• Few nonprofit organizations were as visible and effective during the recent partial government shutdown as the National Parks Conservation Association. NPCA mobilized its supporters, wrote Op-Eds, and informed the public about the serious effects of the purely political shutdown: 21,000 national park staff were furloughed, and local communities lost as much as $30 million every day the parks were closed. The 401 national parks were already deeply underfunded before the shutdown, so now that they’ve reopened, NPCA is turning its attention back to pushing Congress to appropriate more funds for national parks. For more information, visit NPCA’s media center on its website.
• We’re thrilled to report that the League of Women Voters’ donor/supporter file is at its highest count since 1992! This is great news, especially since so many voters are discouraged about government gridlock, dissatisfied with the job Congress is doing, and disgusted by the spate of voter suppression laws recently enacted. Clearly, Americans trust the League to help improve the situation! The League reached this impressive milestone by bucking the trend of declining supporters through its use of best practices and continuing its donor acquisition investment during challenging times.
• The American Film Institute is gearing up for its spectacular AFI Fest in Hollywood from November 7-14. Visit AFI’s website to learn more about the Festival and to watch trailers from movies that will be screened. Tickets and airfare to this annual and popular event were given away as part of AFI’s Red Carpet giveaway, giving one special member a trip to remember!
• With Thanksgiving fast approaching, Farm Sanctuary is once again marking the holiday with its Celebration for the Turkeys. Visit Farm Sanctuary for information on this and FS’s other unique November events. We’d also like to give a shout out to Farm Sanctuary for winning Special Mention honors in Fundraising Success Magazine’s 2013 Gold Awards for Fundraising Excellence.
• Looking for a fun, cultural lunch hour in Washington, DC? Throughout the fall, the National Museum of Women in the Arts holds brief, free gallery talks at lunchtime. Next up on November 18: Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Visit NMWA.org for more information.
• The National Women’s Health Network holds its 6th-annual Barbara Seaman Awards for Activism in Women's Health dinner on November 20 in Washington, DC. This year, NWHN honors Nancy Boothe, who works on the front lines of women’s health care, and political analyst and writer Zerlina Maxwell. For more details, go to: http://nwhn.org/event2013
• The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts recently announced the 36th annual Kennedy Center Honors recipients – five deserving and talented artists who will be celebrated for their contribution to American culture through the performing arts. This year’s honorees are opera singer Martina Arroyo; pianist, keyboardist, bandleader, and composer Herbie Hancock; pianist, singer, and songwriter Billy Joel; actress Shirley MacLaine; and musician and songwriter Carlos Santana. The Kennedy Center and President and Mrs. Obama will pay tribute to these extraordinary honorees at a Gala on December 8 – but since most of us can’t make it to this spectacular show in person, we can see all the highlights when it’s broadcast on CBS on December 29 at 9:00 p.m. Learn more about the honorees and the Gala celebration at the Kennedy Center’s website.
• Hurry! The American Horticultural Association’s online auction has begun, so visit AHS’s website to bid on once-in-a-lifetime garden tour packages offered at some of the most beautiful public gardens across America. From George Washington’s Mount Vernon, to the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center – and many more – each garden’s creators and leaders will take auction winners behind the scenes on a personal tour. Auction proceeds will support AHS’s outreach efforts to children and gardeners of all ages and skill levels. Bidding closes at noon on October 27, so don’t miss out.
• Save the date! The National Museum of Women in the Arts is holding a trunk show for acclaimed jewelry designer Diane Liljestrom from October 31 through November 1, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Ms. Liljestrom will be on hand to discuss her unique designs and help you choose the piece that’s right for you. Visit NMWA’s website for more information and to see some examples of this exquisite jewelry.
• The National Museum of African American History and Culture* will opens its doors on the National Mall in 2015, but until then, the National Museum of American History has devoted a gallery to the NMAAHC, to offer important and fascinating exhibits. From December 14 through September 7, 2014, the NMAAHC Gallery will present Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963. As described on the Museum’s website, In 2013 the country will commemorate two events that changed the course of the nation – the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the 1963 March on Washington…[This exhibition] explores the historical context of these two crucial events, their accomplishments and limitations, and their impact on the generations that followed.
• The National Museum of the American Indian* is the site of a terrific ongoing show: Grand Procession: Dolls from the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection, open from now until January 5, 2014. As NMAI describes it, this exhibition celebrates Native identity through 23 colorful and meticulously detailed objects that are much more than dolls. Traditionally made by female relatives using buffalo hair, hide, porcupine quills, and shells, figures like these have long served as both toys and teaching tools for American Indian communities. And on Saturday, October 26, visit the Museum to experience a centuries-old tradition – the annual Día de los Muertos ("Day of the Dead"). This celebration originated in Latin America, and is a time to commemorate the lives of the dearly departed and welcome the return of their spirits. This lively event is a chance to learn about and participate in ancient practices, including pre-Hispanic and Spanish customs. Check out NMAI’s website for more information on its Día de los Muertos events.
