No words necessary

I came across a picture the other night on Facebook that I promptly shared.  It had no explanation, no tag, no link, no credit, no nothing.  Just a 4-word phrase, “Worth a Thousand Words”.  The phrase was true.  As you can see, a generous man is taking the very shoes off of his feet and donating them to a child in need. The child is obviously emotional about his gift.  Wherever they are, there seems to be some industrialization, but yet he/she is still struggling and in need of very basic necessities. 

See how I interpreted that?  I crafted my own story from this picture.

  NWN image1v2

Storytelling is one of the most recommended communication tactics in marketing and fundraising today. 

“Tell your brand’s story and connect deeper with your donors”

“People relate to people”

“Stories evoke emotions that drive action”

The advice goes on and on.  But have you ever thought about telling your story without words? How about just pictures?  Graphics that display exactly what your organization does.  An illustration of the end recipient benefiting from all those donations.  A simple statement without actually stating anything.  Sounds straightforward, I know.  But very few organizations seem to do it.  We always want to reiterate our point in case the reader didn’t get it the first 3 emails of the month.  It’s time to adapt to the new age of communication. 

We’re in the days of digital, ladies and gentleman - of texting instead of talking, avatars instead of real appearances, emails instead of addressing, and pictures instead of words.  The internet is slowly replacing the need for human interaction.  The idea of using pictures to send messages actually seems to put that human element back into contact.

Why do you think social networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Cowbird are getting so much traction?  They’re visually-driven and Americans don’t read!  (At least, not like we used to.)  I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about these networks recently and the truth is they’re the hottest things in social right now.  But if you can’t justify the investment with the limited resources you already have, it’s not the end of the world. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to repurpose the group activity and philosophy behind these popular networks into your everyday fundraising and marketing efforts … through graphical storytelling.

Forming an opinion or thought by viewing a picture is the new normal.  It’s quick, easy, and can be extremely powerful, more than text on a page (or in an email). 

Pictures are shareable on just about any social network and can grant your organization viral spread to the n’th degree in a matter of minutes – for virtually free.  When you design your next email, direct mail piece, or web page, think about what visuals would best represent your mission.  And I’m not talking about your logo.  Sum up the very reason for your existence in something powerful that warrants no written explanation (except maybe a call to action) - sort of like these:

  Holiday Wish List

The Salvation Army, Sierra del Mar

Charity Waterv2

Charity Water


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

National Multiple Sclerosis Society - Michael, Diagnosed in 2004

A few images and just one sentence can help you appeal to your constituents in a deeper way than any copy-written paragraph.  

Have examples where you’ve tried this?  Share with us in the comments below!

-Amber Bonner

Amber is the Digital Project Manager in Merkle’s nonprofit vertical.  She chooses to Do What Matters because “it’d be too easy not to.  Challenge is good.”

Put More "Faith" in Your Brand - A Christian Tale

Faith Image









This is the tale of two of my favorite American charities. One founded by a Presbyterian minister, the other a Catholic Priest. One organization is non-sectarian, the other interdenominational. Both promote long-term sustainable solutions to break the cycle of poverty. Both are child welfare organizations – one helping children from all around the world, one in a specific region of the United States. Both were Christian organizations…that is until both underwent major transformations that more clearly defined how faith-based they really were. 

Two years ago, one of these organizations changed its name. It did so to broaden outreach, provide better brand recognition and raise more money from individual and corporate donors. While it shed its religious teachings several decades ago; its mission stayed the same and the organization felt Christians would unite to help people of other faiths. In making this bold move, the charity was putting great faith in its brand experience, as opposed to its brand name.  

Donors didn’t take the news of the name change well, and neither did charitable watchdog groups, such as They felt the name change suggested the organization no longer wished to be a Christian charity. As a result, the watchdog groups vowed to find new Christian charities to which “Christians” could contribute. Others felt misled – “I'd always thought that they were teaching the kids Christianity. Looks like I was wrong.”

While this transformation was occurring, another one was taking shape within the other charity. The difference, however, is that the second faith-based charity was actually strengthening its position within the Christian marketplace. In fact, it wanted all of America to know it was doing “God’s Work” – helping children, elderly and poverty-stricken families in a certain impoverished region of America. And above all else, the charity intended to “live out and promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ through all their actions.” 

