Ever wanted to learn how to start fundraising?
Need some tips on where to start getting more website traffic for your nonprofit?
Read this interview.
Mazarine Treyz writes the Wild Woman’s Fundraising blog and is the author of The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising. A nonprofit fundraising consultant and trainer, she is also a social media trainer for the City of Austin, Texas. The interview was conducted by Don Akchin, a principal of Nonprofit Marketing 360 and a frequent contributor to the MKCREATIVE blog.
MKC: How long have you been blogging? And which came first: the blogging or the consulting?
MAZARINE: Blogging. I’ve been blogging since 1999. I was in England and I wanted to keep my family apprised of what I was doing and I didn’t want to write the same email ten times, so I thought, I’ll just make a blog! And I love to write, so I kept blogging. In 2005 I made an art blog – I also make encaustic art. In 2006 I got hired by a nonprofit and started managing their web presence for them, and I’ve been doing that for nonprofits ever since. In 2009, I moved from Portland, Oregon down to Texas, where I am now. I started my blog because I was trying to build my platform, so that publishers would look at my Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising book. But I felt like I had things to say about fundraising and about the nonprofit world that people weren’t saying. And now my blog has a life of its own. I love it!
MKC: When you started blogging, where did you go for an audience? Or did you care about an audience at first?
MAZARINE: If you have a blog for your nonprofit or yourself, to get an audience I recommend commenting on 10 blogs a night. Where I got this idea was from Yaro Starak’s Entrepreneur’s Journey. One of the things he said was to comment on ten blogs a night. I started doing that and that really, really moved the needle. I can say to anyone who has a blog and wants more traffic, do that. And make it a useful comment, not, ‘ Oh, nice blog post, dude. My link.’
People don’t comment because they don’t realize how powerful it is to connect with other people like this. For me, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about connecting, it’s about finding community. (So hey, comment on this post!)
Twitter was huge. I really saw a spike in my traffic after I started linking sentences from my blog posts on Twitter. I got off of Facebook at the end of 2009 because I didn’t find that it moved the needle for me in any significant way.
MKC: Now that you have all these readers for your blog, do you feel like you know them? Do you have conversations with them?
MAZARINE: I do know some people who come and comment, and you know, people come and go. I think blogs fall in and out of people’s readers. Some people have reached out to me offline. My favorite place to engage with readers is Twitter, there are more people on there, and more conversations too. If you come to my blog from Twitter I can find you, if you come and comment I can find you, but otherwise no. Most people don’t leave comments. My favorite way to interact with people on my blog is to take an email I’m about to send in response to a reader question, and turn it into a blog post that can help everyone. To speak directly to real issues that real nonprofits are facing right now.
MKC: You bring up the point about social media in general, and I notice you talk about it often on your website. I gather that’s one of the hot topics with nonprofits as well. Are they really that far behind?
MAZARINE: Yes (laughs). I think everybody in the nonprofit world is about 10 years behind people in the corporate world. They’re still trying to figure out, ‘How can a blogger help me?’ or ‘Why would I read a blog when I already have so much else to do?’ Well, let me answer that question. Because a blog post can save you hours of frustration.
Also, I do webinars for nonprofits about social media, and I have done a couple of presentations in the last few months on social media and nonprofits, and people are asking me questions like, ‘Should we be on Twitter?’ I think the answer is yes, no matter what. Smaller nonprofits don’t allocate enough resources to social media. This is really important.
This is how you gather people and engage them and get them to sign your petitions and so forth. I’ve got data from Blackbaud to back this up. I feel like people don’t quite understand what they can do. And social media is not so much fundraising, it’s really more for marketing and stewardship.
MKC: You were a fundraiser before you got into consulting. Why did you go from hands-on fundraising to telling other people how to do it?
MAZARINE: Actually I am still doing it. I am the part-time Development Director for the Austin Civic Orchestra. The reason I got into teaching and consulting was I wanted a way to scale my impact that wasn’t just one organization. I also really love teaching. I think I love teaching more than I love fundraising. I love taking my experience and helping other people learn from my pain.
MKC: What are big challenges for your clients and readers?
MAZARINE: Misconceptions about the best ways to make money are definitely a big challenge. People really like to think that sponsorships are the answer, when actually events are the worst way to make money. Whenever I do a webinar on sponsorships, people jump on it. I’m happy that they want to learn, and I’m happy to tell them what they want to know, and I’m also a little dismayed that people aren’t looking at things like planned giving, or bequests.
The other problem I see is that there’s no longevity and there’s no organizational memory. Fundraisers leave or get fired every 18 to 24 months. That’s pretty much what happens. So people are coming to new jobs, and it’s always an emergency, and they’re always running around asking, ‘Where did the last person put the grants?’ Probably the last person left in such a hurry that she didn’t leave any instructions.
I’ve been fired, and anyone worth their salt in this field’s been fired, because you have to be able to say no, and a lot of times people don’t want to hear that. I feel like I really know the pain of people who come to my site: You don’t know what you’re doing, your boss is screaming at you, you have to raise a million dollars in three weeks, or whatever their unrealistic expectation is. So I just try to help people find their bottom line and correct their assumptions as much as I can.
Nonprofits are measured by donors and funders on the wrong scale. They should be measured by their impact, not their 990 forms. People don’t think to say, ‘How do you know you’re succeeding in your mission? ‘ Isn’t that the most important thing? They’re asking the wrong questions so they get the wrong answers.
MKC: If people wanted to fundraise and they had no resources, how could they start right now?
MAZARINE: If there’s a new nonprofit reading this, I’d say, hire a consultant and get them to help you make a development plan, because you’ll go a lot faster and get more done when you hire someone who knows what they’re doing instead of muddling along by yourself. You can start from scratch with a basic fundraising plan, which could be as simple as appeals, getting your website up, starting your marketing, and grants. Just start there. But don’t finish there.
You should also be looking at getting your volunteers to do things for you. Register on Volunteermatch.org. It’s actually really good. It’s been around forever and you can get so many volunteers from it and people are so friendly and helpful. And if you need to move the needle and you don’t have any money, that’s a way to do it quicker. Also register on Sparked.com, because there are micro-volunteering opportunities on there and people really respond to you, whether you need a new logo or want someone to look at your website and tell you how to make it better, or look over a job description you wrote, anything. We just went to them for Austin Civic Orchestra, and I’m happy to say that they’re both friendly and responsive.