of the Nonprofit Sector: 2013

With the beginning of President Obama’s second term, a slowly recovering economy and a fiscal cliff narrowly averted, nonprofits have a lot to discuss and anticipate in 2013.

Numerous reports have been released, throughout January, demonstrating 2012′s final figures and giving insight for trends to be on the lookout for through this year. This outlook includes issues around hiring trends, attention to succession planning, deployment of mobile technology, social giving campaigns, and, crucially, the impact of tax reform and proposals on the missions of nonprofits.

Implementing More Technology & Social Giving Campaigns One main area experts agree on is the increase of technology deployment in the nonprofit sector. In particular, a Blackbaud report shows that mobile technology will be significant this year, with more than two-thirds of surveyed NPOs planning to utilize more mobile technology this year.

Alongside this trend, a range of…
By admin on 1/31/2013
How do you grow overnight visitors to a city? You’re dealing with experiences and they based on a number of cross correlation elements such as world crisis, stock markets and other social and economic factors. Does your organization benchmark against external economic and social indicators to help understand past behavior, segment and test your programs and help drive your strategic planning and resource allocation decisions? An easy correlation is to compare stock market indices to specific constituent segments. A school that specializes in training engineers in the resource extraction industries might want to correlate alumni groups and giving against specific commodity prices. A petroleum engineer’s engagement and giving activities against the price of crude could easily be done. The more granular our segmenting – providing we’re doing enough testing and verifying the accuracy – the more effective we can be in targeting marketing. Geographic and wealth segmenting is fairly easy Most countries have geographic and income overlays that you can integrate into your reporting environment to provide map views of some of your donor and prospect behavior. Do you send different letters to neighborhoods with a higher wealth demographic or do you send the same letters? The social strata and activities of the super-rich are often quite different than that of the general population. If we’re doing a dual major gift and annual ask – it only makes sense to have different collateral….
By admin on 1/25/2013
Matthew Mielcarek, the VP of Consulting at Charity Dynamics, recently submitted an article to the company I work for with some pretty timely, pretty fantastic, and pretty prescriptive advice for nonprofit organizations entering the New Year. Bringing in the December giving trends — and the New Year, Mielcarek’s article outlines donor retention strategies — specifically, how to retain the newly acquired holiday donors. With a third of annual donations collected in December, many by first-time donors to an organization, finding a way to keep as many of those as possible going into a new year is a retention strategy proving quite valuable over time. A 2011 donorCentrics Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report shows that 70 percent of first-time donors won’t donate again. Here are five steps Mielcarek suggests to foster lasting relationships with as many of them as possible. 1) Mielcarek says, “First time donors are qualified leads.” Therefore, consider first donations an acquisition…
By admin on 12/10/2012
Originally Posted March 2005 and Updated There have been a couple of postings on PRSPCT-L recently about why subscribers are getting spam emails. Mass e-mailers tailor their messages to get through spam filters and blockers and constantly revise their strategies – they’re very devious and relentless. Try a search on your email addresses and see where they’ve been published. A public email address can be something as “innocent” as your email in a PDF file in a brochure published on a web site. Robots constantly churn through sites looking for contact information 24 X 7. Don’t publish your email address anywhere unless you’re willing to accept additional spam. Use some of the free email services such as Microsoft Live, Yahoo or Google for subscriptions, signing up for access to web sites, subscribing to email newsletters etc. If you start to get too much spam, you can cancel your account, create another, and sign up again. More than 80% of all business collaboration is typically done through email. …
By admin on 12/2/2012
We’re at a point where there’s so much more data every day and less analytics. One of huge differences in political fundraising over the last few years is the incredible impact of good information required to raise huge amounts of money. Analytics is not about technology – it’s about people – people that make decisions such as voters. Executives and management make decisions about how to sell to the people that make decisions. Hasbro manages about 1,500 brands of toys and needs to understand which is more profitable, which sell more which will trend higher in the sales mix in the future. How do you bring a new product to a market such as a major fundraising campaign? People are not watching television, not reading newspapers as much and are looking at the Internet. In this day and age there may be 15 to 20 channels that we need to use to market a campaign. It’s increasingly challenging to collect and understand the appropriate metrics to have the necessary holistic understanding of how it all ties together….
By admin on 11/20/2012
For your reading pleasure – and without changes to last year’s message: The following e-mail message, sent this time every year, has been verified and validated by attorneys and IRS representatives.  A Canadian colleague has repeatedly confirmed the Canadian references.  Of course you should follow whatever institutional policies that have been dictated – although certainly the below might help you address/change old procedures. As a reminder, the IRS released the 2013 allowable benefit (quid pro quo) levels, below which no receipt disclaimer is required, several weeks ago.  You will find that information both in the FundSvcs & Advance-L archives as well as at the download site at www.FundSvcs.org.  In fact you will find copies of what I consider all the relevant IRS forms and publications (some mentioned below) at the same site. With that, here’s the “traditional” Annual Date of Gift message: Annual Date Of Gift Message In the United States the IRS does not…
By admin on 11/8/2012
Our ability to raise money is now tied more than ever to the degree that decision makers can use real time information, trend analysis and appropriate metrics to monitor results and activity to move the organization in the right direction. However, many of us struggle with information delivery and sometimes even the most basic reports and statistics can seem to be lacking in relevancy, depth and breadth. Technical staff struggle with their queues and there never seems to be enough hours in the day to complete simple reports let alone more complex analysis and to find a vision for information needed in the future. New report requests can take days or weeks to complete and are often subject to a lot of iterations. Fundraising is an opportunity driven business and we can be overwhelmed with ad-hoc reporting that is essential to being able to ask those important “what ifs”. Our standard reporting is continually questioned on accuracy and credibility. Consider some of the following questions. Your answers…
By admin on 11/1/2012
As iTunes has replaced FM radio and other sources for listening for music, are we better off now or were we better off with Vinyl and CD’s? When vinyl was king big labels signed artists for 3-5 record contracts and there were 10 to 12 songs per album. When CD’s came out, they were more expensive but were virtually indestructible (no warping and skipping) but artists felt compelled to fill up the CD with up to 20 songs to fill the whole 60 minutes. Were we better off? I traded in all of my vinyl for CD’s and moved on. It seemed like I was acquiring more sounds, they took up less space – but the colder and more precise sound of CD’s was a little different than the warmer sound of vinyl. There are always tradeoffs. With digital music users started sharing. Unit sales dropped, artist royalties and record company revenues plummeted. Early web sites such as MP3.com allowed a grass roots approach to music where artists could post and advertise and set their own price points – without needing signing by the big labels. I moved all my music to my hard drive but still needed CD’s for the car….
By admin on 10/23/2012
As systems become more complex, and we get data from a variety of sources, what would be considered the best practices to load this data in? We’ll ignore manual data entry in this post and assume that we already know how to do that – as effectively and efficiently as possible. At times, this might be the only way, but we can always plan for more automation. The First Step – Plan, Develop Metrics and Monitoring Tools Prioritize a list of the most common data elements that need to be uploaded/entered and managed. A starting point is to review a good book on analytics – data mining – which can help point out which data elements are important to your organization. As a first step you can run some queries to begin to analyze where your database may be “weak.” Next, you should develop a set of reports that show how the data elements you need to focus on are being monitored and managed. For example: What’s the contactable rate of living individuals in your list? Contactable rate might be those records with a…
By admin on 10/8/2012
How do you use a visual analytics tool? Just count some of the ways. Analysis, analytics, report prototyping, as a report engine for all manner of users, as a change agent. It’s a tool that’s fairly easy to use and can do a lot as you get more advanced. What are some of the critical pieces of news and updates on the Tableau products and company? Here’s a few from what should be a fairly reliable source (an employee doing a presentation.) It’s what would be considered a “fairly normal” glossy and optimistic corporate presentation. I’ve also integrated a few of my own comments and observations, and tried to convey a few of the better tips and tricks that were mentioned. Lots of growth. Company growing all the time. No mention of the challenges of growth and how an organization needs to adapt. Major element of growth to watch out for is if sales plateau or drop off and the company needs to make major changes. No indication yet that this is about to happen.