The second charity was also putting more faith in its brand, but unlike the first charity, this one was putting more (not less) faith in the Christian aspect of its brand – both in awareness and experience. The organization’s growth strategy is to build stronger relationships and capture a larger share of the global Christian donor market. It also intended to become an extension of the donor/prospect’s daily religious experience – and in doing so, it will facilitate more loyal and compassionate relationships with supporters.      

My experience strongly supports the notion that Christian charities that put greater faith in their brand experience will reap great rewards. Being a faithful giving organization means that you genuinely put your “faith” at the forefront of your value proposition. It means seeking and bringing together people who share in your beliefs and mission. And it means establishing a culture of genuine Christian interactions and experiences. It does not mandate that you be Christian just in name, but also in action.  

There is no doubt that both organizations – who by the way are among my most favorite charities – will continue being successful, largely because they have created an environment of trust, belief and confidence. The organization that is able to foster a multi-dimensional culture that unites people under a common umbrella, who will in turn become evangelists for the organization, will achieve the greatest long-term success. Which one will that be? Perhaps the one who puts more “faith” in its brand!

-Greg Fox

Greg is the Chief Strategy Officer of Merkle’s nonprofit vertical.   He chooses to Do What Matters because to quote Vince Lombardi, “Once a man has made a commitment to a way of life, he puts the greatest strength in the world behind him. It’s something we call heart power. Once a man has made this commitment, nothing will stop him short of success.”

The Psychology of Color

Color Post Image

Creatives love color. We hate to admit that sometimes a simple black and white envelope beats a stunning four-color photo in the mail. That’s because we know that color can be a powerful marketing tool.

Colors evoke emotion, create associations and even prompt action. Pink, once a symbol of femininity, is now the official color of breast cancer. There’s not a person in America who doesn’t know exactly what it means when they see a pink ribbon pinned on a shirt. Splash red and green on something and it’s suddenly Christmas.

Even colors that don’t have strong symbolic ties like breast cancer or Christmas have powerful emotional associations. Here’s a quick recap of a little Color Psychology for you:

Black – Authority and power
White – Innocence, purity and in some cases cleanliness and sterility
Red – Intensity and love
Blue – Peace and tranquility and in some cases loneliness, cold and depression
Green – Nature and wealth
Yellow – Happiness

So what does all this mean for your fundraising campaigns? Here are a few quick ways to apply some color psychology to your work: 

1)     Black envelopes create intrigue. When used appropriately, they can be very effective.

2)     Red commands attention! Put a bunch of colors on a page and your eye goes to red first. It’s a bold color that cannot be ignored. That’s why they make stop signs red. Red is so effective it has been proven to stimulate faster heart rates and breathing – and it inspires people to take action. Use it for urgent callouts.

3)     Yellow may be fun and happy, but yellow text is incredibly hard to read. Plus neither fun nor happy is exactly an emotional driver for donating. But that’s a topic for another blog post to come later.

Remember, much to your creatives’ dismay, sometimes a plain white envelope beats anything else. So test, test, test. And still try to splash in a little red for good measure.

-Angie MacAlpine

Angie is the Associate Creative Director in Merkle's nonprofit vertical.  She chooses to Do What Matters because "when I leave my son and go to work everyday, I want to know it's because I'm helping to make the world a better place for him.  The amazing clients we work with allow me to do just that".

Apply the 80/20 Rule ... Everywhere

The Pareto principle (also known as the “80/20 Rule”) states that, for many events, approximately 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

In the early 1900’s, Vilfredo Pareto determined that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by only 20 percent of the population, and so it began.  Nearly 100 years later the theory still held true:


  1. ^ Human Development Report 1992, Chapter 3,, retrieved 2007-07-08 

So why does this matter for Nonprofit marketers?

Simply stated, this premise provides us context that the large majority of outcomes comes from a small minority of inputs.  More specifically, in the fast-paced marketing world in which we operate, framing our context around this principle can help to ensure we are focusing on things that matter most. 

What if we focused fundraising efforts around questions and outcomes such as:

  • If 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your donors (and it does) – Treat them better!
  • If 20% of your campaigns generate 80% of the donor complaints you receive – Change them!
  • If there are a few elements of your solicitations that you can never live without – Make them even better!

For a moment, I will build on the last point because this is likely an opportunity that every organization, large or small, newly established or mature has in common.

