They're not pretty, but they're breathy with the immediacy of being there -- the New Organizing Institute training
, to be exact.
Oh, and Item! What prominent e-politics blogger actually takes his notes longhand? We won't tell, but he's ... ah, the devil, it's Colin at e.politics
The completeness, precision and comprehensibility of these notes are not warrantied.
Morning session: Madeleine Stanionis, "Raising $$$ and Activating Supporters with Email"
Computer being obnoxious so parentheticals following are ex post facto recollections of an excellent presentation.
(Fundraising is about getting the right ask to the right people at the right time.)
(during her morning session, she had started out pointing out that: you must send between Christmas and New Year's, possibly several times -- *much better* than mid-December)
(and, ask within a few days -- very good performance for asks w/in first 30 days on list, and twice as good (8.33%!, vs. 3.68% (itself !)) when asking w/in first five days. enthusiasm is highest early on)
(multiple asks ... a follow-up e-mail to non-opens of a fundraising appeal that raised a couple hundred thousand -- with the exact same creative -- pulled another $50k -- lower open rate but the click-through and conversion were similar)
(timeliness crucial ... for breaking things, send immediately, regardless of time of day/day of week. citing Human Rights Ccampaign on Bush's support for marriage amendment; they got it out so fast during a weekday that many donors might have learned of the announcement from the e-mail. contrast w/message from someone flogging the Anne Coulter/CPAC thing recently that didn't go out until several days after the event.)
(what we say doesn't matter. it matters what actually happens -- the numbers, the data, etc.)
Workshop: Focus on Fundraising (Madeleine Stanionis, again)
Most money is given by individuals: $199 of $260 B; rest split among bequests, corporations and foundations
Churches take a disproportionate part, so maybe the percentage should go down. But that also indicates a fundraising model: they're asking every week.
top two things donors want:
#1 -- prompt acknowledgment of gift
#2 -- information about how the gift was used
easy to skip this stuff because we go on to the next hot thing instead of paying attention to boring fundamentals like auto-replies
Thank you is the most important thing in fundraising
"we almost treat people too much like insiders sometimes"
Three things are key about the thank
-warm (look at the auto-acknowledgment)
you should say it six times for one gift (not in a single e-mail)
it's about appreciation more than recognition
what's the best way to raise $ from individuals?
a. "it depends"
direct mail vs. e-mail fundraising
direct mail tends to be longer
-lots of arcane rules [b/c it's been extensively tested -jz]
-tends to be more in the package
-tends to be more reliable
e-mail shorter, often much more immediate
-usually very direct, much simpler
Panel: Effective Online Organizing
Liz Butler on getting offline action from an online list
(Victoria's Dirty Secret)
-background in regular organizing -- they'd had real-world action as a priority from the beginning
*very clear asks that are understandable as to how they'll help the campaign
*something to organize around that creates urgency (they used days of action)
*need tools for people ... have a "campaign in a box" so that they can go create an action even if they don't know anything organizing.
-they used "action packets" that had sample flyers, sample chats, how-tos, etc., etc., to make it accessible for everyone from the lone person to an organization capable of turning out its membership
*helps to have an accessible target like, say, a huge corporation with a lot of brick-and-mortar stores (compared to MoveOn et al targeting congressional offices)
*helps to have offline organizers to hand off to
*mix up the asks -- pure repetition bores/turns people off
*ask, ask, ask. don't be afraid. don't use a small list as an excuse.
*response rate is more like donation rates. <1% likely to respond
*obviously, an offline action has more impact than a click -- so low response rates still translate to a bigger real-world effect
*treat new offline activists like high donors (more time they give you -> more attention from org) ... "you want to basically create a leadership ladder for the people you create (sic) online"
MoveOn, Tom Mattzie
everything they did was around election day
ask for money if you want to raise it
don't be clever ... if you need to raise money, ask for money
still, there are some clever things. [it's moveon, remember] they used:
*conditional asks ("if we get to $400k, we'll charge your credit card" ... and then you can go back and say "we're $40k away ... if we don't get it, we'll lose the other $360k")
*monthly. their twist was "just until the election" ... they did it for small donors and got their gift up from $35 avg to $115. monthly program cut off on election day, per plan/promise
#2 -- listening
they changed the way they talked about things ... earlier in the year, they talked about "building to get ready" since people newer to politics weren't that engaged way before the election
#3 -- winning
show success -- biggest fundraiser not signed by e.g. gore or obama was reporting that their ads had run and had driven down GOP numbers.
things to improve:
#1 -- ask earlier
imagine if we'd started the monthly donor program earlier than april/may '06? could've raised an extra $3-4M, maybe -> extra seats won
#2 -- did a lot of testing on content, but would have liked to have tested more on format too. and generally just always tested more
(format is generally more of 2-3% changes, tinkering around the edges; they were generally looking for bigger differences, 10-15% changes)
said he had one e-mail that performed 3x better than comparisons ... and did even better when it went out big. tap-dances the question of what the specific difference was.
