A passionate case for monolithic brand architecture

Many local non-profits have backed their way into a branding problem.  And most remain unaware.  As a charity grows, multiple programs develop and services are added.  That’s a great thing!  But those services splinter into multiple names, different buildings, and even develop unique identities within the organization.  Some non-profits end up with more brands than Proctor & Gamble!  Problem is, there isn’t nearly the same kind of advertising budget to support them.

how local non-profits have backed their way into a branding problem

Local non-profits haven’t had a reason to give much attention to their brand.  Until recently, competition was low and donors were generous (ah, the salad days…).  So there was no real need to define what makes one charity unique from another.  The cause was the brand – Homelessness, hunger, animal welfare, disaster relief.  Without a defined brand, and with no advertising to support it, donors really gave to the cause, and the charity was largely just the means to address social change.

Enter the boomers.  With a heart to do good and a desire for action, the amount of registered non-profit 501c3s skyrocketed.  Over the last 25 years, registered 501c3 non-profits in the US rose from just under 600,00 in 1994 to more than 1.5 million in 2017.

Competition for donations has gone through the roof too.  That same generation, acting as donors, demand much more from a charity they might choose to support.  “What are your outcomes?  Are you fiscally responsible?  Can I come for a tour or volunteer?  What makes you unique and innovative?”

All this means that there is an explosion of nonprofit organizations, all competing for more demanding donors.  That is not a bad thing.  Actually, these are the exact reasons why brands are built!  A brand gives a donor a reason to choose.  Your brand lives in the space between what you promise to do and what people perceive you to do.  And it takes work to manage that.  But local nonprofits, stewarding very limited resources, typically do little to establish a brand identity, create brand equity, or advertise to support their brand in the market.

It’s one thing to not manage your brand.  But it’s another to do harm.  And that’s what happens too many times when nonprofit organizations expand.  For instance, I can think of one homeless shelter, I’ll call them City Mission, who launched a women and children’s shelter, and then called it Dorcas House.  Besides the fact that in the Bible, even Dorcas wanted to be called Tabitha… this can create confusion for both donors and staff.  Multiple names and even disparate identities hamper the precious few moments a charity might receive to establish brand equity.  If you have different names for different areas, chances are most donors don’t even realize they are part of the same organization.

To give an example of an alternative solution, of a monolithic brand architecture, take a look at Fed Ex.  All of their services reinforce who they are and what they do.

how local non-profits have backed their way into a branding problem

Not to mention the super cool (hidden) arrow between the E and the x – – which speaks to who they are as a company.

So if you are a local nonprofit about to expand and add more services, congratulations!  Just think before you name.  It may not be as thrilling to go with for instance, City Mission Family Center instead of say… Dorcas House…. But I guarantee with a limited marketing budget, a monolithic brand architecture will help you build your presence and strengthen who you are in the community.

A great first step is to define your brand.  Run market analysis and discover brand perceptions that donors have about who you are and what they think you do.  I know a great marketing agency who loves to help!

Warning: You’re Losing Money by Not Reactivating Donors

We all have our favorite charities, and our giving behavior is very personal.  We may give in response to a special need or call-to-action, or perhaps we feel motivated or compelled by an experience.  Regardless of the reason, we understand that it is important to give to support the missions of organizations we care about.

Knowing how much an organization depends on donor support, one might think donors should keep track of giving behavior to prevent themselves from lapsing.  But, donors don’t know they are lapsing or lapsed.  It is the organization’s job to motivate another gift to keep the donor current in their support.  Often times, however, the organization gives up once a donor lapses in an effort to manage their ROI.  This is where your losses begin.

I recently had a partner ask us to stop communicating with their donors who have not given within the last 25 months or more.  Understanding their short-term goal to reduce cost by eliminating lower-performing segments, I still advised against it.  You see, in the year prior, we reactivated 11% of their file from that segment.  Had those donors not been communicated with, they would have surely lapsed into their 37+ month file and then we would be challenged to refill that population with new donors.  Acquiring new donors is competitive and more expensive than reactivating donors who have already shown that they have an affinity for the organization.  Here are three things you can do to encourage a lapsing donor to renew their support and reduce your losses

Change your communication strategy

How many times have you communicated with this donor since their last gift?  Was it by email, mail, or phone … and what did you ask them to do or give?  Have you properly acknowledged their gifts?  Consider this and modify your approach.  Ask them to support an initiative that they have supported in the past.  Ask them for less money than you have been asking them for — just get them back on your active file.

