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SD&A Q&A WITH ELIZABETH McCLAIN, DIRECTOR OF ARTS TELECENTER (ATC) OPERATIONS

With a new MBA and a fresh promotion under her belt, Elizabeth sat down with our senior staff writer to discuss the most important advice she gives clients, the things she loves most about her new job, and the reason SD&A’s boutique phone rooms are so vital to keeping the arts alive in America.

SD&A: Name one of the biggest challenges facing arts organizations and tell us how ATC campaigns are designed to help them overcome this challenge.

ELIZABETH: I have so much respect for the dedication of micro staffs at performing arts organizations and the amount of hard work they can handle. Some of the organizations we work with in the ATC have only 2-3 people in their marketing and development departments. They need the revenue streams that telemarketing generates, but the reality is that telemarketing campaigns are huge undertakings. If it weren’t for the ATC and the services we provide, tapping into these revenue streams might not be feasible for smaller organizations, either from a budgeting perspective or from a management perspective. ATC campaigns make it possible for us to offer onsite-size solutions and service to performing arts organizations in a call center scenario.

What do you enjoy most about your job as Director of ATC Operations?

Number one, the people. I work with a team of managers who have honed their craft and together bring over 100 years of managerial experience to the table.  Beyond that, they are just amazing human beings:  artists, advocates, life-long students and educators.  And that’s just the SD&A team.  One of the things I love most about our clients is that they work to bring beauty to the world through art. I get to spend my days speaking with leaders at world-renowned arts organizations, and when I travel to meet with them in person, I get to visit some of the most beautiful artistic venues in the world.

For clients, what are the advantages of choosing an ATC campaign?

We’re like that boutique winery that’s a best-kept secret. The setting is intimate, it feels like family, and the product is carefully crafted with attention to detail by a professional management team that has extensive experience in nonprofit sales and fundraising.  The wealth of knowledge in our ATC brain trust is pretty remarkable. Beyond that, we all just enjoy what we do and we love working together, so it makes for a great atmosphere for our callers and great relationships with our clients.

Before you joined the SD&A team, you worked for one of our competitors. What makes our company stand out from the rest?

The relationships.  When I first started working for SD&A, I remember sitting in on (Account Executive) Lucy Schroepfer’s weekly meetings and thinking, “Wow! The clients are enjoying this!” There are deep professional relationships that stem from the honesty and transparency that SD&A provides.  We build our relationships based on trust, and while it’s certainly a lot more fun to deliver great news, like surpassing a goal or bringing in a record-high gift, we always paint a full picture of the full campaign story, which increases the trust. Beyond that, it’s the credibility that the SD&A name has in the marketplace. We’re known for delivering creative and individual campaign design to every single client. That’s one of the reasons I’m so proud of the work our ATC staff accomplishes each day. They’re bringing the same level of service we provide to our largest onsite clients into a call center setting so smaller clients can succeed.  And to me that’s what makes SD&A so great. We love and care about the arts and bringing beauty to the world, and when our smallest clients win, that means we’re bringing that same beauty and joy to communities of all sizes, all across the country.

What is the most important piece of advice you give to new clients before they launch an ATC campaign?

As much as you can, treat us like your in-house staff.  We want to hear it all.  We want as much information as possible because it helps us shape the message and mirror your organization’s effort from a different state.  And I think that’s just good business practice in general.  I realize there is only so much time in the day, the week, but the more you talk with us and tell us what is going on in your department, your organization, your community, the better we get to know you and your patrons and your future patrons.

What’s the best business or leadership advice you’ve ever received?

Wow, so much. I’ve had some great leaders to look up to throughout the years, so it’s tough to pick just one.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Get your hands dirty.
  2. Humility, honesty and humor are the trinity of leadership.
  3. Never let yourself fall into the “because we always have” trap; always move forward and always be an agent of positive growth and change.
  4. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

What do you do for enjoyment when you’re not working?

I’ve found some free time again now that I’m finished with my MBA program, so right now I’m really enjoying spending quality time with my husband — who also has a long history of working with nonprofit arts organizations — and our kids, Matthias and Mariana (5 years-old and 3 years-old respectively) and our cat Edward (11).  We love to be outside exploring or in the water. We cook a lot and love introducing our kids to new things: singing, plays, art museums and travel.  We also love attending live performances – we go to a lot of concerts, plays and ballets.

 

SD&A Q&A WITH CAROLINE MENDEZ – VICE PRESIDENT OF CLIENT SERVICES, NATIONAL CALL CENTER

Our Director of Communications recently sat down with Caroline to discuss the role of technology in the National Call Center, the secret to successful long-term partnerships with clients, the best leadership advice she’s ever received, her foodie superpower, and Homer. 

SD&A: What do you enjoy most about your job as Vice President of Client Services?

Caroline: Well, at the risk of sounding trite, I’d have to say the people I have the pleasure of working with, both at SD&A and within our industry. I mean, I wouldn’t have spent over 10 years building a career in client service if I didn’t feed off the energy of partnering and collaborating with other passionate people.

