Quick tips: Are you missing out on money Amazon owes you?

I’ve never talked about them on this blog, but I’m generally rather sour on most of the internet programs that get your supporters to use their site as a portal for searching or shopping (or whatever – there are so many variations).  For the fractions of cents that you get from each search or purchase, you have to do a LOT of supporter education, and then keep it up…

But it’s free, my clients say, and it’s a way to ask people to DO something for us instead of asking them for money.  Well, there might be cases where it makes sense, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up.  The folks getting excited about these programs (iGive, goodsearch, etc. – I’m not linking because I don’t really recommend them) are almost always smaller local places who need more money than their small pool of donors is providing.  The promise is so very tantalizing.

I make them crunch the numbers, to tell me if it’s worth it to them.  How much time and newsletter real estate (you’ve only got room for X bulletpoints on that printed front page) and email opens will you spend on getting the word out?  How many people do you think will participate?  How much do you think each of those people will earn for you on average?  Does that equation balance in your favor?

And then, if that first level of analysis hasn’t soured you, it’s time to figure in opportunity cost.  All of that staff time, newsletter inclusion and targeted emails, etc., isn’t just worth its own face value – if you spend those same resources asking directly for donations, what would you expect to get from your supporters?  (Hint – that’s almost always more than what you expect from these internet programs.)

I worked with an organization that felt they were very successful with iGive.  They received about $15 a year.  And to get that, they talked about the program in every newsletter (printed and sent online), did a separate reminder email at least once a year, and handed out printed cards at community festivals year-round.   The volunteers who put in all the work felt great – they made actual money materialize from nothing…unfortunately, that view was far from accurate.

This time of year though, there are a lot of folks doing extensive holiday shopping on the internet.  Cyber Monday is coming up in less than a week.  And I’ve just heard about a new program…Amazon Smile.

The program is very similar to others – .5% of purchases will be donated.  That’s 50 cents for every $100 spent by your supporters.  That’s not going to solve any of your financial woes.  And your supporters have to jump through some specific hoops if you’re going to get even that little bit of pocket change:

  • Start shopping at smile.amazon.com
  • Select your organization from a list of thousands (every 501c3 in the US is eligible…are your supporters willing to sort through all of those, and to get your name exactly right?)
  • Purchase eligible items
  • Remember to repeat every time they shop

But, there are a few things that set this program apart.

  • It’s Amazon.  That adds name recognition, trustworthiness, and some “oomph” behind it.  And the shopping experience is Amazon…which most people participate in already.  You’re not asking for people to really change their habits, just their starting page.
  • Amazon is promoting this program to improve their own image.  They may not wind up getting too far, but I wouldn’t bet against them.  Your supporters may hear about this on their own, which means your job isn’t to get them on board, it’s to get them to send their donations to YOU.
  • Amazon is minimizing the insanity that afflict some organizations when they chase after low-yield prospects like this program – they don’t let you promote the program through email or offline marketing.  They’ll provide banners for your website, links, and widgets for most social media platforms, but that’s it.

Bottomline, I’m advising my clients to register with AmazonSmile.  You should too.  The biggest catch is that people can select your organization right now, as long as you’re listed on Guidestar (which you should be if your 501c3 has going through…if you are a chapter of a national organization, things may get complicated)…but if you don’t register, you won’t get paid, and any donations earmarked for you will be redistributed.

Go register.  Here’s the info you need.  And then you can decide later whether or not you want to try and mobilize your supporters to participate on your behalf (though at this time of year, I wouldn’t wait too long to decide how you want to proceed…there’s a lot of money being spent online in the next month.  If you’re going to publicize your participation in the program, now is the time.)

Quick tips: Don’t make this twitter mistake

@devshrink – I’ve been doing it wrong.

Syntax is really important, always, but most of us are learning twitter syntax on the fly, and for those of us for whom twitter is foreign enough to qualify as a third or fourth language, it’s trickier than we’d like to admit!  I’m grateful for tips like this from Hubspot and Jay Acunzo!  Check out their original post – it’s more detailed than mine – but here’s the quick and dirty version.

If you start a tweet with @username, it WILL NOT BE SEEN BY ALL YOUR FOLLOWERS.  Only the folks who follow BOTH you and the person your reference will see that tweet.

If you want all your followers to see your tweet, but you want to reference @username, you need to start your tweet with a character – any character (except those with syntactical relevance).  You can throw in a period, you can throw in an apostrophe…or you can switch up your sentence so you start with a word or two.

Are you locked into binary thinking? (What I learned from moving part 1)

This fall, I sold my house of nine years and moved from New Haven proper into the Greater New Haven suburbs – a mere couple of miles, but oh what a difference it makes.  My new home is semi-rural (any time your landmarks are trees and other houses instead of cross streets and stores, you’re in the wild, as far as I’m concerned.  Also, there’s a horse farm, so if anything, I’d question the “semi” in semi-rural!), and it’s quite the adjustment.  But with all the chaos that’s kept me in radio silence for the past few weeks, I’ve also had plenty of time to think…packing china is particularly meditative…and I’ve got some insights to share with you.

First, selling a house is awful.  I’m sure there are exceptions to this, and perhaps in previous years or different locations it isn’t always quite so terrible, but I felt raked over the coals in nearly infinite directions.  Here’s one of the things I learned that forced me to turn my gaze back in on myself and my own professional perspectives.

Our real estate agent believed, to the core of her being, in a binary system of real estate transactions.  Selling = good, not selling = bad.  It was absolutely impossible to make her understand that we had a BATNA, and that we were not interested in selling, period – we were interested in selling at a price that made sense for our finances.  She didn’t understand we wouldn’t sell for less than our mortgage balance, she didn’t understand we weren’t interested in selling without clearing additional money beyond that (still nowhere near where we’d bought at the market peak 9 years ago).  We frustrated her, and she infuriated us.

Here’s the thing: we were both right.   Read more

Breaking the mold on your resume

I tend to know and work with folks who don’t fit neatly into boxes.  These are the folks who defy stereotypes, counter people’s assumptions, take roads less traveled, etc.  You may be one of them.

Some people just travel this world differently than the rest of the herd!
Some people just travel this world differently than the rest of the herd!

There’s a problem with being one of these independent souls though: the world tends to reward people who play by the rules, and it’s often harder to be a “rule breaker” in the workplace.

Neat new study though, with a very dry title (“Linguistic Description Moderates the Evaluations of Counterstereotypical People”) – bottom-line is that people will react differently to you as someone who doesn’t quite fit their expectations depending on how you word things.  So dust off your resume and any publicly available bios and put this to use right away!  Here’s how:  Read more