That element of solicitation commonality is your organizational brand.  Your brand is the constant in every communication piece and is likely a big influencer of results.  For great organizations, your brand creates instant credibility.  This credibility gets your envelope or email opened before others in a crowded mailbox or inbox.

At the close of your next strategic planning session, review the outcomes and ideas and ask yourselves these questions:

1)     Have we built a brand that gives us instant credibility?

2)     Do we have a value proposition that resonates with our key audiences?

If the answer is “no” then maybe it's time to step back and determine what’s important.  What is your 80 and who is your 20?

-Josh Whichard

Josh is the Senior Director of Applied Strategy in Merkle's nonprofit vertical.  He chooses to Do What Matters because "there should be no tolerance for following the status quo just because it's 'how we've always done it'".  You can follow him on Twitter @JWhichard.

5 Reasons Nonprofits Should Take Search Seriously - Part II

You've been waiting for our last 2 reasons!  We saved the powerful boost of motivation for last.  Here's part II:

4.  Getting started is free!

It’s an uphill battle to compete with commercial clients in the search jungle.  The bottom line is that nonprofits just don’t have the kind of SEM budgets that commercial companies do.  But, you can at least get yourself on the links lists, even if you’re not at the tippy top.  Google Grants are MADE for nonprofits to do just that – get in the game.  It allows you to buy your way in by offering grants up to $10,000 per month to use for Google AdWords to help promote your website.  Learn more here:  Google Grants .  But first, you have to have the internal structure in place to be successful with this sort of science.  You’ve got to have the analytics capabilities (and people) to understand what keywords are driving traffic to your site.  Then, you need someone to do something about these findings by optimizing your site content.  The fundraiser then needs to be sure to place the donation page and button in the right place on this site.  A lot of people and departments, I know.  But, working towards this will be essential to increasing your house file.  It’s no secret that the industry is suffering from a “bodies” problem.  Take action to fix it for the sake of your missions.

5.  We have worldwide motivation 

No need to feel like the nonprofit underdog in a sea of Coca-Cola and Nike successes.  The nonprofit industry has proven its ability to be #1 when it comes to search.  In fact, the Japanese Relief Fund actually ranked #1 worldwide 2 years in a row as the highest searched site.  It turns out that in a worldwide time of need, the search to give and take action trumps the release of a new sneaker.  Also take Breast Cancer Awareness Month for an example.  On Yahoo! alone, searches for “breast cancer awareness” in October were up 552% compared to 2009 and searches for “breast cancer ribbon” were up 412%.  “Breast cancer signs” were also among the leading searches during this month.  As users search these terms, some of the most well known breast cancer nonprofits appear in the results.  We all want donors, but just look at the site content nonprofits provide to save a life:  FAQ pages, testimonials, self-awareness information, educational resources, etc.  Maybe this is why breast cancer diagnosis rates have increased 30% since 1990.  Nonprofit websites provide the right content for early detection!  Search marketing efforts have helped to save thousands of lives – exactly what most organizations aim to do.   


We hope our 5 reasons have been motivating for your organization.  Don't forget to let us know if you're already ahead of the SEM/SEO game and share with us your examples!  If you have questions or are facing challenges, let us know too!  I bet we have answers.

-Amber Bonner

Amber is a Strategy Manager and soon-to-be Digital Geek in Merkle’s nonprofit vertical.  She chooses to Do What Matters because “it’d be too easy not to.  Challenge is good.”

5 Reasons Nonprofits Should Take Search Seriously - Part I

Did you know that search is one of the only marketing channels where you can 100% determine ROI?  Hopefully you received a copy of our Donor Strategist newsletter this week that talked about search marketing.  If not, we forgive you; our SEM experts at IMPAQT have a white paper to explain it all: A Brave New Advertising World:  The Future of Search Marketing .   One of the featured articles, “The Future of Search Marketing” laid the visionary groundwork for where we’re going in the field of SEM.  And while the commercial world is definitely investing the dollars and leading the way in this digital realm, nonprofits still need to get on board if they want to be successful in the future.   We’ve got 5 reasons why.  Read the first 3 now:

1.  Your email list will thank you

We all want more traffic to our sites, right?  Well, why?  So they can see our pretty pictures and read our donor stories?  Of course, that’s part of it – the engagement piece.  But we also need donors.  And online, a large part of that end revenue goal is fueled by getting their email address.  Improving your search marketing efforts means just that – a bigger email list, a bigger pool to target, more gifts, and a bigger number on the online bottom line.  