This year I’ll be celebrating my 8th year at SD&A. For the majority of my tenure here, I’ve worked with the same core group of people. We’ve faced our fair share of challenges together and grown as a team, and by extension, we’ve been able to grow the strength of our business, our brand and our product. I’m incredibly proud of that.

Outside of the company, I work in a relatively small industry where everyone kind of knows everyone. They are some of the most kind, genuine and fun people I’ve ever met. Some I consider to be very close friends. The relationships I’ve built, and the way they feed into my ability to continuously find ways to better partner with my clients, to innovate, to evolve, is very gratifying and fulfilling for me. Every night I get to leave the office knowing that my peers and I have made an impact in our mission to serve the world around us and make it a better place. I feel very lucky to have such a rewarding role that I get to call my “job.”

SD&A has enduring partnerships with many prominent organizations, including Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club and the Special Olympics. In your opinion, what is it about our approach as a company that helps us foster long-term relationships with clients?


Our business is built on a client-centric model. Whenever I’m on the road meeting with clients, I always get positive feedback about our service. And that isn’t me tooting my own horn either. I have an unbelievable team that I rave about constantly. They’re very good at making the company, and me, look good.

I frequently hear that SD&A is more accommodating and flexible than many of our competitors. I believe that’s because we focus on being a partner with our clients, not a vendor. There’s a very clear distinction. We don’t see ourselves as just their telefundraiser. We start every client relationship with the intention of fostering long term partnerships. We measure their goals, their intentions, their plans and we utilize our deep pool of experience to create a path that extends beyond just a campaign.

We take the responsibility of serving our clients very seriously. Every person on our team, from the callers to the operations staff and beyond, is not just here to service a client. They usually end up at our doorstep looking to join our team because they’ve been to our website and seen all of the meaningful causes we serve. They come with a passion to make a difference and end up finding a fast-paced, demanding environment that is also very rewarding. We work hard because we want see our clients grow and we do it because we intend to be there for every step of that journey. And guess what – we actually manage to have a lot of fun doing it!

How significant a role does technology play in the success of National Call Center campaigns?

Technology plays a major role in our campaigns on so many levels. I give a lot of credit to our IT department because they capitalize on every resource we have, even if it means a lot of extra work on their part, to accommodate a client or help the call center. When it comes to data, we always ask clients to give us more rather than less. The more the better. We can then utilize that with our own database and knowledge to better strategize for their campaigns. Data modeling and segmentation analysis is a big part of what we do.

In terms of new technological features, we recently upgraded the equipment in our fulfillment mail center, which will enable us to print on demand. This will give us a greater ability to test our fulfillment mail, which was very limited when we were working with an outsourced mail house. Another benefit is that we can now send fulfillment notices by email.

We’ve also expanded our abilities in how we take payments. We can now live-charge payments to cut down on decline rates and improve overall fulfillment. Let’s be honest, in fundraising every dollar counts. All of these changes make a tremendous difference when added together. Some of these things are very rudimentary and some are more advanced, but they all make a difference. Later this year, we’ll be making even more technological upgrades.

What is the best and the worst business or leadership advice you’ve ever received?

The best leadership advice I ever received, and I think it’s actually the best life advice I’ve ever received, is to always be open to feedback. Good, bad, ugly. To know your weaknesses and to grow from them is a tremendous part of evolving as a person. When one is most challenged in life, personally or professionally, being able to hear that feedback without taking it personally and then tracing a path forward usually ends in success. Whether it’s with people on your team, the people above you, or clients, I always try to check in on how I’m doing and learn what I can do better.

And now to take off my Tony Robbins hat, I’m not sure I’ve ever received outright bad business advice. I do recall seeing leadership examples earlier in my career that stand out as counterproductive, like creating cultures that are punitive or focused on blame rather than focusing on solutions. I always try to keep that in mind with my team, ensuring that we’re all moving in the same direction toward the same goal. I think it’s critical to have the buy-in of the folks that also work hard around you. If someone is personally invested in your mission, it exponentially improves your chances of achieving it.

What do you do for enjoyment when you’re not working?

For one, I have a superpower. It’s picking the perfect restaurant. Anyone who has traveled with me can attest to this. I believe the first person to confirm this would be my boss, our company president Steve Koehler. I love trying new restaurants and new foods, whether it’s a divey taco joint or a five star meal. In addition to being a faithful foodie, I’m a huge sports nut. My favorite seasons are March Madness and football season. Then of course there’s Homer. Anyone who knows me knows that the center of my universe is my little 15-pound Pomeranian Chihuahua. I travel quite often and might work late from time to time. Sometimes there’s nothing better than just spending the day hanging out with my dog. He’s a spa goer, has a wardrobe, and eats better than I do. Needless to say, he may very well be the most spoiled dog on the planet.

THREE MAJOR NONPROFIT TRENDS FOR 2017

by Gloria Horsley

Dr. Gloria Horsley is Founder of Open to Hope Foundation, a community where people can find hope after loss through forums and more.

