Pan-Mass Challenge: 2011 Fundraising Overview

UPDATE: I am officially signed up for the 2012 Pan-Mass Challenge: to sponsor my ride (and make these graphs prettier next year), please go to to donate. Thanks!

Last year, after riding in my third Pan-Mass Challenge (an annual two-day bicycle ride/cancer fundraiser), I thought I had enough of a track record to look at fundraising trends. In that post, I saw the rise in overall fundraising, number of sponsors and average donation amount as the progression of an improving fundraising effort and the expanding reach of my social networks. This year, the numbers were different but still interesting. First, the fundraising total shrank for the first time:

While an organization may see this as alarming, I should add that I once again surpassed my goal; after 2010’s success, I upped my goal from the minimum ($4,200) to the “Heavy Hitter” line ($6,300), and actually had little problem making that mark. I see the $9,000-plus total from 2010 as somewhat of an aberration– not in success, but in the amount of it, as several one-time sponsors donated late last year in memory of my father-in-law’s passing (the family had actually steered people to the PMC in the obituary, a fitting tribute). Despite the “one-time” donations in 2010, I still saw a sharp increase in sponsors from 2010 to 2011, the most encouraging number in the bunch. The message of the PMC’s cancer-fighting cause continues to spread:

Repeat sponsors was a bit of a mix, but again no surprise: more “repeats” donated this year, with the falloff in percentage a factor of the ever-growing total number of sponsors. I can probably do more to keep current donors involved and perhaps get the repeats up over the 50% next year.

The average donation fell off, close to 2009 levels. The major reason for this was that several of my “corporate” donors, people representing organizations that generally donated in the $500 range, did not repeat this year. The median donation was still $50, meaning that individual donors were not giving less, as this number might indicate and for the short-term that will continue, I suspect. So, the drop in average donation is not so alarming, though if I were a non-profit organization I would be concerned about the corporate sponsor drop-offs (and would certainly welcome them back, hint-hint).

Putting the numbers in perspective: I am happier with the increase in people sponsoring than I am disappointed at the lower dollar amounts. If I were an organization I would have some concern about the dropoff in larger “corporate” donors, but as those have been outliers in my case rather than the primary targets I cannot be totally surprised.

For 2012? I will target getting more repeat donors while continuing to increase my base of generous sponsors as well as my overall fundraising target. I hope the look at numbers does not make my PMC fundraising seem too clinical- as I sincerely appreciate each and every sponsor, as well as others who support me in various ways.  On to 2012!


Pan-Mass Challenge 2011

2012 Social Media Predictions From a Grump Who Hates Predictions


Flickr photo by tgkohn

I have much antipathy – make that hostility – toward any kinds of predictions (see my 2011 social media predictions post  for the only explanation I will give for that). Despite that, I was honored to be asked my 2012 thoughts by the folks at Awareness for their eBook “2012 Social Marketing & New Media Predictions.”   There are some great thoughts by several folks in the industry smarter than I, but I thought I would take the opportunity to expand on my thoughts that were included (in case anyone holds me accountable).

Below are the e-book topics for which I provided predictions, and my further comments on each.

The Biggest Social Marketing Developments

What I Said:

“More companies will move to the next stage, having a more innate understanding of what they need to do in social media, and being more specific about where they allocate budgets within social media. Google+ will make some inroads, enough to add G+ more formally to the debate over how to split resources among existing social media platforms.”

A Bit More:

I noted in the last year or two that more companies of all sizes seemed to understand they needed to do include social media and brand publishing somewhere in their communications plan – selling the very idea of social media is over. Next is developing a more ingrained sophistication about what and how to do it. And yes, the patience I have preached regarding Google + is still needed, but will probably pay off soon as companies (and their consultants) figure out the best use for this social network.

A bit more about other social networks: it seems that many companies are jumping onto social tools specifically geared to arranging certain types of media– there has been a lot of noise about Instagram and Pinterest lately, for instance. That’s interesting, to the extent that these tools might differentiate themselves from what web developers will do for companies’ owned channels.

The Role of Big Data in Social Marketing 

What I Said:

“All data will be important. Responsible agencies and marketers will be measuring their programs with anything available to them. As for databases, merging CRM and sales databases with social outlets will get more intense. Sales people and departments need to get on board, and that means deciding once and for all how social sits in your organization. That may take more than a year.”

A Bit More:

2011 saw a lot of talk about “Social CRM” and “Big Data.” I think communications professionals are still figuring this out. We will see more flesh put on these bones, but complete understanding and utility is beyond the grasp of 2012.


Key Technologies to Impact Social Marketing and the Role of Mobile (I combined two since I talked about mobile in the first)

What I Said:

“Smartphones will continue to spread, especially Android, and tablets, still led by iPad, will only proliferate more. Figuring out the easiest way to interact with people via mobile will get more attention. The ones who succeed will be the ones who actually make apps and mobile sites that don’t break.”