#3 -- grow more
how to get bigger, retain more -- how do you keep people?
growth and list size key factors in fundraising, of course
"growing a list is about obsession. it is about being absolutely maniacal about finding ways to build your list"
for small lists, that's the key ... then, layering (adding phone calls and faxing on top of the e-mail)
from the discussion ...
cecilie from Jewish Voice for Peace on the value of being there with the blog muzzlewatch (on suppressing conversation in the Jewish community on Isreal/Palestine issues)
100k hits in a few weeks, lots of media response, doubled hits to regular web site
-lessons: surfing the news cycle, there's a tremendous amount of serendipity
-blogs are ridiculously cheap ... branding is important
-helps to have some tech folks
Workshop: "Presentation: Online Test and Learn Strategies" (Jeff Regen, Defenders of Wildlife)
Database marketing, what is it?
it's all about targeting the right message to the right person at the right time (nice synergy with the Madeleine session)
through the constant process of testing subject lines vs. subject lines, landing pages vs. landing pages, you can optimize your online campaign
Two critical components:
*creative innovation (we're not talking about that here, but that's obviously important -- you need creative things to test or you've got nothing)
*test and learn (database marketing)
*How does one set up a test in the online arena?
-really important -- it requires a lot of rigor; it's easy to mess it up
1. Test setup
-clear goal for what's being tested & how to measure results
-adequate sample sizes to test significance
->benchmarks: for open rate tests, roughly 10k per variant (i.e., need 20k list minimum to test ... you could maybe go at 5k apiece, but hard to do anything meaningful much smaller than that) (why so large? b/c it's all about the pool of respondents, which'll be much smaller ... and, the variation in open rates is going to be relatively small, so you need bigger pools to see a difference you're confident in)
->roughly 20k/variant for click-through tests and advocacy action tests
->for fundraising, a lot more ... statistically, you probably want at least 50k/variant
->if you have a smaller list -- a) do do open rate tests if you have at least 10k or close; b) do test and learn between multiple e-mails over time -- it's less rigorous, but it can still teach you important things
-test only one thing at a time
"the moment something becomes standard for your constituents and they become used to it, you're going to see the rates go down" (hence the need for creative innovation)
2. Test execution
-remove all exogenous and confounding factors, e.g., date/time each is sent, randomness of the sample
-implement source codes or other tracking functionality
3. Test Measurement & Analysis
-significance of lifts of various components (open rate, click rate, conversion rate, response rate)
-be skeptical of weird results (test shows 40% open rate, for instance, when 20 is the norm and it's not especially targeted) ... scrutinize, re-test
4. Implementing Learnings -- rolling out
-they have a weekly statistics meeting and go over what worked, what didn't, kick things around
5. Feeding the Test Pipeline
Some of their results (and possible things people should think about testing)
*adding a first name to the subject line lifted open rates by 6%, click rates by 12%, and donation rates by 30%
-you can try that now b/c spammers don't do it as much -- he suggests doing it only on rare occasions, though. (they do it only ~once per 3 mos.)
*adding a hotspot (a little line to let people know what it's about before they download the message for people using preview panes and the like) increased donation rates 21%
-but probably don't want to try it for a complex ask
*text messages almost always underperform html (he points out that they're an enviro group that can do the charismatic megafauna thing with images)
*they almost always have a "call-out box" summarizing the issue in 1-2 sentences. the version with the full form (radio buttons for different amounts, with default pre-selected at $50) as opposed to just different links for each amount did +16% rate and +20% avg donation
*for them, wolf-focused tone increased donation rates by 24% in one segment. their people love wolves.
(here, I take a call and lose the thread)
build a great team, probably the #1 key to effective online fundraising & advocacy
how do you start?
-easiest first thing to do is subject line testing -- just split it in half, use two different subject lines simultaneously.
-think about what you'll be able to learn. e.g. -- a standard subject line like "tell your senator don't drill in the arctic" vs. something more creative like "polar bears floating away; you can save them" ... they've found that creative subject lines that are nevertheless clear (unlike his impromptu example) do better
-try more direct vs. less ... try words like "urgent" or "emergency"
keep in mind that the space evolves very quickly and if you're systematic, you should periodically re-test things you assume to be true