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Campaigns
June 10, 2020

Communicating with campaign donors through this crisis

Amy Eisenstein and Andrea Kihlstedt of Capital Campaign Toolkit

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In a session hosted by Capital Campaign Toolkit, Farra Trompeter, Big Duck’s Chief Growth Officer, joined Andrea Kihlstedt and Amy Eisenstein as a guest in their weekly town hall. Together they discussed communicating with capital and other major donor campaign donors through this crisis.

Transcript:

Amy Eisenstein:
That’s nice to see everybody joining us for the call today. And we are super excited to have a special guest who I’m going to let Andrea introduce in just a minute, but I just want to take a moment, a brief moment to reintroduce myself and Andrea, we’re co-founders of the Capital Campaign Toolkit. Of course, I’m Amy Eisenstein, and we are super excited to hear have you here for our weekly town hall Toolkit talks that we’re doing through this crisis to help you get through this crisis. So that’s what we’re here to do today. As we always do, we’ll probably take a seventh-inning stretch in 30 or so 40 minutes. But Andrea, I think we should just dive in and get started with Farra.

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
Yes. Thanks, Amy. And really, it’s a pleasure to have all of you with us today. Thank you so much, for joining us. Farra, we have known for quite some time, I live in the South Bronx and she lives in Park Slope or sort of at opposite corners of New York City. But, we have known Farra and her partner, Sarah, for quite some time, they run Big Duck, which is one of the premier nonprofit communications firms. Not only here in New York, we’re really in the country. They do utterly remarkable work and we are fortunate to have Farra Trompeter with us. She is a partner and gets a, get a handle on this. She is Chief Growth Officer. I think every nonprofit should have a Chief Growth Officer honestly. Her firm helps nonprofits use communications to advance their mission. She’s lived lots and lots of organizations through fundraising campaigns, brand overhauls, and much more.

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
She joined Big Duck in 2007. It’s getting onto be a lot of years Farra. Yeah. Good, good for you. So we highly recommend that you watch and follow the Big Duck resources. They’ve got a great blog. They’ve got great training programs. Take a look at, is it big, definitely Big Duck. I think that’s bigduck.com and I’ll keep an eye as the conversation goes. I might share some resources in the chat too. Wonderful. Thank you so much. Now the subject that Farra has agreed to talk to us about, and boy, it’s a subject that I’m sure we all need these days is communicating with donors through this crisis. And maybe we really should have named it communicating with donors through these crises because we’re not just talking about one crisis. We’re not just talking about two crises. We’re talking today about the intersection of three crazies.

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
And if one of them, if COVID-19 weren’t complicated enough, right. When we had Black Lives Matter and the crazy, crazy stock market and economic insecurity and jobs reports, right? You, your heads all should be spinning about how best to communicate. I suspect that even Farra is challenged sometimes when facing complexities of that, that’s this sword, but let me dive right, right in there. I know people are calling you right and left and saying, Oh my God, Farra, what do I do? I do you have three top answers, three things you find yourself telling people again and again, what are they?

Farra Trompeter: 
Yeah. And I’ll try. And we have a blog compilation of different tips for folks about communications. And it was initially framed around the COVID crisis that came out in March. I’ll share it in the chat then a little bit. I think the number one thing is don’t stop communicating. I think a lot of organizations in these moments kind of freeze up and they say nothing. And that is, that has a lot of negative impacts. First of all, your donors, your potential donors, other people who know who you are, might forget you. If they don’t hear from you, they will forget about you second or perhaps more important in this moment.  Particularly around racial justice, silence can often equal acceptance. And I think we a lot of people struggle with what’s the right thing to say, how do I say it?

Farra Trompeter: 
Where do I say it? And we can talk more about that. If there are questions about that. And I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I think you have to say something. And again, even if it’s in small places I think it’s really important to communicate. So I think first of all, don’t stop communicating. I think if there were things you were going to be communicating about, you might still need to talk about them. So for example, I know I’ve been on a lot of lists of people talking about the census and people responding to the census. Because that happens once every 10 years, that’s not changing as far as we know. And that’s really important for people to fill out if your organization is working on that initiative. You still need to talk about that. Now, when you talk about it, what you say about it, what channel you use that certainly needs to be run through a lot of different filters.

Farra Trompeter: 
But don’t stop. So that’s the first thing is don’t completely stop. You know, I know that Andrea and Amy can probably speak more actively to this. I know 10 plus years ago when there was the 2008, 2009 recession, there’s definitely been studies out there that showed organizations who stopped asking for support, who stopped raising money, organizations who still ask for support still went out and communicate it to their list, actually saw that they were able to raise money through the recession and made it through. So don’t stop communicating number one. The second thing I would say is, and again, equally, if not more important is to center your audience when you are not sure what to say, where to say, who to say it with, think about the community you’re speaking to, and understand what’s going on for them, how they are dealing with whatever crisis is first and foremost on your mind as you’re putting something out there.

Farra Trompeter: 
And in fact, maybe even running messaging by members of your community, who you’re speaking to, whether they are donors, funders, clients, and program participants, depending on what it is and getting feedback. I think a lot of times we talked about cooks in the kitchen and how there’s too many people who are trying to get their hands on things and it’s never happened. Now is a moment where actually you want to invite a few more cooks in the kitchen. I think as we worry about sensitivity and controversy and whether or not we’re doing things right or wrong or what to say, asking more people for feedback I think is really critical. And the last thing I would say is just to be genuine and be authentic. This is a good thing to be all the time. But I think it’s okay to say you don’t know, it’s okay to say, you know, I don’t have the answer to this.