“Anything mobile will be big. The only difference between B2C and B2B will be the scale and depth of how they deal with the customer on the go. If they treat their mobile channels (and many companies have both B2C and B2B) as they treat all other sales and marketing channels, then they have their baseline strategy right there.”

A Bit More:

Anyone can say “mobile” – so I did too. Neener-neener. The fact that I actually bought a tablet recently (an Android by the way) says a lot about the affordability (or willingness to pay the price) coming to a larger market. We need to continue with “mobile” as part of our thinking, but I think we’ll see more use. Aren’t you using your mobile devices more? What apps we rely on vs what we are used to from our PCs and Macs will also change as a result. What is easy to use and what translates to the primary “experience” (web site, document format, what-have-you) will be the most interesting to me.

The second answer seems a bit convoluted as I read it now. Essentially, don’t let new channels (mobile or whatever) drive your strategy and goals. As ever, it should be the other way around.

Top Challenges for Social Marketers

What I Said:

“Focusing on what works and not being distracted by shiny new objects, while making sure they don’t miss the shiny thing that actually becomes the next ‘what works.’ Measuring programs and linking them to business goals will become more important and more recognized.”

A Bit More:It shouldn’t be new to caution against chasing shiny objects, but people still do it, so there. Measurement has been a standard par tof the programs I lead at Voce, but too many people argue about the “warm fuzzies” aspect of social media, leading me to believe that more people need to be kicked upside the head regarding measuring their efforts. Even the fuzzy stuff and the unicorns (you know, I am an expert in Unicorns according to Klout, so listen to what I have to say).

Top Trusted News Sources

What I Said: 

“The grapevine, wherever it may grow. Currently it’s some combination of Twitter, Facebook and Google+ from peers in the industry.

A Bit More:

Total copout- but still true. Did you really want 19 people all to say “I read Mashable?” Follow people you trust, and they will lead you to good news sources.


Thanks to Mike Lewis of Awareness and Lora Kratchounova for forcing me to say something about the coming year. I expect it all to come true. Every last thing. Except the bits that don’t.



The trouble with ROI and measurement is not that you can’t do it


Flickr Photo: lalunablanca

Is it “talk about ROI” season now? I have seen several posts online lately about social media ROI, ranging from “it doesn’t exist” to “here’s how you find it.” It makes me think about my own current thinking in the space. As with many things, I fall in between the two extremes, if you can call the latter an “extreme.”

A few thoughts about the ROI question:

  • If corporate management is asking for a Return on Investment, then saying “there is no ROI” will be the end of the program.
I have seen arguments for “marketing having no real ROI” but I don’t buy it. Olivier Blanchard is more eloquent (or verbose and adamant at least) that he doesn’t buy it either, as you can read here. To claim that marketing is somehow not an investment because it is not a tangible product is silly. The real reason most social media programs do not have ROI demands put on them, is the same reason many PR, marketing, and advertising programs don’t either. The sources and results are often mysterious- because they are applied with a bird gun or they are simply not tracked. Hence we get the famous “I don’t know which half of my advertising is working” type of quotes.
The only wat to get us to do true ROI is to demand it- if you need it. 
  • A measurement program is not necessarily an ROI metric
Sometimes we just want to measure program success. That does not mean we are measuring the financial ROI. It does, however, indicate we are serious about assessing a program’s effectiveness, and making adjustments based on real data. That’s not a bad thing, but you just have to determine if it’s sufficient to determining the success of the program, and sufficient to satisfying the demands of your executive (or investor) stakeholders.
If non-ROI measurement works for you, perhaps that’s ok. Perhaps not. Are you getting what you want out of the program?
  • Social media is not magic
As I hinted at above, PR programs would just look at media clips and hope that floating the CEO’s ego would keep the agency retainers coming. Often that works, in part because the CEO wants the ego floated, in part because lots of people think PR is magic. Wave the message wand and get the front page of the business section with a glossy photo, right? Same with social media- blather on Twitter (or maybe pay for some spamming) and voila, you have 50,000 followers, which must mean something, right? Some folks are trying to change the words to make “ROI” magically work (what the heck is “Return on Influence?“).It’s not magic, so that’s why we measure what works, whether it’s figuring out what gets a response that gets people to sign up for you service, or measuring straight dollars gained from your efforts by tracking them and rubbing them against your spend (hey wait, that’s ROI).
How long will pulling unicorns out of your nether-regions satisfy the big bosses enamored of shiny? Not long. Cover your nether-regions by figuring out how to show value now before they start asking. 
  • ROI is hard for everyone, not just social media marketers
Stop feeling sorry for yourself because “ROI is hard.” When I worked at a technology research firm, we discussed creating an “ROI calculator” for certain types of enterprise technology products. What we came up against was the complexity of  true ROI, and the even deeper complexity in that all programs, all implementations, are unique.  How accurate you want to be depends on how deep you want to go. You just need to sharpen the pencil and go find the numbers that matter, down to the real expenditures and the financial outlays. Many things about social media are soft- the outcomes, the true value of services and products- but often that simply comes from not defining the goal and sticking to it. Pure measurement programs are the same way- perhaps the fact that you can be selective about what you measure and what you leave alone is unique to measurement vs ROI, but I’m not certain about that.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Figuring out ROI sucks for everybody, and very few people are good at it. If you figure things out even a little bit, you are ahead of 95% of your competitors (I made that number up). The same goes for non-ROI measurement programs.