2.   It’s the Holidays 

It’s end of year - one of the most critical fundraising seasons.  Many nonprofit organizations are building microsites around their holiday campaigns and inserting themed content throughout their various communication channels.  What better time to optimize your search to drive users to your site?  Our friends at IMPAQT  did some research and found that some of the top trending keywords during November and December are “gift”, “top 10” and “gift ideas”.  Being sure to include content with these popular search words will be crucial for driving traffic to your site this time of year.  After all, as a nonprofit you’ve got plenty of gifts for people to buy, right?  Once visitors get there, don’t forget to include a prominent call to action – must fundraise!

3.  We’re digital girls (and guys) in a digital world

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the world is moving in an overwhelmingly digital direction.  Search and other areas of digital are evolving and beginning to play in the sandbox together.  As a fundraising organization, figuring out how your constituents connect with your cause in the digital world will help you to more effectively plan your communication efforts.  Search can lay the groundwork for this type of understanding with your constituent base.  Through search analytics, you’ll recognize what part of your mission people really care about and what sorts of topics people seek out information for.  This way, you can target them with the right content at the right time, so your donations can roll in on time!  Focusing on this part of your digital plan will improve your other digital efforts including social media and mobile – 2 of the most predicted nonprofit digital trends for 2012.  If you’re not getting your feet wet and starting to integrate search now, you’re going to leave yourself behind.

Is your nonprofit effectively using SEM or SEO?  Share with us your success stories and stay tuned for reasons #4 and #5 in part II. 

-Amber Bonner

Amber is a Strategy Manager and soon-to-be Digital Geek in Merkle’s nonprofit vertical.  She chooses to Do What Matters because “it’d be too easy not to.  Challenge is good.”

Collecting Candy & Saying "Thank You"

I interrupt this generational series of posts to state my very opinionated … opinion. 

You know how after Halloween your parents had to check your candy bag for powdered poison, blades, kid-killing elixirs and everything else you never even imagined existed?  It sort of took an ounce of the excitement out of immediately indulging in your hard-earned night’s worth of walking and knocking and waiting.  Right?  Ever thought about what this crushing 10 minutes of parental advisory does to little Johnny’s experience? 

I know.  It puts his gratification on pause.  Inadvertently he learns that the fantasy of soliciting free candy from strangers has a catch.  A parental one.  His sugar and caffeine-filled donations are monitored.  Even later he realizes that he never even said thank you to his neighbors for supplying him with a lunch treat, an after school snack and a late-night craving cure for the next few months.  He learns that his costume which, for the most part, makes him anonymous, warrants no follow-up of appreciation the next day when he’s hopped back into his regular clothes.

This learning and behavior has a decent parallel to how we handle fundraising.  The anonymity involved in asking donors to give through our mass-marketing techniques gives us a false sense of entitlement in that we never have to say thank you.   As if we’re not real humans behind the postage stamp or email send button.  Just like knocking on doors to “trick or treat”, we bang and bang again until someone gives us a few more months of electricity and research funds.   We may acknowledge them with an impersonal confirmation, but this commonly involves another ask.  More candy!?  Are you serious?  What if Johnny swung by your door twice and asked for a second Snickers before he said thank you for the first?  In your head, you’d probably be thinking, “I just gave this little rascal one and he didn’t even say thank you!  And now he wants more?  Who raised this kid?”

Well how far off do you think this reaction is from how our donors perceive us when we do the same?  Or when we ask and thank simultaneously?  They may not wonder “Who raised us?”, but they surely are curious to know if we noticed that they just sent us money to advance our missions.  Though we may think so, our computers are not costumes we can hide behind that excuse us from basic human manners, such as saying “thank you”. Especially to those who are freely providing us with the funds to keep our organizations afloat, without anything in return.   So as a fundraiser, there is a catch.  We don’t just get to collect candy, eat it, and move to the next door.  If we do, what do you think this does to our donors’ experience?  My feeling is that it puts their philanthropic spirit on pause, just like Johnny’s 10 minutes of parental perusing.  Taking time out to mine through what we’ve received and express our gratitude in a personal way is necessary.  

As I grew up, I learned to appreciate my neighbors and the $15 or so they spent on those bags of candy that kept my childhood sugar-high accelerated until holiday break.  I eventually said “thank you” and paid them back by buying candy for their kids/grandkids that came knocking years later.   The law of reciprocity is universal.  How will you treat those who sweeten your mission this holiday season?

