I know many nonprofits have limited resources. These can include budget, time, and staff. I also know it’s hard when you feel you’re barely scraping by. But there are some areas where you can’t skimp. Think of it as making an investment in your donors.
Invest in a good database and email service provider
The best ones aren’t free. Fundraising consultant Pamela Grow gives an example of being told to weed out donor data because the database the organization had was only free if it held less than 500 donor records.
This is crazy. A better database and email service provider can help you raise more money. You can segment your donors by amount and politely ask them to give a little more in your next appeal – $35 or $50 instead of $25.
A better database can help you with retention. You can personalize your letters and email messages. No more Dear Friend. You can welcome new donors and thank donors for their previous support. You can record any personal information, such as conversations you had with a donor and their areas of interest.
Don’t cut corners when it comes to your donor data. Here’s more information to help you find a database and email service provider that’s right for you.
Invest in direct mail
Direct mail is an effective and more personal way to communicate with your donors. Every day we’re barraged with email and social media posts, but receive just a few pieces of postal mail. Your donors will be more likely to see your messages if you send them by mail.
You don’t have to mail that often but aim for at least three or four times a year. I know it can be expensive, so be smart about what you send. Two to four-page newsletters and annual reports are fine. Lengthy communication will cost more and your donors are less likely to read it. Remember to also make everything you send donor-centered.
Plan ahead. If you have a small staff, you may need to start working on a special Valentine’s mailing right after New Year’s.
Cleaning up your mailing lists will help you avoid costly duplicate mailings. Look into using discounted mailing options, too. Special Prices for Nonprofit Mailers
Invest in thanking your donors
This is so important! Nonprofit organizations tend to do a poor job of thanking their donors.
Ideally, your donors should get a handwritten thank you card or a phone call. Even though these take more time, it’s time well spent. At many of the small nonprofits I’ve worked at, it was all hands on deck to get out our fundraising appeals. Staff and volunteers would stuff envelopes and write handwritten notes on the letters.
Do the same when you thank your donors. Get your board involved in making phone calls or writing cards. Recruit volunteers to help, too.
Take time each day you get a donation to make phone calls, write cards, or send letters. Don’t let board members put off making calls or let a stack of letters sit on your ED’s desk.
Make it work
If you can’t increase your budget, find additional sources of unrestricted funding to cover these costs. You may also be able to find a sponsor or get a print shop to print your thank you cards or annual report pro bono.
Do something. You must make an investment in your donors.
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