Call the Donor

There is nothing wrong with calling a donor.  Even if you don’t want to ask for a gift, call to thank the donor.  Invite them for a tour, an event or to volunteer, just get them to reengage. Or, run a phone campaign with a telemarketing partner — these very effectively reactivate donors.

Provide the donor with a special opportunity

Let these donors know about all the great things the organization has accomplished with their past support.  Provide them with a vision for the future and an opportunity to take part in making this a reality.

Keeping your donors engaged and giving is the most important way to continue funding your programs.  What strategies have you used to successfully reactivate lapsed donors?

Allegiance to the Pledge – Loyal Monthly Partners Generate Regular, Reliable Revenue.


The Northeast Ohio Division of The Salvation Army (NEOSA) has built a strong, robust ministry that serves the most vulnerable families in the region. But like most nonprofits, the Division was looking for a way to shore up fundraising amid the ebb and flow of seasonal support. Armed with a loyal donor base that believes in their cause, the NEOSA Division seemed primed for a strategy that would generate additional revenue that is stable and dependable.


Employing Grizzard’s pledge strategy, the NEOSA Division began offering donors opportunities to sign up as a monthly partner. Monthly partners are faithful donors who commit to give ongoing gifts in the amount of their choosing — donations that are automatically transferred from their credit card or checking account each month. As part of the strategy, these valuable donors continue to receive special updates, appeals, and newsletters, all to ensure meaningful affirmation and cultivation.


Grizzard’s pledge strategy essentially runs itself, and the benefits are many…

  • Reliable revenue
  • Increased donor value
  • Increased donor retention
  • Decreased solicitation costs

For the NEOSA Division, the monthly partner program has been a big win:

Monthly partners have given a cumulative average of 10% of all gifts for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Click here to download the pdf.

9 Ways to Show Your Donors Love

Donor retention, also known as donor love, has been hogging the nonprofit spotlight lately. Why?

Because outside of doing the work your nonprofit exists to do, retaining donors is THE most important thing your organization can do to ensure your impact is felt for generations to come.

Whether you rely on a handful of major donors, a massive group of small–dollar donors, or a blend of the two, every single one matters. But retaining these donors – your nonprofit’s lifeline – is proving to be tough work.

Think about your relationship with your donors as a good, old fashioned courting.

When a donor chooses to support you, it’s significant, whether it’s a $10 gift or a $1,000 gift.  They chose YOU.  Out of all the clutter, everything else vying for their attention, all of the mail and email and billboards and commercials, YOU caught their eye.

Now you, at the beginning of the courtship and being the good suitor you are, are tasked with doing everything that you can to make them feel appreciated, informed, excited and, yes, loved.

Show Your Donors Love

So how are you doing that?  Are you …

  • Calling them to thank them for their very first gift? For choosing YOU?
  • Sending them a heartfelt thank you note, written by hand?
  • Gifting them with a Welcome Kit?
  • Quizzing them on how they want to communicate in this courtship, and then, actually fulfilling their communication wish?
  • Asking questions about their feelings for you and your relationship via a phone call, letter or email?
  • Providing them with reasons to love you even more via stories and/or videos that exemplify all of the wonderful things that they help you do?
  • Inviting them over to your place for a date? Giving them a tour?  Sharing a firsthand look at how important their generosity is?
  • Recognizing your anniversary every year – that date when they first turned an eye to you?
  • And then thanking them again? And again?  And … again?

Your donors are fickle and, be warned, your courtship never ends. It takes diligence and persistence.  You would not be YOU without them – their continued support of your endeavors, their participation in your walks and galas, and, most importantly, their advocacy for your organization.  Think about the early days of a relationship in which you are head over heels for some guy or gal and how not only are you shouting from the rooftops about how wonderful they are, but they are right beside you, shouting, too.

Your suitor/supporters want a personal, human, and meaningful connection with your cause. Don’t you think it’s about time you put more focus on ensuring that they feel the love?

How Donors Prefer to Give

If you knew the world would end tomorrow, what would you do?

Quit your job and party hearty? Go into a deep gloom? Spend everything you’ve got on one last big splurge?

Martin Luther, sixteenth century theologian, is reputed to have said, “If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.”

Cheer up! This post is not about the coming apocalypse, nor is it a sermonette. It’s just a reminder about the importance of planning – and planting – for the future, no matter how things look right now.

