The 2022 election cycle was Tissot Solution's first complete cycle of helping changemakers raise money, and this May marks the six-month mark since then. I haven't had as many opportunities to take time and write about our work, and I'm excited to share what we've been focusing on since last fall.
This blog post outlines a number of critical changes and improvements that we've made to the company in the months following the election. It covers huge improvements to our donor data, our backend automation, how we handle wrong phone numbers and more. It's a sample of some of the key operational changes we've made, and we have even more exciting updates to share with you soon. The end goal remains the same — to continue to build and operate the best fundraising firm in America.
We started working with our first non-profit client in April 2022, the Nevada Conservation League, and have since grown our client portfolio to include Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, the ACLU of Nevada, and The Just One Project.
I'm deeply proud to be working with such amazing organizations. Serving non-profit clients year-round has been a big step for Tissot Solutions and is the reason we were able to keep on four full-time staff members after the November election.
To better serve these clients, we've built our own non-profit donation data set from public donations made to over 22 non-profits throughout Nevada.
To build this data set of over 4,900 donations, we've had to get crafty. Unlike political donations, non-profit donations are not required to be publicly disclosed. Therefore, we only can capture what's publicly available. We built our data set by pulling annual reports, sponsorship booklets for galas, donor recognition walls where our staff went in and took photos of and other forms of public recognition. For the NV Indy, we built our own custom Python scraper that pulls their donor list daily and compares it to a previous list to pull out new donations (don't tell Jon Ralston about this).
The end result is a more complete picture of Nevada charitable giving. When integrated into our political data sets, the final product is an enriched data universe of Nevada donors that encompasses both the political and non-profit worlds. With Nevada being such a small world, it's not a surprise that there is a huge overlap between non-profit and political giving in this state.
As a result of building out our own non-profit data set, Tissot Solutions continues to maintain the best donor data of any fundraising firm in Nevada. It allows us better to serve both our candidates and our non-profit clients.
The best fundraisers need to be part-time data scientists. There's no substitute for this.
Wrong Phone Number Processes
As a firm that prides itself on data, our highest metric for quality in candidate call time is our accuracy rate with donor phone numbers.
Finding accurate and verified phone numbers for potential donors is a labor-intensive process. It's the reason why so many fundraisers across America have anywhere from 30-40% wrong numbers in any single donor set. Top progressive data firms like Grassroots Analytics sell phone data with an 85% accuracy rating.
At Tissot Solutions, we pride ourselves on having 99% accurate phone numbers — meaning that 1 out of 100 potential donors from our central database we have our clients call will have an incorrect number. Our phone verification process includes a check through Twilio's API, the RealPhone Validation API for disconnected numbers, and finally, we have someone dial it by hand to get verbal, voicemail, or text confirmation that the number belongs to said donor. This all occurs before a client is ever presented with the number at call time.
On rare occasions, we still do run into wrong numbers. With our donor data having a high bar for accuracy, the most common issue we run into is clients dialing the wrong numbers other than what was presented to them. After we check for that, then the number is a wrong number that we need to immediately work on.
Last cycle, we didn't have an organized system for tracking wrong phone numbers, assigning them to staff, or a clear process on how this was done.
Now, we do! With almost all of our clients being on our company's proprietary CRM, we've created an automation that sends all "Wrong Number" marked calls into a central Airtable base called "TS Triage - Wrong Phone #s". Upon being added to this database, the donor is then compared against our central donor database for a match, and if there is a match, it will connect this new record to our central record for that donor. We also immediately run the number through two of the APIs listed above.
Next, within the Work Log table of this new database, a record is created and assigned to the staff member that works with that client. An automated Asana task is also generated and assigned to that staff member, reminding them to work on it. Staff then follows our processes for finding new phone numbers, verifying them by hand, and then adding them to our new wrong phone number base.
By adding in the new number and checking two boxes, one for the DD (Donor Database), and one for the Client CRM (that specific client's database), the donor record is then updated in each of those databases with the new phone number.
Then, our data sync kicks in, and for each Client CRM that the donor record has been imported into, a webhook is sent out that then updates that donor record with new information. Essentially, if we update contact information for a donor in our central donor database, all associated client CRMs that the donor record has been imported into will also, subsequently, be updated. The end result is data infrastructure at scale and a single source of truth for where we track donor phone numbers. The Wrong Phone Triage base feeds into this data sync and allows us to manage all incoming wrong numbers through an automated system immediately.
With this new system, we will not miss a single call that is marked with a wrong phone number outcome. Every single time a client comes across a wrong phone number, that number will automatically be added to our central triage database above, and our team will get to work on finding new contact info for the client to reach them.
Attention to small details, such as a process for wrong phone numbers, is what makes the difference between a good fundraiser and an exceptional one. At Tissot Solutions, we are obsessed with getting contact information right. Wrong phone numbers are a waste of everyone's time and the bane of my professional existence.
In the spring of 2021, I fell in love and became obsessed with Zapier. If you aren't familiar, Zapier is an automation platform that allows everyday people to build different automations (Zaps) that connect their apps and streamline work processes.
A simple example of this is the automation we set up to minimize the risk of missing any client communications. This Zap creates an automated Asana task assigned to the staff member specific to that client for each text message that the client sends to our business line.
When you have clients texting checks for the CRM, important action items, and other notes, it's key not to miss a beat.
Now for post-2022, the most important change we've made is a complete overhaul of our Zapier backend and a shift toward dynamic zaps.
Previously, for every new client we had at the firm, I would personally create over 12 Zaps that were just for them. This process was time-consuming and took up much of my time as we expanded the firm and brought on new business.