-Amber Bonner

Amber is a Strategy Manager and soon-to-be Digital Geek in Merkle’s nonprofit vertical.  She chooses to Do What Matters because “it’d be too easy not to.  Challenge is good.”

The X Factor

Yup, we know that courting Gen Y is crucial for a cradle-to-grave fundraising strategy.  Thanks, Amber:)

And, yup, we know that cracking the giving habits of Boomers will literally make or break your fundraising efforts in the next decade.

But sandwiched between those two hot generational topics is the X factor.  That’s right, Generation X.  We got our moniker from the disenfranchised feeling we had as we came of age.  As ( ) said, we “didn’t know where (we) belonged, but knew for sure that (we) weren’t a part of the overbearing generation of Baby Boomers.” 

Well, no offense to Reality Bites, but we’ve figured it out.  We’re now in our thirties and forties.  On the whole, we have found our professional paths and personal partners, or decided we don’t need one.  We probably have kids and are responsible for (gasp) rearing the generation that comes after Y.  We’re starting to see gray (or just nothing) at our temples and many of us are perpetually trying to find the illusive work/life balance.

So how do you get us to give to your charity?  We still have an ingrained dash of disaffection that can lean towards apathy if you don’t make the right ask.  You have to make us care, and you have to realize that you have a very finite window for doing so since we’re perpetually overbooked.  Relevancy is critical.  Channel is critical.

I have yet to open direct mail.  I don’t tweet, though I have a Twitter account.  My friends are like family and I spend a lot of time with them on Facebook.  My profession is the backbone of how I structure my day, so LinkedIn counts.  I am never more than two feet from my iPhone, and I check my personal email from both it and my laptop multiple times throughout the day.  I spend at least eight hours a day in front of a computer, and I know what web sites I like.

To recap:  I am plugged in. Maybe I didn't have online courses or Blackboard when I went to college, but my abilities are not limited to sending forwards that includes animated GIFs. But, why am I treated like an Internet neophyte by most fundraisers?

You need to email me relevant information that includes why I care about you.  Talk to me through Facebook and I’ll talk to my friends about you.  Being able to monthly auto debit my donation would be bliss.  My first reaction to your website should not be, "1995 called -- it wants its homepage back”.  You always need to sound and feel the same way to me. 

For fundraisers trying to reach me, here are some things to think about …Do you have:  

  1. An email preference center? 
  2. Data infrastructure to make what you know about me actionable? 
  3. Integrated social CRM plan? 
  4. Web site that reflects what I want to do with you? 
  5. Mobile-friendly email and web assets? 

If so, let us know. ..

-Bethany Bauman

Bethany is the Senior Director of Digital Strategy for Merkle's nonprofit customers. She chooses to Do What Matters because, in the words of one of her idols, Katharine Graham, “to love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?”

Y Gen Y?

So … we’ve been lapsed for a minute… we know.  But, we’re reactivated with plenty to talk about!  And what better time to come back than the cusp of the Convio Summit where we connected with old and new colleagues to refresh and learn!?

I attended a session on Wednesday taught by Mike Johnston, Founder and President of hjc, which broke down the Convio “Next Generation of American Giving” study that did, of course, plaster my Gen Y behavior bio as it relates to social causes on the screen.  It was true to the tee!  

  • I don’t do mail
  • I’ll “Like” and “Tweet” you before I go to your YouTube channel
  • My first engagement with your cause was through mainstream media or WOM (real and virtual)
  • I need to be cultivated … courted so to speak – take me to an event, show me your site … twice
  • "By the way, what's in it for me?"

So, how many nonprofit organizations have actually considered this audience as one in which to invest?  If not, have you ever thought about the migration of Gen Y through a donor cycle and wondered if we’d follow in a similar pattern of preceding generations?  I’m sure you have.  Will we become sustaining givers at age 60 like the Matures?  Or will we forward eCards and donate via email like Gen X?  Or neither?  My take on the group, being a part of it, is that there are major cultural differences that prove 62 will not be our minimal threshold of giving.  I would even argue that our philanthropic peek will be in mid-life stage, dwindling down as we age.  Think about the life & personal characteristics of a 20something Gen Y’er:

As we reached our professional age, we witnessed first hand the economic recession of 2008.  We are more familiar with communications, media and digital technologies and for the most part, more liberal.   But because of what we’ve experienced, we have a lack of trust towards organizations and are able to see through marketing and sales tactics quite seamlessly.  However, my generation is extremely cause-driven, but prefers to make an impact on our own terms (that fit in line with our already popular activities, behaviors and interests), and they’re not always monetary.