(Republished from Forbes.com. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.)

From operations and technology to marketing and fundraising, there are many trends shaping the nonprofit sector that I’ve seen firsthand at my own foundation and in the strategy we’ve laid out to achieve in 2016.

It’s important to start looking ahead to the new year when you are in the throes of annual budget planning. With that in mind, here are some of the areas our organization is focusing on based on key trends that your nonprofit may also want to consider:

Humanize Your Marketing

Many marketing trends for traditional businesses have become important for nonprofits too, which also need to improve engagement with their audiences and donors. While we have to be sensitive in terms of the stories we share, storytelling will become one of the most important marketing tools for us in 2017 because it provides a way to connect with the emotions that help drive donor engagement and ongoing support. Our audience is then able to feel how they are assisting those that come to our nonprofit for help and that then drives them to continue providing financial support and  time.

Live streaming video is a great way to tell these stories as well, using Periscope, YouTube Live, and Facebook Live. Another approach for this authentic storytelling is user-generated content. We plan to make this an even larger portion of our content marketing in 2017 just for the very fact that it offers a way to personalize those stories and have them resonate more with our audience.

Influencer marketing will also take on a larger role, as we can rally advocates of our nonprofit organization to endorse what we are doing with their social circles. The result is that the trust that these circles place in these influencers can move them to act and become donors and volunteers themselves. Next year will be about identifying those influencers and then building up relationships with them to create awareness.

Recommended by Forbes

Use Mobile Technology To Simplify Donations

Mobile is a favorite of our donors, just as it is for many people when they are looking to communicate and participate with others. That’s why we plan on using more mobile communication, particularly with emails that now tend to be opened more often on a smartphone or tablet versus anywhere else. We are also planning on taking advantage of integrating a payment button directly into our emails to increase donations. This idea may be taken a step further, as another new trend is accepting payments through social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat.

Combined with a greater use of mobile wallets among our donors, we believe 2017 may deliver increased donations if we leverage all this technology and offer it so the ease of use stimulates the willingness to give more money more often.

Seek Fresh Perspectives And A Human Connection

One of our main goals in 2017 is the trend to look year round for board members that can provide fundraising and networking expertise. Specifically, we’re looking to millennials and Generation Xers who are focused on social causes and are well-connected with others who are passionate about social good. We’ve started focusing on both groups within our donor pools and using networking sites to identify candidates who can provide a fresh perspective to our board.

With all the online opportunities we have available to us, it’s easy to think that technology is the only way, but the need for authenticity in 2017 also means a return to the basics and a focus on the humanistic aspect of being and running a nonprofit. For my organization, this back-to-basics approach is focused on creating a culture that is in touch with human emotions and is run by a skilled staff that is enthusiastic about what we are trying to do. Our focus will also involve personal contact with our donors, including in person and by phone, to make that human connection even stronger and more authentic.

BIG CHANGES FOR SD&A IN ATLANTA

We are pleased to announce that our Atlanta-based phone room, Arts Telecenter East, will soon be moving. The new and improved ATC East will open in January in the heart of downtown Atlanta’s Fairlie-Poplar district, close to Centennial Park, the Rialto Center for the Arts and the Balzer Theater at Herren’s.

Located in a historic building constructed in 1930, our new space is larger and much nicer than our current phone room. It will be equipped with the latest phone technology, offering us increased capacity and greater efficiency.

SD&A operates two Arts Telecenters: ATC East in Atlanta and ATC West in Los Angeles. These intimate, fully computerized, “boutique” phone rooms emulate the proven, on-site campaign model that has been generating revenue for SD&A clients since 1983. Supervised by experienced campaign managers and staffed by callers who are expertly versed in the arts, ATC campaigns provide a solution for arts organizations that are unable to host an on-site campaign.

Greenpeace Sails Ahead with Help from SD&A Fundraisers

SD&A’s National Call Center now handles a large portion of Greenpeace’s calling programs, and we are also developing new monthly programs for the organization, including cold calls, welcome thank you calls to new monthly givers, and outreach calls to current sustainers to dissuade them from cancelling their monthly gifts. At any given moment, there are 12 to 17 active Greenpeace campaigns running on our dialer!

Greenpeace is the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

Welcome to the SD&A Blog

Dear Clients and Prospective Clients,

We are delighted to announce the launch of SD&A’s newly redesigned website, which represents a timely bridge between our company’s long, well-established history and its bright, promising future.

Our goal was to build a site that accurately reflects the level of quality and service that clients have come to expect from SD&A. Many organizations in the nonprofit world are already familiar with our company. Our new web site will allow us to effectively introduce our products and services to organizations that have not worked with us before — organizations that are still searching for a proven way to meet their revenue goals.

One of the most exciting things about our new web site is our blog, where you will find sound advice from our team of fundraising, marketing and membership experts to help you keep your finger on the pulse of industry trends.

Thank you for your interest in SD&A!

Kind regards,
Steve Koehler
President and CEO