Through dynamic Zaps, instead of creating new automations for every client, we instead add the client to our own internal client database, which is then connected to one Zap. The end product is that a single Zap can scale and serve X+ clients.
Here's an example of this: one feature we've built into the CRM is the ability for clients to text our business line "TOTAL" at any time and get an automated text back with how much money they've raised this cycle.
Previously, we set up a unique Zap for every client that was connected to their CRM and then to our business line. We had over a dozen of these set up last fall.
Now, all I do is add new clients to our client database in Airtable (We have a lot of bases in Airtable!), and they become immediately plugged into this dynamic Zap. It reduced the onboarding time for this specific automation from 6 minutes down to 30 seconds.
Step 3 in this Zap checks our Client Airtable base to see if it's a client texting us. To add new clients to this base, we fill out a quick form, and they become automatically integrated within this automation.
We currently have over a dozen dynamic Zaps at Tissot Solutions, and our back-end onboarding time for automations for new clients is now 90%+ faster. What took over an hour is now done in minutes.
Event Text Message Reminders
One of the biggest problems that fundraisers face is the number of people who RSVP YES for a fundraiser and say they are going to be there and then become a no-show. Our event attrition rate last cycle was anywhere from 15-35% of all RSVPs.
To help mitigate this, we have a number of practices in place to help remind guests of fundraisers they've committed to attending.
Two operational practices we put in place last year were calendar invites and an email reminder the morning of.
Calendar Invite Example:
As guests donate for a fundraiser, communicate to us through our centralized RSVP system (email and text!), and let us or our clients know they are attending the event, we send them a calendar invite within 24 hours of the next business day. We are BIG on calendar invites for everything we do, whether it's a fundraising event or a donor meeting, and they play an important role in reminding guests to attend.
Note that each Team Member at Tissot Solutions uses Superhuman for our email client, and it's a complete game changer. It's the fastest email client ever made.
We schedule these out for 8 AM the morning of each event, and they've been an important part of how we communicate to guests ahead of each event. Reminders include key information such as parking, security gates, the ActBlue link, the staff contact on-site, and an audio/visual recording disclaimer.
To build on top of this, we've also created our own system for scheduled text message reminders that go out to each guest one hour before the event starts. We've started sending these out for all of our events since January of this year, and it's been a nice touch.
Here's what the text looks like on OpenPhone — our Event RSVP phone line:
Guests receive prompt information to remind them of the fundraiser, including where to go, how to find the event, who to text with questions, how to donate, and, my favorite part, a Google Maps link that will open up Google Maps on their phone and direct them how to get to the fundraiser.
Small touches like this are key to helping manage guests at a fundraiser and staying in touch with them about the event. Very few fundraising shops or teams in America do anything like this. At Tissot Solutions, it's our standard operating practice for all client fundraising events (calendar invite + email reminder at 8 AM + text message reminder an hour before).
I've started reading a lot of books on non-profit fundraising best practices. One book that stood out to me was Jeff Brooks's The Fundraisers Guide for Irresistible Communications. Since reading this book, I've bought over a half dozen copies that I've shared with our staff and our clients. Writing like a fundraiser requires writing in an almost different language, and Jeff is a master at this.
One big improvement we've made as a result of this book is using Grammarly to test the grade level of all fundraising copy (email, SMS, social media) that we produce. Our new standard operating practice is to have all of our writing be between a fifth and eighth-grade reading level (this blog post is at a 9th-grade reading level).
As Jeff Brooks writes on pg 19 of this book, “Think of low-grade-level writing as a form of courtesy. It’s like enunciating clearly when you speak. Or using neat handwriting. Even the most intellectual Ph.D. will appreciate and respond to clear communication.”
Focusing on improving the readability of all fundraising copy leads to higher conversion rates, more donor engagement, and ultimately more people paying attention to your asks. It's a small but important part of mobilizing donors to give and take action.
More Sustainable Practices
Since last fall, we've completely overhauled how we communicate and stay organized around staff taking paid leave, company holidays, and more.
We now communicate staff PTO and doctor's appointments to our clients ahead of time in order to schedule call-time sessions around them.
We now have a formal PTO day-before policy where staff members proactively get work done before taking time off; they map out anything that needs to be done while they are gone and then map out what can be pushed for when they return. Our staff is reminded of this policy via an automated email sent to them the morning before each PTO day.
We've standardized our out-of-office email responder for staff and for our central info account.
We've also streamlined all PTO requests into a central Airtable base that tracks this for our staff.
Lastly, we've created a process for how we communicate longer periods of PTO (such as a team member taking a week off) to our clients weeks in advance and how we plan to service them during that time.
The end goal is to better communicate with our clients about our availability, create a more sustainable workplace for our employees, and be more organized when we are out of the office.
I remain deeply proud of the progress our firm has made in systemizing fundraising services and mastering donor data. Tissot Solutions remains the only fundraising consulting firm in America that provides clients with our own CRM at no cost. We also continue to have the best donor data of any fundraising firm, hands down.
Our systems continue to improve, and each month I grow even more confident in our ability to serve clients and continue to set never-before-seen fundraising goals.
The exciting thing is that even with how far we've come, I still know there is a long way to go in streamlining systems, creating new processes, and increasing our level of service to clients. The need for innovation in fundraising services runs deep, and I still remain convinced that there is much room for improvement in how fundraising is done across America. I hope we can continue to innovate, improve, and grow as a firm, and in that process, we can inspire other fundraisers to do the same.
Principal Consultant, Tissot Solutions