Lots of hiring. Hiring here, there and everywhere….
By admin on 9/20/2012
Some of the Main Steps in Leveraging Big Data Access Access needs to be delegated throughout the organization and maintained. If you have an email marketing provider, do the right people have access to be able to download the click-through results and load into your CRM system? Your SAAS (Software As A Service) applications need to be integrated so that data is pulled automatically and loaded. There are some appliances and software that can help with this. Your ETL (extract, transform, load) tool should be robust enough to utilize SAAS processes directly so you don’t waste time on intermediate steps that take expensive staff time. Standards should be developed. Example: If you’re working with multiple telemarketing vendors, you should insist that the data returned from all of your vendors should adhere to your formats and definitions. This makes it a lot easier for you to integrate and manage the data you’re receiving. Discover You need to simplify the data discovery as you get more and more data sources. The key is to have structured entity relationships. Discovery should include a pre-load and profiling analysis before you load into your system. It’s not fun to do one-off data migrations and discovery is key to understanding what you’re getting and to design a process that’s systematic and repeatable….
By admin on 9/6/2012
I’ve often talked about how the complexity of our fundraising databases has changed over the years. We used to just collect names and addresses. We then added prospect management, cell phones and emails. We now have online behavior from our online communities and social media. A lot of our data is unstructured – such as what is typically contained in notes fields. Do we consider fundraising data “big data”? I believe it’s a critical inflexion point for us, especially as historically disparate systems have tended to become more integrated through reporting environments such as data warehouses. Our data seems to be growing more rapidly than ever and we need to take advantage and capitalize on some of the same techniques that “very big data” organizations have been employing. To me, the term big data is really a reflection of our environment. The “cradle to grave” relationship with donors has to integrate a complex data model that essentially emulates the random nature of human existence and relationships. Not an easy task to collect and manage. Not an easy task to analyze and develop metrics….


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