If you have a pulse, you will have seen studies documenting the decline in new donor acquisition. It is dramatic and cuts across virtually all nonprofits. Some have concluded that the end of the direct mail world has come. No sense fighting it. Give up.

While it is of course essential to diversify your acquisition strategies across multiple channels, don’t lose sight of the value of direct mail. Costs continue to rise, response rates continue to drop – and direct mail-acquired donors continue to convert at a much higher rate than online-acquired. We typically see 12-month conversion rates of 50-55% for DM-acquired, compared to 20-25% for online acquired. And they stick with you and deliver value over time.

Acquisition is an investment in your organization’s future. It is a major expense, so it pays to be smart about it. DM testing can deliver rewards. We just tested a new package – a creative concept that had proven a winner in online market research – and it delivered a 10% lift in response among DM prospects.

There is no doubt that donors’ channel preferences are changing.

However, when you take into account age, valuable information emerges.

Source: Grizzard’s DonorGraphicsTM media usage study

So put away the party hats and cancel the shopping spree. It’s time to go plant a tree. We’ll need the paper for a few more years, at least.

Grizzard’s Newsletter Strategy Reaps Big Rewards

Grizzard's Newsletter Strategy Reaps Big Rewards


San Diego Humane Society had developed a magazine self-mailer which they sent out regularly to a large segment of donors and prospects. Each issue was aesthetically pleasing, filled with articles about how the organization was making a difference for animals, and featured images of cute, furry friends. Unfortunately, the magazine was also expensive. Most issues were barely breaking even.


Grizzard recommended a retooling of the magazine to a less expensive newsletter format. Our creative team developed an 8-page newsletter featuring a separate remit and a reply envelope. But perhaps the biggest difference from the magazine was the shift in tone. Rather than speaking to the organization’s achievements, all of the newsletter content was intentionally designed to be donor-centric — focusing on the impact the donor is making to help animals.


Upon mailing the first two issues, there was no question Grizzard’s newly developed newsletter was the clear winner:

  • 465% increase in year-overyear newsletter revenue.
  • 10% of all mail revenue for FY16.
  • 222% ROI for the first two issues!

Click here to download the pdf.

What to Expect in 2017

The Agitator is my favorite blog and a daily “must-read” every morning. Their November 9th post titled, “What’s Next?” was posted the day after the election.

It states: “What does the election of Donald Trump mean? Of course, no one really knows. Fear, anger, hope, disappointment, rage and joy bounce off our collective emotional wall. Those of us in progressive advocacy fundraising view President-elect Trump as the Orange Menace. Civil liberties, civil rights, environmental, community organizing and a host of others are already laying plans to mitigate the coming damage by rallying their donors.

‘Let the Resistance Begin’ is our battle cry. A repeat of the same feelings we had when Ronald Regan swept into office in 1980. The result? An enormous wave of liberal support sprang up to meet that “menace.” In 1980, the last big political revolution in the U.S., advocacy groups opposed to the Reagan agenda mobilized, rallied their donors and constituents and enjoyed the best fundraising and growth decade since their founding.”

But what about those organizations not politically motivated like those in social services, animal rights, healthcare, higher education and the arts? I think 2017 is showing signs that the outlook is positive.

Giving typically trends with the GDP and the current GDP is the highest it’s been in two years. According to business and finance publisher Kiplinger, expect GDP growth in 2018 and 2019 to be spurred by the fiscal stimulus of tax cuts and infrastructure spending. Instead of the 2.2% growth we previously expected for those years, we now look for the economy to expand by 2.5% to 3%, depending on how much of Trump’s program is actually approved and whether Congress enacts other spending cuts to reduce the deficit. Strong consumer spending, driven by wage and employment gains, plus the buoyant stock market, is likely to be the main pillar supporting the economy next year. And with consumer confidence at a 13 year high, charitable giving should remain strong in 2017.

Make 2017 a Commitment to Stewardship

You made it through the end of the year! I hope all your planning produced a record December fundraising season?

As you look to 2017, I encourage you to put stewardship at the forefront of your planning. Once again, my annual giving test showed very disappointing results.

The key takeaway from my test this year showed that most organizations steward all donors the same way. While not a significant test size, I did find that most organizations I gave to had the same stewardship approach whether I gave $25, $500 or $1,000. And yes, I gave multiple gifts at these levels to the same organizations using different names to track the results.