Farra Trompeter:
We don’t know, here’s who we’re following. I’m looking for advice from, you know, I was on, we’ve been just like our friends here at the Capital Campaign Toolkit, Big Duck has been doing a lot of webinars and conversations since March and especially early in March when people were early in the COVID-19 crisis. People asking what to say and not sure what to say, because so much was unknown. I mean, New York City for example, is finally having phase one reopening today. As people didn’t know what was gonna happen, it’s okay to say that we don’t know, but here’s who we’re following for guidance or here’s who we’re listening to.  So let me stop there. Hopefully, hopefully that’s helpful.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yeah. That’s super helpful. Let me just kinda recap those three things. Cause you said a lot of wonderful stuff there. One is don’t stop communicating, whatever you do. This is not the time to stop communicating with people. And honestly, I think it’s sometimes tempting to when you’re not sure what to say, right? When you’re not sure about sensitivities and when you’re not sure. So I, so I think your point about not stopping this is super duper important. I love the, I love the idea of asking your supporters, asking the people in your community for help and figuring out what the messages are and run, run it by people before you send it broadly. You know, in the capital campaign business, we are big fans of asking for advice. So asking for advice about communications is another great way to do that. No matter what fundraising, what fundraising initiative you’re in.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
And finally the idea of being, really being willing to be genuine and authentic to, you know, to me, as I read the messages that organizations are sending out, some of them are so packed. They’re not genuine and authentic. They’re sort of pablum. And I stopped reading them before I go very far. But when people open their hearts a little, even when they say they don’t know or they’re troubled or I’d much rather read that. So thank you. I think those are such important, such important point. Let me ask you this. You know, a lot of people are wondering whether during this time they should be going out for new donors or just communicating with their current donors. You have a feel whether this is a good time to be reaching out,

Farra Trompeter: 
you know the advice we have been giving and I welcome either of you to chime in and see if you and open to anyone chiming in, open to disagreement or other thoughts. I think right now I would focus primarily on existing supporters. I think if you are limited in terms of your own capacity, your time, the resources, I know a lot of nonprofits have had to cut back on staff, have had to cut back on budgets. Maybe they had a big mail piece that was going to go out and they can’t, they don’t have postage or printing. And so they have to do everything digitally. As we’re cutting back on our resources are just stretched. Or, you know, even if we haven’t changed our staff, our staff now are juggling the work, plus childcare, plus a million other things. This is the time to solidify the relationships with people who already support you.

Farra Trompeter: 
So existing major donors, recent major donors, then going to the next level of supporters, and other people who know you, people who already are on your email list are already following you on social media, whatever the channel is, I would start by making sure you’re communicating to that audience. And you’ve even if you’ve just checked in with them, this, this is really probably depending on your organization and where it is and how it’s impacted by COVID, by the economy, by, police brutality, and all the racism and work that’s happening around that. Some organizations are right in the middle of that. Some are on the periphery, you should be speaking to the people who already know who you are. If your organization is right in the middle and you are being talked about on the news, or people are sharing your content. This might be an opportunity for acquisition and reaching out to new audiences.

Farra Trompeter: 
But I would prioritize, I mean like, like many fundraising and communications consultants, I’m kind of a fan of donor retention over acquisition because we see that it costs a lot more to bring in a new donor than to hold on. The one we have and most organizations are struggling with retention rates. So if we can’t first hold onto the people who support us, then we’re going to bring more people in and lose them as soon as we bring them in. So generally speaking, this is a time I think, to pour your energy into existing relationships. Of course, if you have an opportunity to reach new donors, you have obviously a clear need. I know there are lots of organizations and initiatives I’ve given to personally in the past few weeks that I never gave to before because my eyes were open or I’m hearing about something for the first time. Now, whether those organizations just open themselves up and make it easy to give versus doing an external campaign or different things. Does that make sense?

Amy Eisenstein: 
Sure does, yeah. I mean, we completely agree with you, Farra. I think that that is, you know, exactly what we’ve been saying all along. I’m so happy to hear it from you and have it reiterated. But that’s the bottom line is that you want to hold onto the donors that you have, you want to cultivate and really grow the relationships and strengthen the relationships with your biggest donors and your existing donors. But it’s true. This, this, depending on what the mission of your organization, you may just be attracting new donors because of all sorts of issues that are coming up and that’s fine. And then you should steward them as well. But I think we we’re, we’re all on the same page there.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. Let me remind you all on the, on the call and the Q and A box, you can be typing in your specific questions about branding and communications, and then we’re going to pivot over to that fairly soon. So get your creative thinking out. What are the challenges you’re facing when it comes to donor communications? So Farra that, you know, I don’t know about everybody else in the country, but mail in New York City is quite a challenge these days, right? The mail carriers are few and far between I ran into a mail carrier and Sunday was delivering mail. I said, what are you doing on Sunday? He said, we’re so backed up that we have to go for it somehow. So we can’t count on mail actually coming the way it used to and with all of the material coming online, how can an organization work to stand out to have people actually read what it is they’re sending?

Farra Trompeter:
I mean, that’s sort of an ongoing question. I think that’s, crisis aside, right? There is so many things competing for attention, you know, while I’m on this call, my phone is, you know, I get notifications on my phone and my inbox is coming in and stuff’s going on with my Facebook feed, my Instagram feed Twitter, right? There’s so much trying to come at us, standing out is really hard. And that’s always been the case. I think, you know, Big Duck, so much of what we do. We focus on helping organizations use communications to achieve their mission. One of the biggest ways we do that we do a lot of work with fundraising campaigns and sometimes have the privilege of working with Amy and Andrea, but we also do a lot with branding. And for us, you know, the brand is really kind of what do people think and feel about your organization?