Just a few thoughts on ROI from someone in the trenches. And no, I do not always see ROI figures from programs, nor am I 100% certain they are always called for (or is that just being lazy?). But it does exist and it probably should be asked for. What are your thoughts?


Social Media Top 5: Wah-Po, Kuitters, and My Stuff Talks Back to Me

Pet Peeves: Washington Post Facebook App

Recently I noticed in my Facebook timeline (yeah, i look at that) a lot of links to interesting stories with the “Washington Post” logo on them. Trusted news source, so why not click? Being greeted with a pop-up asking me to grant a Facebook app permission just so I can read articles I always used to read anyway. Kudos to getting more people to post your articles, WaPo, but making people give access to an app just to view them is really creepy. To be fair, if you deny the app you are taken directly to the article (not so, it seems, with other similar publisher apps) but it’s still creepy to me. Blech. It’s important to consider the user experience when taking advantage of a popular platform. There’s a give and take. Does WaPo cross a line there? It does for me.


Liz Strauss and Quitting Klout

There has been a lot written lately about problems with Klout (the social media influence scorekeeper) and why it makes some people uneasy (score is too simple a metric to be useful, “algorithm” is unexplained, potentially horrific privacy stories). Liz Strauss recently wrote a more detailed and heartfelt post about why she opted out of Klout (now that, thanks to Danny Brown and others, one can actually do that). Am I moved to quit Klout? No, my curiosity remains, and the potential use as a (very) minor tool in finding out the right people for the right conversations and messages remains. I’ll support people wanting to leave for these legitimate reasons, but I’ll remain patient.

Whither Gowalla (Owning Your Stuff Part 9,000,000)

For those who like Location-based social media services: a few months ago, Gowalla changed how it works, focusing on users telling “stories” rather than merely checking in to a location and posting said checkins to Twitter and Facebook. As a way to differentiate from Foursquare, it made sense. But I found the idea to be more work than I wanted to devote, so I used the service less.Now that Gowalla has been purchased by Facebook and is essentially being dismantled, I am reminded of the “owning your stuff: mantra that I like to mumble on occasion. Gowalla users don’t have a lot of content stored that they are going to miss; not like if a service like Tumblr or Posterous went away. But it is a reminder that if you rely on an outside service for anything, you run the risk of that service going away and having to change course. I have worked with clients who ran campaigns with Gowalla. A tighter integration would be more troublesome, but it is also hard in this social media environment to run up some sort of consistency if services keep rising and falling. Part of the environment, I’m afraid

Apple’s Social Media Policy Leaked

So, an Apple store employee is fired because her rants about apple online to friends saw the light of day. So, Apple’s restrictive social media policy was leaked. As a PR person, I have always had problems with Apple’s closed culture. Maybe friends would expect me to rail against Apple’s fascist-state communications regime. Not at all. I think that while restrictive, the Apple ethos is quite clear, and seemingly within their rights (I’m not a lawyer. Whoopee). Don;t talk smack about your employer- or anyone/thing- anywhere unless you’re ok with it coming back to you. Period.

Losing My Stuff

I have been travelling again lately, and have begun to realize that the things I have lost or left behind on trips might be able to tell their stories.

“Remember me? I’m your Ray-Ban sunglasses you left in that Nissan Cube you rented in San Francisco in 2010. Oh fine, you thought you would wait until your next trip rather than spending the small pile of cash to have me shipped back. How can you be surprised that I had disappeared from the lost & found when you finally came back to claim me? I’m an attractive pair of sunglasses- you lose, and I’m seeing the world through different eyes now.”

Ray-Ban Wayfarer

“Well weren’t you clever? Throwing me in the front seat of the rental car in Orlando because I wasn’t worthy to take the holiday party snaps- a “snap” decision you made after parking. Oh sure, you were going to toss me back in your bag the next morning on the way to the airport. Seems I’m still here, big-shot, stuck between the seat and the gear-shift, waiting for the next renter to liberate me. I’ll bet you’re glad you already uploaded your last crappy photos to Flickr. Enjoy your next camera, bought in a rush to replace me, on the cheap no doubt. Feh.”

“I seem to have found my way to the Land of Doug’s Lost Pan-Mass Challenge Baseball Caps. Remarkable, considering you only misplaced two (or was it three?) of us in your house, the rest being spread around in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Maine. Enjoy that new light blue cap. It sets off your eyes (not). Putz.”