In fact, we’ve already proven our ability and desire to do just that by improving the world – in our own little social way.  Recently, several sites have been customized for teens and 20somethings in Gen Y who have practically grown up with digital technology in cradles.  We are the next generation of hopeful givers already becoming activists at a young age.  Based on this behavior, why not target us before we hit the fab 6.0?  Another way to look at my group as valuable is through the digital clout that we’re building.  Even if/when our pockets get fat and we don’t turn into consistent donors, we may become the go-to influencers for rallying others online around your cause.  Think about it.  A few examples to get your mind flowing in the social space are below.  Know of other examples?  Do tell...

RT2Give:  Retweet a worthy cause, give $10


RandomKid:  Youth & parents - choose a cause, pick the solution, and "Make It Happen" on your profile page.

 SocialVibe:  Raise money by influencing others in your network to participate in branded activities. 

Free Rice: Play a social game to end world hunger.

 Endorse for a Cause:  Endorse your favorite brands through social networking, get enough activity and watch your money "change the world."


Stay tuned for an expose on Gen X...

-Amber Bonner

Amber is a Strategy Manager and soon-to-be Digital Geek in Merkle’s nonprofit vertical.  She chooses to Do What Matters because “it’d be too easy not to.  Challenge is good.”

I am LinkedIn member 855,485

At first glance, this may not seem very impressive. There were over 855,484 people that came before me. But when put in the context of a recent milestone for the professional networking site--LinkedIn now has over 100 million member--somehow, being somewhere just below 900,000 seems pretty impressive to me. I, apparently, am a relatively early adapter.

The reason I am sharing what number LinkedIn user I am, is because I recently received a great email from LinkedIn thanking me for making their dreams of 100 million members come true. Now, I know, I know, it wasn't JUST me that made this happen, but their email sure did make me feel pretty special.

So, for those of us in the business of not only getting donations out of our donors, members, activists, but also interested in building a relationship, driving passion about our mission, making our constituents feel thanked and appreciated (even when they are not expecting it), the email I got from LinkedIn is a pretty good example of  the "Just Thinking of You"  note gone right.



Notice the catchy subject line. Am I really one of the first million members? Wow, right away I feel like part of a very special club. On top of that, they are showing me they know something specific about me--not everyone is part of that group, and LinkedIn knows that I am. And, they consider this a very special group of people. So now I'm an early adapter and I'm special.

Next, they make the relationship seem even more personal. Not only am I part of the special 1 million club, they know EXACTLY which person in that club I am. That means they know WHO I am, right? Or so consumer me starts to think (quieting the whole 'Miriam, they have a database plus your member number is in your non-public profile URL' voice inside).

Also, very importantly, they don't seem to be wanting anything from me. Is it possible this is just a "thank you" message with no strings attached? How novel. Could it be they just want to share this big accomplishment with me and thank me for my role in it? Well, aren't they thoughtful.

I've always liked LinkedIn. Now, I might just love them. And I am blogging about how great they are. Is it possible that mission was more than accomplished with that email from LinkedIn's perspective?

And sure, there are probably a few email best practices that could have been used here, like when I try to read this email on my phone it looks super weird, but hey, I feel all warm and giddy inside from being so special, so I'm going to let them slide on that one...

-Miriam Kagan

Curious what the public profile of member 855,485 looks like? You can find me here:

Digital-Mobile Sphere Rallies Around Japan Relief Efforts

Last week, I wrote here about how social gaming platforms were helping raise money for the Japan earthquake-tsunami relief efforts. As the news grew increasingly more worrying, I started to take note of a rallying of effort across the digital and mobile sphere, echoing relief efforts from Haiti, but pushing channels to a new level of engagement. 