Farra Trompeter:
And if we can be clear about what they think and feel about us and then use that to reinforce, we use that idea and reinforced it in our communications. They’ll have a stronger impression of us. So first, you know, we believe you have to start with your brand. I think Sarah, Big Duck CEO and my business partner says, you know, we’ve got to build the house before we invite people in for the party. And I think before you try and do lots of things to stand out, you have to be really clear about what you’re trying to be known for and thought of, and then you can do things to stand out, right? And that may be about using communications channels in new and innovative ways. It may be about using just a few channels really well and going deep in them, I’d much rather see an organization with a lot of engagement on their Facebook page, then boost thousands and tens of thousands of likes.

Farra Trompeter:
And they post a comment and nobody responds, shares, engages with it. So I think standing out is first about clarifying who you are and then it is about really communicating in ways that your audiences want to hear. So many times we push out information that’s really important to our organization. And that’s not to say that we shouldn’t share that. But what do our supporters, our prospects, our staff, our board, our volunteers, what are they, what do they need from us? What will motivate them? You know, there’s a in marketing, we hear this, you know, WIFM, what’s in it for me. I can’t think of the acronym right now. WIFM, you know, what’s going on for me, we do have to answer that question. Simon Sinek has a famous TED talk and book about starting with why, if, if I can’t really get why I should care about your organization, that email you’re putting out that tweet, that Instagram story, it’s just never going to be viewed.

Farra Trompeter:
So why do you matter? What should I think of when I think of you and then how do I, how do I sprinkle that in what I’m doing? And again, I’d rather see a few organizations really clarify who they are and then get into their case for giving if we’re talking about fundraising, and think about the right channels, messages, messengers, who’s the person who’s name is going out on that post you’re making with, you know, a quote or who’s the email coming from, if you’re sending out an email appeal, all of that matters.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yeah. You know, Brian Cain is asked sort of the heart of the matter question here, and I have such sympathy for it. I always get stumped about what to say. He says, what should the message be? Right? And then that ties into what you say about building the house, right? What should the message be? And it’s confusing. It’s often confusing for organizations in normal times to be able to hone in on a clear message. And then you add the squirrel around it, of what’s going on now. And it gets even more confusing. There’s simple, simple exercises, or simple ways you can help people figure out what to say.

Farra Trompeter: 
Yeah. I mean, two off the top of my head, if we’re thinking about fundraising, which again, I’m going to assume most of you on this, on this webinar are really are either comms or development folks who are thinking about fundraising. We have a framework that we have shared in an ebook on major donor communications that I’ll share in the chat in a moment, inspire, inform, reassure, right? How are your materials, how is your campaign inspiring people? You know, we know we, one of the emotions, we always, we have to put people in, we have to get them excited about what we’re doing, or maybe we’re tapping into anger. Maybe we’re tapping into guilt. What’s what are we tapping into? What’s inspiring people to pay attention to this, then how are we informing them? Right. First we speak to the heart. Then we’ve got to speak to the brain.

Farra Trompeter:
What is your campaign or your organization doing? And then reassuring is where that credibility comes in, where that trust comes in, where you can say, you can invest that $50 at $50,000, that $5 million, whatever the ask is, in me. And I’m going to put it to good use our organization. So how can our, how can our communications do that? How does you know, not one single message, usually doesn’t do all three of those that maybe you think about your messages in a series or the different communications elements of a longer document, making sure they’re hitting that. The other exercise. And I think this comes, if I am remembering correctly as a book from Tom Ahearn, there’s an exercise. I believe that, that he may suggest, but basically answering the question. What, what would be lost if your organization went away? I think it’s really hard for us to think about our organization having to close its doors.

Farra Trompeter: 
I know there are some nonprofits out there who are facing that question right now. What would the world, what would New York, what would the world, what would South Africa, Canada, wherever we are, what would be lost if your organization no longer existed? And if you don’t have a good answer to that question, then that’s a problem, right? Why is your organization needed? What do you do that nobody else does? And again, you don’t have to use, you can flip it around when you communicate. You’re not going to say like, well, if the door, if, if all of a sudden we no longer existed this one, but you might say we do X, which is a positive way of framing, what you do. So those are just two ideas that come to mind. I think, hopefully for Brian’s question and for others, who may be wondering that.

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. You know what? I have a little story for you today about figuring out what to say as you might even probably all know that Amy and I both write a fair amount, right? Amy writes on her blog. I write on Capital Campaign Masters, and we write on Capital Campaign Toolkit, plus a variety of other things. And it’s not uncommon for us to have a conversation saying, what should we write about, we had one today, what should we write about? It’s not, you really have to kind of wrap your brain around it. And today we finally, we came up with an idea and I think it’s, I think interesting, which is, which is to try to think about, well, what do people, what are people in the middle of, what are they wrestling with? And let’s write about that. So Amy just wrote a terrific blog post about how to, what to do over these summer vacation months coming up, right? This, when kids are at home, when everybody has kids who aren’t going to summer camp, when everybody is distracted, you know what to do about your campaign during that time. And that, that really piggybacks, Farra, off what you were saying, which is to think about your audience and what are they likely to be wrestling with and see if you can write in a way that addresses, that addresses some of that anyway.

Farra Trompeter:
Yeah. And one of the things that I’ll, you know, another thing we often do, this is an idea actually borrowed from website development, best practices. If any of you have gone through the joy or pain of creating a website, you may have, at some point done something called a user persona, a user persona comes from sort of thinking about who’s coming to our website. What information do they need to access? What pages are they come on? What search terms might they use to find us and talks a lot about the path they might take through their website. We like to think even bigger than that and create audience personas and really get in, try to get into the mindset of who is the person we’re trying to convince, to persuade, to do something, whether it’s to give, to support, to host a fundraiser, or to buy tickets to our gala, whatever the action is, what do they need?