Here is my suggested action plan:

  • Make a gift to your organization and monitor the stewardship process.
  • If you must, prioritize the segments:
    • Caseload Donors, New donors, $250+ donors, top 1,000 highest value donors
    • Multi-year, upgraded donors
    • Reactivated donors
  • Improve your thank you letter with stronger storytelling. This is the perfect time to demonstrate impact and how the donor made a difference and solved a problem.
  • Make the thank you letter about what the donor did, not the organization. Use “you” language three times as much as you use “we” language.
  • Create a stewardship map that details activity (i.e., letter, phone call, welcome kit, etc.), timing, purpose and content.
  • Make it a priority and communicate the importance to your development team.

Email me if you would like to see an example of a stewardship map. I can be reached at chip@grizzard.com

If you make this a priority, you will see higher retention rates, upgraded giving and more loyalty from your donors. And that will take some pressure off your acquisition efforts.

Make it a New Year’s resolution and let me know how it goes.

You’ll Never Guess What Happened with Digital Media in 2016

It seems like every year gets more and more crazy when it comes to the world of integrated marketing, especially in the digital arena. There are always new products, new strategies and always a few new restrictions that throw everyone for a loop.

But overall, 2016 was a good year for integrated marketing and those that invested will likely see a great return on their investment.

Now I’m a little biased, but from my perspective, digital is becoming a critical component that must be included in your artillery. Though some channels serve to build brand awareness, there seems to be a shift to strategies that deliver an effective ROI.

Here are a few things that I noticed this year that should help with your 2017 planning:

Narrow your focus, reach your limits, and then expand:

Every year, we hear the same thing. “I want to try this new thing I see everyone doing.” Though there might be some validity in testing new strategies every year, you can really only do so much based on your budget. And based on that budget, you still need to start with those strategies that are going to get you that ROI your boss is going to be looking for. Start out with things such as paid search that you know will bring in money. Once you get a feel for how much budget you can spend on that, you can expand to some display and social advertising.

Social isn’t just about being social anymore:

If you had asked me five years ago if social would play a big role in fundraising, I would have laughed, but as times have changed and the demographic for some of the most popular networks have changed, so has that theory. Social now has become one of the main sites that people go to, not only to keep up with their friends, but to find events, news and even offers. Though it still doesn’t generate as much revenue as some channels, we’re seeing a trend here. And in this context, Facebook is still king.

Test, but don’t over test:

In a digital world, not bound by the limits of a standard direct mail or out-of-home piece, we have the flexibility to test messaging and creative. But don’t over do it. Sure, when you are serving millions of impressions you don’t want to have stale creative after a while, but you also still need it to have some recognition. Limit your testing to a few variables, if you have too many factors at one time, it will divide your responses and you’ll be stuck trying to make decisions that aren’t based on any statistical validity. Instead, test one thing, find a winner and then go to the next test.

Finally, the best thing that you can do for digital integration is to be doing it year-round. Building your audiences year round and testing your message could really boost results during November and December. Yes, that probably means budgeting more throughout the year and being more dynamic each month, but that’s the reality of the world we live in now. Donors are going to give where they want, when they want, so you need to keep trends in digital media top of mind.

IP Targeting Boosts Event Participation…and Revenue

IP Targeting Boosts Event Participation...and Revenue

Strategy matches participant files with IP addresses for targeted online messaging.


In the fall of 2015, Michigan Humane Society wanted to lift revenue by increasing the number of participants in their annual Mega March for Animals event. MHS viewed past participants as their primary target and wondered how to reach these folks in a way that would be both successful and cost-effective. Grizzard seized the unique opportunity to communicate with this audience via extremely targeted digital communications.


Grizzard proposed an IP Targeting strategy that worked in tandem with two already-strong MHS campaigns and focused on participants dating back to 2011.Running the clients’ existing participant file against multiple databases, our expert digital team was able to match names and physical addresses with IP addresses. This made it possible to specifically target past participants via online banner ads for a two-week period. The results were just what MHS was hoping for.


  • 84,517 impressions
  • 17.4 ad frequency.
  • 27% click-through rate

In every way, the test group that was targeted outperformed the control group:

  • Those targeted by the online ads were 37% more likely to participate.
  • 7% of targets participated in the walk (versus 5% of non-targets).
  • MHS enjoyed an additional18.7 participants per 1,000people targeted!