• The Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference always gives us the opportunity to soak up lots of insights and information from our friends and colleagues in the industry. And we’re proud to report that Avalon staff and clients were out in force at this year’s Bridge. Galapagos Conservancy President Johannah Barry presented an inspiring keynote; Laura Connors, Deputy VP of Membership for the National Parks Conservation Association, Nancy Sturm, former Senior Director of Development for the League of Women Voters, now Managing Director of Development at Common Cause, and our VP of Analytics, Rick Malchow wowed a full house with their America’s Next Top Model presentation on how data modeling improves results; and our VP of Marketing, Mark Grayer and Fundraising Program Manager Bill Tucker led a session called Political Fundraising/Engagement…When You are NOT Running for President. You can watch Johannah Barry’s keynote address, and all of the other presentations from this year’s Bridge here.
• The American Horticultural Society holds its 20th annual Gala on September 21 – promising to be another spectacular evening at AHS’s gorgeous River Farm in Virginia. As described on AHS’s website: To benefit the stewardship of River Farm and the AHS's outreach programs, this year's gala "Moonlight in the Garden" will include a formal dinner, silent auction, online auction, live jazz, and moonlit strolls through the gardens. Avalon client, U.S. Senator Mark Warner and his wife Lisa Collis are the honorary chairs of the event. For more information and tickets, visit the AHS website.
• The Smithsonian museums like the National Museum of the American Indian are free every day, but to share that spirit, Smithsonian Magazine is encouraging museums all over the country to participate in Museum Day Live! This year’s Museum Day Live! is on Saturday, September 28, when participating museums charge no admission to anyone presenting a Museum Day Live! ticket. To learn more about this fantastic event, and to get your free ticket, visit Smithsonian Magazine’s website.
There’s a lot to cover this month, with Avalon’s clients so busy creating all kinds of exciting spring and summer events and projects.
At Avalon, we’ve often found that the most effective ways to encourage donors to upgrade their giving are often also the simplest. Here are ten that, time and again, work for our clients.
1. Ask. I know, I know. It sounds too obvious to be true, but very few members will volunteer to upgrade their support – so ASK THEM!
2. Personalize your upgrade ask. Base ask strings on the donor’s highest previous gift, and increase from there. Standard ask string = HPC/1.5HPC/2HPC, but don’t be afraid to experiment with others, like HPC/1.25HPC/1/5HPC. Highlight the upgrade ask with a circle or asterisk and note: “A gift of this amount would really help!”
3. Upsell in renewals. Take advantage of the attention donors give to renewals, and list new benefits they can experience at higher giving levels. Don’t suggest a downgrade option – just offer “Other” with a blank line.
4. Use a DM/TM/EM multi-channel campaign. Upgrades may not happen on the first ask, so make it a conversation — invite donors to increase their support through multiple channels.
Here’s what some of our clients have been up to recently:
Photo taken at the 2013 Hope Awards: (from left) Amy Padre, Amelia Stanley, and Kristen Shank Finn.
Recently, Allison Porter, Dara Igersheim, and I attended the 2013 American Museum Membership Conference (AMMC) in Atlanta, which draws museum staff from all over the country, and from varying sizes of museums, for a packed agenda on all facets of membership.
One of the areas discussed at this year’s conference was how, as membership professionals, we are also customer service professionals, seeking to acquire, engage, and retain our customers/members/donors – something arts organizations, in particular, do well.
Here’s what some of Avalon’s clients have been up to lately:
National Parks Conservation Association President Tom Kiernan applauded President Obama this spring for using the Antiquities Act to name three new National Monuments. Not only do these new monuments provide thousands of acres of open space for everyone to enjoy, but the monuments also honor prominent figures in American history.
Here’s a wrap-up of what some of Avalon’s clients have been up to lately:
One of the puzzles that keeps us all guessing in the field of nonprofit fundraising is what it is that motivates donors to give. Long or short letter? Benefits? Envelope teasers? Institutional messaging? Unfortunately, as we all know, the only way to find out is through consistent, ongoing testing.
Any marketer who’s tried guessing which test will outperform the control, knows that in reality, no one can say every time what motivates donors. Not even donors! But we can make some educated guesses, especially when it comes to arts donors.