Farra Trompeter: 
What’s going to motivate them, where do they spend their time? And you can create those personas either through conversation, but even better, if you can create it based on actually talking to people who represent that segment or you have data that backs up when you’ve communicated to that segment, what you know about them. And so that way, when you are writing something or communicating to that audience, you can remind yourself of who you’re talking to. And that’s one extra, another exercise you can do to try and get yourself out of your mind and into someone else’s.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
The challenge to get out of one zone, little mental traps, and to imagine it’s a say, we fell into a lack of imagination. Sometimes I think we have to exercise our imaginations about what it is to be in someone else’s shoes, try to address that. I think that’s a wonderful, wonderful point. Thank you, Amy. Are you watching questions to that?

Amy Eisenstein:
The questions are pouring in. So let’s start with, or go to one from Pam. Pam’s asking what channels of communication are you seeing as, as being most effective. And I think that that’s something that every nonprofit struggles with in terms of there are hundreds of ways that you can communicate with your donors, with your supporters, with your community. And so, you know, I’m going to add to the question in terms of prioritizing. I think that that’s, you know, the heart of the question is, you know, which, how do you choose what the most effective channels are? Probably it’s different at every organization. But you know, how do they determine that and how do they choose?

Farra Trompeter: 
Yeah, I mean, that comes back to who is the audience we’re communicating with, and where are they? If I am communicating with a major donor audience that has been supporting my organization for 20 years, and the average age is 75, I’m doing a cool Instagram story may not be the number one way. I should be communicating with them, possibly picking up the phone and calling them, sending a handwritten note. I think there when we think about communication channels, these days, the conversation is really centered on digital. And I’m a big fan of using digital communications, but depending on who we’re trying to reach some of the more traditional channels, even email, which I think is seen as a traditional channel these days too, can be the right channel to spend time on. It also depends. So first and foremost is who are we trying to communicate with and where are they spending their time and want to hear from us?

Farra Trompeter:
And then what channels do we have some kind of presentation on? Do we already have a community built, a following? And, and what channels make sense, given the message we have to share because we can compose a 280 character tweet and that might make sense for us, but if our audience isn’t really connecting with us on Twitter, we don’t have an active community and following there, it’s like the tree falling in the woods and no one’s hearing it or whatever. So I think that there isn’t really a one size fits all. I will say that I think texting is underutilized still by many organizations. I give my name and cell phone number to pretty much anyone who asks. I’m one of those people. I like to see what people are communicating. And the number of text messages I get from organizations is pretty small.

Farra Trompeter:
And when I see them, it stands out. Now some of you may roll your eyes and say, Oh God, I don’t want, I don’t want my, you know, my cell phone inbox to be, or my texts on, or what you call that to me as cluttered as my email inbox and everything else. And that’s an important emotion. There are donors who are gonna feel that way, but many of us, you know, I see on a lot of websites, either on email signup or a donation page, click here to get text updates. And I think if you’re not collecting cell phone numbers, most people, that’s all they have now. You should be, and you should be thinking about whether you should have a texting program. And there are things you have to go through to set up an official texting program.

Farra Trompeter:
I’m not just talking about one-off texting Andrea and being like, Hey, how’s your day. I’m talking about sending, you know, planned Parenthood on Giving Tuesday now, for example, and they’re not an organization I work with, but they’re one I support and hear from on Giving Tuesday now, which was about a month ago, they sent the text out and said, Hey, we’ve got a challenge for every new monthly donor. We get, we’re going to get an extra $100 donated to us. And that came through, it was easy. It was on my phone. I hit a button. I went right to the donation page. And so I think just thinking about what it is, we’re trying to get people to do, who those people are and what they want to do it. And what’s the right channel, given the ask or the communication we’re sending out.

Farra Trompeter:
I do want to share just about the phone. I got, you know, I have been doing fundraising and communications for about 30 years now for nonprofits. And, and when I was in college in the nineties, I had a part time job as the telephone raiser or a telemarketer. And that’s how I got my start was in direct response fundraising and was doing telemarketing and direct mail, pre email and social media fundraising. And people can raise a lot of money and get a lot of support through the phone. But now it could be a good time just to call your donors and say, thank you or to check in on them and just say, how are you doing? You don’t have to make an ask. You can just say, hello. And we, a little while ago posted a simple script. You can use to thank donors. I’m going to post that in the chat too. That could be helpful.

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
Yeah. Farra, let’s turn it over for one second to the town hall. I’d love to know who is already using texts to communicate and what company or, or what system. And honestly, I don’t know about how to do it. So there may be, you have some companies that you recommend if people are looking to be able to start texting, but I’d love to also hear from everybody on, on, in the chatbox. If you are texting, you know, what company are you using? How’s it going? Just let us know really briefly. But Farra, who do you recommend?

Farra Trompeter:
Yeah, I haven’t set up a texting program for an organization in a while? But I’m sharing a group called Upland. I put that in the chat Uplandsoftware.com. You could check them out. What’s interesting about them is that they have programs, not just for text to give, but also updates. So for example, they work with the MTA here in New York about something updates about, you know, subway issues. So for some, some organizations, nonprofits, including are doing really interesting things where they’re sharing information or giving updates to people. So they work not just with fundraising programs. So that’s one I know of off the top of my head. I’m happy to do more research for folks if they have questions.