I've rounded up some of the interesting examples I've seen in the last week. Yes, most have the Red Cross as the charity that benefits from the donations, but this is also a testament to the work the Red Cross has done in optimizing new and developing channels as fundraising channels in times of disaster. So, in no particular order:

Living Social:

Last Thursday, Groupon-like site Living Social sent out an offer: Give $5 to the Red Cross, and we'll match it to make it $10. Doesn't seem that huge right? With 15 hours still left to go in the deal, over $750,000 had been raised!


iTUNES gets into the game:

It started some time last week and can still be seen on the iTUNES homepage today--amidst promos of artists, movies, and whatever else, now comes a promo to help Japan relief efforts. Donation goes to Red Cross, your iTunes account is billed. No news that I could find on how much has been raised, but millions of eyes have been exposed to the offer.





Do you HULU?

Just this past week at the annual NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference, discussion abounded about using Hulu's free service for nonprofits to run in-video ads. And what do I see pop up this past Sunday while catching up on some TV viewing time?   A special ad just for Japan relief that was visible during the entire show and had in-video spots.





Travel a lot for business and pleasure? I sure do, and I make it a point to try to stay at the same hotel family to collect points.  I am sure many others do too. Instead of redeeming them for night stays, I can now donate them to disaster relief (well, at least if I'm collecting Hilton points). They also did this during Haiti, but rolled out much quicker with the offer this time around.


Mobile keeps evolving:

The role of mobile in disaster relief efforts certainly proved itself with the Haiti earthquake. since then, some of us have been pondering important questions like: do I want the $10 donor?  What do I do with them after? How do I convert/upgrade them? How do I even find out who they are? 

Having donated $10 to the Red Cross, I see them trying something interesting in the upgrading department: a text back telling me that if I'd like to donate more $$, to call this number...(Can't wait to find out from the Red Cross folks how well this worked!)


Have you seen other great examples of fundraising for Japan disaster relief?  We'd love to share them with our readers!

-Miriam Kagan

Virtual games, real $$ for Earthquake and Tsunami Relief

If you've ever experienced someone interrupting your dinner conversation or even important work meeting with words like "oh no, I forgot to harvest my raspberries and they are going to wilt!", and then watched them run off in a frazzle to their computer, then you have first-hand knowledge of the virtual gaming phenomenon, even if you are not yourself a proud virtual farm, city, coffee shop, bakery, etc owner.

With over 300 million active participants, virtual games like FarmVille, and platform owners like Zynga, have a unique engagement platform that has been used in the past to raise funds, especially for disasters like the Haiti earthquake.

And just today, from TechCrunch,comes even more proof that if nonprofits are still not at least paying attention to the power of games to drive real $, they should be. In less than 36 hours, various Zynga properties have raised over $1 million for tsunami and earthquake relief efforts in Japan, through Save the Children's Disaster Relief Fund. Players use real cash to buy all sorts of "useful" items for their various virtual properties, and now, special items are being offered with revenues going to disaster relief efforts.

Earthquake relief virtual games 

Now, as those of us working in the field of fundraising every day know, disasters are in their own special fundraising category--the need is obvious and great, the mission easy to communicate, and the potential impact easy to calculate, so it's no surprise that funds can be raised in all sorts of non-traditional ways and from non-traditional audiences. 

And some may somewhat rightfully critique this way of fundraising: instead of donating through a virtual game and having a third party take some of the money donated, people should be donating directly to organizations so all the money can be used for relief efforts.

We all know, however, that inertia is a huge barrier to fundraising and convenience is key. Would I rather take $10 and give $2 as a fee to a partner rather than take no money at all because my organization's website doesn't happen to accept whatever form of payment is more convenient for my potential donor and/or they can't be bothered to navigate away from their "Ville" game to fill out my donation form? My personal answer would be a categorical "yes!, I'll take that donation!". The sheer volume of the audience should make us all think twice about discounting games as a potential source of revenue, in non-emergency times and for non-disaster missions.  Has your organization dipped a toe in the virtual gaming space? Are you listed on Games that Give or other virtual gaming sites? We'd love to hear your experience.

-Miriam Kagan

What is this blog all about?

If you're serious about raising money from donors, you need to get serious about donors. More than ever before, donors are insisting that you share power with them, not treating them like passive ATMs. This blog is about the ways you can do that -- and the rewards that await you and your donors when you do.

About the Blogger

DonorPower Blog is penned by Merkle's Power Blogging Team, led by Greg Fox, our senior vice president of strategy. Working with Greg is a police line-up of guest "artists", fundraising pros all, who like to pose as blogatorialists when the sun goes down. You can reach this blog, and any of our regular contributors, at
donorpowerblog [at] merkleinc [dot] com. See this blog's policies.

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