Amy Eisenstein:
Okay. Alright, great. Andrea, is there a question jumping out at you or should I ask some that I’m seeing with those, the early question about whether somebody should use this town hall format? I don’t mean talking about communications formats, right? This is an interesting one, actually that we’re doing right this minute. And I think somebody asked the question of whether they should use a town hall format to thank donors. I think that’s interesting, you know, it’s not social media, it’s not, it’s sort of very engaging and we can do it easily these days. What do you think about that?

Farra Trompeter:
That’s interesting. I’d have to think a little bit more about it. I probably would kind of combine it as a thank you and an educational or a cultivation tool. I might say we’re going to host a town hall just for our supporters where we are doing a very focused conversation around something, and we’re going to have two of our experts come on and share information. You can ask them questions, as a thank you to you. We want to give you access to this content, but I think donors probably need to be thanked one by one. So doing a group, thank you. Seems a little odd, but using it as a sort of, because you’re, because you’re one of our supporters we want to invite you to a very special conversation. We’re only 100 people are going to be invited. I might think about it that way, but I don’t know.

Farra Trompeter:
I’m curious, certainly I, I see Michelle just chatted in, we’re using town halls with our CEO as a way to inform donors about what’s going on during this time. Exactly. That kind of thing, where it’s almost like an exclusive invite-only, I’ve also seen organizations do a mix where they do that, then they share the recording of that on so everyone can see it, but it’s like exclusive to participate in live. I mean, there’s lots of different things you can experiment with. I think if you are doing some kind of town hall or webinar, another thing I’ve seen organizations do is really think about accessibility. So last week, the movement for Black lives had a, a virtual protest on Facebook. And it was a Facebook live event that you could in and watch. And there were different speakers and you could communicate in the chat like we’re communicating on the chat, but there were only certain speakers on there at the same time, they had a phone number you could call into for Spanish translation. And they had an ASL interpreter who, if anyone saw it was an incredible ASL interpreter who was, you know, so I think if you’re going to do these things really thinking about your supporters too, and making sure that the information you’re presenting is a way that can be seen and experienced by as many as possible.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Excellent. I think that’s great. I think we all should be doing this. That’s such an effective tool and you know, everybody can use it now. Even my 75-year-old parents can use Zoom, so, and they have in the last two months. So

Farra Trompeter: 
I tend to teach my 75, 76, and 82-year-old parents because we had a family Zoom the other day and we had to put one of them on FaceTime and like, hold the phone like this so they can see, it was a whole thing!

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
Oh yeah. A funny story recently of an older donor that I was working with and one of my campaign committee meetings, and I was watching her image and trying to figure out why I wasn’t seeing her face. And I realized I was seeing the inside of her ear. She forgot it wasn’t a phone call!

Amy Eisenstein: 
Yeah. Alright. So let’s see. So bar graphs and interesting questions about surveying, your, your supporters. Her specific question is about past gala participants to talk about this year’s event in terms of, in-person versus virtual. But I think in general talk more widely about surveying and what you might ask and what you might look to learn. Do you use surveying with your clients?

Farra Trompeter: 
Yeah, we do a lot of research through surveys, interviews, focus groups, group discussions. I think surveys can be a really effective tool. Someone, David had chatted out net promoter score, which we can talk about in a moment. Surveys can be a really helpful tool to get feedback on something, to engage a pretty wide group, to get information about something. I think if you want something pretty nuanced, you learn that more through a small group or a one on one conversation. I think if you’re going to survey something around that, almost like a poll, should we hold, you know, our, our gala is on October 3rd, you know, is that something, would you come to it? If it was in person, would you come to it? If it was online, that type of thing. I think that you have to be ready for the results.

Farra Trompeter: 
What if, you know, you’re thinking you want to do it in person and 90% of the people say they wouldn’t come and they’re going to do it, you know, are you sharing survey results publicly? So thinking about how you’re actually going to use the survey, how are you going to report back to people? I think the best use of surveys is when you actually are using it to make a decision and you can share it back, or you’re somehow tailoring someone’s experience based on the data you collect, when you learn something about them, net promoter score, David sort of chatted in, if you’ve see this mostly from, for profit companies, there’s a very simple question. How likely would you be to recommend? So let’s say you rented a car. I don’t drive again. This is the joy of living in, in New York City and other big cities.

Farra Trompeter: 
I don’t drive, but imagine I rented a car, you might say like, how likely would you be to recommend Avis or whoever the company is to another person? And you see it’s one to 10, one being not at all 10 being definitely or something like that. You see nonprofits using this now to how likely would you be to donate or to tell your friends to donate to this organization? And there’s this sort of, science to how people answer. And if people answer a certain number, they could be what’s called an attractor. And that means they could be saying something negative about you. You hope most of those answers are nine or 10. That means they’ll definitely likely do it. But net promoter score, if you Google, that can be a really helpful way to get a sense of how favorable and,  you you’re seen by different groups.

Farra Trompeter: 
So just to, I saw that come through the chat, in terms of what survey company do you use was another question. I’m sure folks have lots of answers. A few that we have used, first of all, Google, Google forms with a very simple survey tool can be good enough, depending on what you’re doing. It’s a free tool. It’s pretty easy to use. There are limits as to what you can do through the free tool. But depending on how many people you’re serving and what you need to collect and might be fine, SurveyMonkey has been around for a long time. There’s one, I like that’s come out a few years ago called Typeform. I mean, there’s a million survey tools out there, but those are just some,

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
So, you know, someone’s asked to we, haven’t an Anon. We have someone who asks anonymous questions every week. Now. I’m not sure if it’s the same anonymous attendee or not, but, but we do have an anonymous attendee every week and who asks good questions often the question is a more internal one about internal communications, where if you have a Board or you have an Executive Director who is pivoting the organization’s programming in accordance with what’s going on, but you have board members pulling in with conflicting opinions, right? How do you get everyone, the board and staff on the same page now? And that is a communications question, not an external communications question, but it’s a complicated internal communications question.

Farra Trompeter: 
I have a lot of opinions about board and staff dynamics, which may or may not be shared by everyone on this call. I have had the privilege of being on three boards. I’m currently the past chair of the board for group called NTEN, which focuses on nonprofits and technology. I believe that, the staff should be trusted to run an organization and make decisions. The board’s job is to give guidance and advice kind of where needed, but I don’t think it’s the board’s job to say what programs the staff should and should not do. And I feel pretty strongly about that. Even, you know, again, and one of the things I try to do when I’m on boards is try and move boards to more governance direction and less directing that said there are smaller organizations where the boards might be an extension of the staff where you, I talk to nonprofits all the time where they have a full-time staff of one, or they might not even have a full-time staff and it’s all volunteer-driven.

Farra Trompeter: 
So there certainly is that reality, but, I do think whoever is on staff was hired by the board. You know, the CEO is hired by the board, reviewed by the board to run the organization. And I think the, the CEO, the staff can certainly ask the board for feedback. And depending on the decision that’s being made and where the board may have expertise and connections, they could have a very valuable opinion, but I do think staff should be trusted to make those decisions. And I don’t know if that’s whoever anonymous is, if you in asking your question, if there’s anything more you want to add to it. But I could have a whole rant on boards and staff. You don’t want to open that can of worms.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
I always liked the, like the notion that we sort of believing in the notion really that board member boards really only do three things. They make sure that the organization’s programs are furthering the mission, right? That it is on track for the mission that doesn’t go off half-cocked, haywire, that they make sure that the money that’s raised is being spent inappropriate ways, right. And it isn’t being stolen or otherwise misused. And the third thing they do is to hire and fire the executive director period. Now, some you can enter that raising money. You could add to that cultivating donors. You can add all of that. And I think it takes some strength on the part of the Executive Director to hold that line, particularly when they’re tempted to bring in board members who have wealth, who don’t, who aren’t going to agree with, what they do, then that’s sticky.

Farra Trompeter: 
I have not been invited to be on that kind of board cause I can’t participate in that way. So maybe it would be a different experience.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
We should do a whole session on this topic, Amy!

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. So listen, it is time I think for our 32nd seventh-inning stretch, which we all do. So we’ll take a virtual or a literal or figurative stretch if yeah. We’re going to stretch exactly. And during our seventh-inning stretch this week, I just want to remind people that at the Capital Campaign Toolkit, Andrea and I and others on our team are available for a free strategy session. So if you want to talk about your, you know, as, as much as Farra is an expert in communications and branding, capital campaigns are all about communicating, you know, communicating your vision, your mission, your big project, talking with your donors. So if you’re planning a campaign, thinking about a campaign stuck in the middle of a campaign, not sure what to do in your campaign, please head on over to the Capital Campaign Toolkit website, right on the homepage. You can sign up, we’re calling it these days a pivot session because of COVID, but it’s really a strategy session to talk about your campaign. So if you want 30 minutes of free strategy with us about your campaign do head over there. So that is my seventh-inning stretch commercial. And now we will go back to our regularly scheduled program and so many good questions in the Q and A box! Andrea, which one’s catching your eye?

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
Some subject lines catch my eye, subject lines are, you know, some of the trickiest and most important writing that anybody ever does. And they are hard. You have some great advice about how to write subject lines. Elizabeth has asked us about a very specific subject line, but let’s just talk more generally. How do you think about subject writing, subject lines?

Farra Trompeter: 
Well, you know, I think, again, this, this helps, I think in some ways I got my start as indirect response fundraising before I got into broader fundraising, broader communications. When you do direct mail, you think about the outer envelope. This is all going to connect to the question in a minute. I promise. And with direct mail, you think about the teaser. You think about the where you put the reply address, whether or not there’s an open window, a close when there’s a whole thing that goes into the mail. For those of you who’ve worked in mail, you know what I’m talking about? Email similarly has an email envelope and it’s important. The subject line is like the teaser and the direct mail letter. It’s important to think. And if you’re not familiar with that, you know, you get a direct mail piece, that’s got like something scribbled on the front or in red, like matching gift, please open immediately.

Farra Trompeter: 
The subject line is important to think about, but before I go into that, it’s also important to think about the sender, right? The whole email envelope. Also, when you send the message, the sender, whose name does it show up from? Does it show it from Amy? Does it show it from Capital Campaign Toolkit? Does it show it from Amy, Capital Campaign Toolkit? I think I get so many messages where the subject line is like our June newsletter. It’s like, I don’t need you to tell me it’s June in the subject line, I’m getting this email on June, right? So you have to think about how all these things connect. Or if you say the emails coming from Capital Campaign Toolkit, and you say it’s our June Capital Campaign Toolkit newsletter. Don’t repeat things in the subject line, but other parts of the email envelope tell us.

Farra Trompeter: 
The other thing I think is, you know, there’s definitely best practices out there of the 45 to 55 characters. I can’t remember the exact amount. If you Google email, subject line, best practices, you’ll get that. There are lots of different experimentation you can do with subject lines using emojis, using first name and not using first name or personalizing in some other way. Like our donors in Brooklyn are caring about X, right? There’s lots of different things you could do with subject lines. What I think is exciting is the ability to do testing. And if your list is big enough you can do AB tests and try, try the same email with two different subject lines, send it to your whole list. If your list isn’t that big to get something statistically significant, you could try. There’s the, there’s the subject line. And then there’s what shows up in what’s called the preview text, the preview text doesn’t show up visibly in the email, but depending on the person’s email inbox reader like Gmail or Outlook, they’ll see a little teaser of copy.

Farra Trompeter:
It’s like invisible in the actual coding and you can play, or some organizations will send that email out. And then 12 or 24 hours later, we send the same email to anyone who didn’t open the first email and flip the subject line and the preview text. So there are lots of pieces you can think about the point being don’t think about the subject line, in isolation and consider testing different things you can do with it, but I’m happy to hear what the specific subject line was. You also want to avoid words that trigger spam filters and depending on what email tool you use, you can often have many of them have a built-in spam check, make sure that your email is not going to trigger and, and, you know, using things like free and all caps, for example, might, might put you in the spam folder.

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
Yeah, I think you, you know, like anything else, simple questions have complicated answers who would imagine there’s so much to know about it. Subject line is seven words. Some there is six or seven.

Farra Trompeter: 
Nothing is, I mean, that’s the thing is that things are only getting more complicated and more nuanced. I think if you’re in nonprofit communications and fundraising, I do believe the job gets harder every year. I say that with love and compassion, and I’m here with you because if you think like I got my first email address in college and just thinking about how much has changed in that time, and how, how we communicate, where we communicate the best practices, the number of communications channels just grows exponentially things aren’t going away. And so you have what you have to keep up with and understand that everything is layered, right.

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
It definitely has, is an interesting question in the chat, which I think lots of people are wrestling with today. And she says, when might it be too late to address something time-sensitive? And so for example, many brands are, are addressing the recent racial injustice news, some later than others. Right. Do you, if you don’t jump on it right away, does it feel like it’s old news and you’re behind the time, or does space clear away for your message to be better heard? I added that to your question, Sherry.

Farra Trompeter: 
Yeah. You know, there is not a, Sherry, I wish I could give you a one size fits all, you know, after three days it’s too late. I don’t have the answer to that. I think, it would be foolish to say that I think each organization, each crisis, each moment requires a different thing, a different response. I think first and foremost, if an organization, let’s say they didn’t comment something last week related to what’s going on right now and, and racism and, and they feel like it might feel too late to communicate this week. I might still communicate to my staff, to my board. I think we have to start in these moments of really clarifying how, how we’re responding to things internally by the people who know us best, making sure that feels right. And people are, are, responding or, or if they’re not responding, that’s their decision before we go out there publicly.

Farra Trompeter: 
So if it feels like it may be too late, your organization feels too late. I also think there’s some, there are some organizations getting a lot of pushback who are going out there publicly saying something, you know, take the NFL who, is sharing things about Black Lives Matter. And everyone’s like, where have you been for the past three years when you’ve, you know, fired players for taking a knee. And they’re finally starting to acknowledge that because of that response. You, you know, I think you have to think about what you’re putting out there in response to other things you’ve done. Whether those are public things that you’ve done within your organization. There was actually, there’s another group called the communications network I’m on their list serve. And someone shared today. I’ll find that if I can and put in the chat, a slide show of corporate responses to Black Lives Matter with reactions, how some have been really negative, because, because of that, because it’s inauthentic because it’s, you know, actions do speak louder than words and I’d much rather see an organization change what it does then put a statement out.

Farra Trompeter: 
So I think for those who might be feeling like it’s too late, I’d start by asking, are there things it’s never too late to do something on these issues? And in fact, we’re going to have to be doing things we have over 400 years to make up for. It’s going to take a long time to get to where we need to be. So I think there still will be room to talk about these things. So I don’t know. I don’t know, Sherry, I’m sorry. I don’t have a clear answer, but just that it is some it’s important question to keep asking.

Amy Eisenstein: 
Yeah. I think that I’d like to echo that authenticity is key here. So you may say in your communication two or three weeks later, we’ve been wrestling with this. You know, we had to, we wanted to check in with our community and our donors and our staff and our supporters before officially responding because this issue is so big and so important that we didn’t, you know, that we didn’t have the answer at the beginning.

Amy Eisenstein: 
So we weren’t, you know, so something like that I think is perfectly appropriate to say, but you do want to be authentic. Another thing in terms of all crisis management at your organization. You know, one thing that I think some organizations have probably most don’t is a process for responding to crises. So, you know, maybe it’s your Executive Committee, but maybe it’s a different committee that you have established in advance to say, all right, we don’t know what the crisis will be. We don’t know what emergency we’ll be responding to, but this is the process we’re going to take it through. So that, that we’re, you know, as on top of it, as we can base some things, something like that,

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
Farra here, here, we’re going to give you a little, your mind a little rest. We have a couple of questions that I think will be easy for you to answer. So one is, can you suggest a platform to send personalized bulk mails?

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
Well, I was going to throw that out to the town hall too. So what do you mean we’ll let, we’ll let Farra answer that, but what does everybody here use to send personalized bulk mail or email? I think the question is about both, but platform. So yeah, so I’d love to see from the town hall David saying HubSpot. But anyways, Farra, go ahead.

Farra Trompeter: 
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think, people are using different marketing automation tools. So HubSpot Marquetto, Pardot, Constant Contact, looking at and reading off what people at MailChimp campaign monitor, you know, most of the tools you’re using donation processing tools like Bloomerang, DonorPerfect. I mean, a lot of these tools out there will let you do that in terms of sending personalized mailings, you know, that I don’t know the answer to, but it looks like some folks are sharing some ideas for them.

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
And Lee has asked the question, how big does your email list need to be, to make testing worthwhile?

Farra Trompeter: 
I believe you need 10,000 for statistical significance. And then you wrote, so usually organizations who were doing a lot of testing have a pretty big list, so they can test for that amount, then roll out to the rest of the list. I need to double-check that that’s number I have in mind. From the last time I researched that, right,

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
I want to answer one question here and I’ll do it briefly, but have strong feelings about it. Barbara has asked our organization is looking to add racial diversity to their board. Do you have any suggestions? And I really do have a suggestion about that, which is, which is that, that it is a serious mistake to ask a person of color, to serve on your board just because they are a person of color, unless the board is willing to look more broadly at what it is the board stands for and why they want diversity and what that would look like. And I think given what’s happening in the country, now, there is no better time to have a serious conversation on your board. And even to read some books that would inform the people on your board about issues of diversification and racial justice, to look at it at a much deeper level than let’s just go get a Black person to serve on our board. And I think we have made in the nonprofit world, we have made such a mistake over the years to, to invite someone because they are a person of color and then never give them a real seat at the table. And I, I think the time for that should be over a period, how’s that, you know what I believe,

Amy Eisenstein:
Alright, Farra, you know what we are getting towards the end of our session, I would love to give you a few minutes to talk about key takeaways. What do you think the most important things that, you know, if you’re advising either a new client or a longterm client, you know, what should they be doing maybe in the next few weeks, what should they be doing in the coming months? Or what should they, what should they be doing sort of in the coming year? So thinking about really short term, middle term, longterm, you know, what’s your advice for organizations and especially those, I think who can’t afford somebody like Big Duck, but you know, what, what should organizations be doing? What are your most important recommendations that everybody focused on right now?

Farra Trompeter: 
Yeah, I mean, I think, I think for all of those, I’d go back to like centering your audience and really, listening, listening and learning, what is what’s going on in your community? What are they saying? What are they sharing? And that may be an important thing to start by doing right now, especially on issues of racial justice and racism. I think as you’re thinking, you know, just starting with the biggest question about years, one of the things that we have been advocating for is for people to think about it today, Tina tomorrow team. So you’re, it might be as much as dividing your brain and giving yourself time to think about today and tomorrow, or having different people, but you can’t lose sight of the big picture. You’ve got a strategic plan or a theory of change or something that your organization is called to do.

Farra Trompeter:
You don’t want to lose sight of that just in responding to all these crises. So having someone, some group of people, some time to say, what were the things, where do we want to be in June 2021? What do we need to do to get there? And understanding, I think pivot has, as you use for your calls is really the word of this COVID crisis. I think I’ve used or heard that word more than any other where do we need to pivot? Where do we need to respond? So someone’s, you still have to be thinking about where am I supposed to be in a year or two. And how do I make sure I’m still trying to get there. Maybe you only are able to ask that question every 90 days as you’re knee-deep and immediate response but don’t lose sight of that.

Farra Trompeter: 
I, you know, year-end season, holiday year-end season, for those of you working on smaller dollar gifts, I don’t know what the 2020 year-end season is going to be like this year in light of everything else that’s been happening. But I think thinking about that and thinking about what you’re going to do, and I think it’s never too early to start planning that, in light of what else you’re doing. And I think in the immediate weeks if you’re not already listening and following peer organizations, I always recommend, and I’m surprised at how many people don’t do it, make a $10 $5, whatever it is, donation to three to five organizations that your donors are also giving to follow those organizations on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, whatever the channel is, see what they’re putting out. Because chances are someone gives to your organization, they’re also giving to, to, to at least one of those, what else are they seeing? What else are they saying? And I think now could be a good time for listening and learning.

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
What a great idea, did we get tunnel vision and only look at one look at one’s own belly button. Exactly. Not to see what others, what others are doing. You know, I’m, I’m so aware that that for those of us in this country and really around the world where it’s such a, such a time of change and disruption and challenge and things that we always thought would be the way they are, they were, are not. And I think that’s an incredibly right moment for us to be willing, to have conversations with our board members, with our staff members that are of a different time than we usually have that I think to pretend like it’s business as usual and the way we do our businesses missing a huge opportunity.

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
And, that, that, what’s hard about doing that is that is that none of us are quite sure, right. We don’t know the answers. So we often don’t know the answers, but I believe sort of in my gut that the answers are in the questions you ask. And if you have the courage to ask questions and to invite a diverse group of people in to discuss questions that you have, you may find yourself coming up with answers both personally, and as an organization that you wouldn’t have thought of before. So I, I want to acknowledge how, how anxiety-producing it can be and how hard it is sometimes to be vulnerable, which is what this takes to open yourself to the opinions of others, but how incredibly sort of life-changing. And, and that times are seldom more powerful than, or have more opportunity than times like this.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
And I’m old enough, they were, Amy and Farra, were making light of 75 year old people. I turned 75 last week. And I have to tell you, it all, all those years, all the ups and downs in society that I have, that’s true. These are the most remarkable times if you, if you have the courage to, to use them and Farra, it has been a total pleasure to have you with us today.

Farra Trompeter: 
Yes. So if you want to find me on Twitter or LinkedIn, well, all the channels, I don’t know of any other Farra Trompeters out there. I’m lucky to be that one and have a unique name. But I’m just Farra, F as in Frank, A R R A on Twitter and LinkedIn, and you can also email me F A R R [email protected] And thank you again for having me. It was nice to meet all of you today.

Amy Eisenstein: 
All right. Thanks so much. It was great as always, alright, everybody have a great week. We’ll, we’ll talk to you next week.

Andrea Kihlstedt: 
Stay healthy. Be thoughtful, be heartfelt.

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Farra Trompeter

Farra Trompeter is the Partner, Chief Growth Officer at Big Duck

More about Farra