Entice Your Donors With Visual Stories

46728822135_8c5d713f5b_mIn these days of information overload, it can be hard to get your donors’ attention. In my last post, I wrote about the importance of telling stories. Written stories are great, but since donors get so many messages from different sources they may not want to read another word. 

This is why you also need to use visual stories. Some people respond better to visual stimuli, anyway. Here are a few ways to tell visual stories.

Tell a story in an instant with a photo

You can capture your donors’ attention in an instant with a great photo. That doesn’t mean a one of your executive director receiving an award. Use photos of your programs in action.

Print newsletters and annual reports tend to be dominated by long-winded text. Most of your donors won’t have time to read the whole thing. But if you share some engaging photos, your donors can get a quick glance of the impact of their gift without having to muddle through a bunch of tedious text.

You may want to try a Postcard Annual Report instead of the usual boring booklet. Postcards with an engaging photo are also great for thank you cards and updates. I’m a big fan of postcards because they’re a quick, less expensive way to communicate by mail.

If you use social media, you need to communicate several times a week. As your donors scroll through an endless amount of Facebook and Twitter posts, an engaging photo can pop out and get their attention.

Use photos everywhere – appeal letters, thank you letters/cards, newsletters, annual reports, updates, your website, and social media. Create a photo bank to help you with this. It’s fine to use the same photos in different channels. It can help with your brand identity. Be sure to use high-quality pictures. Hire a professional photographer or find one to work pro bono.

Work with your program staff to get photos and videos (more on videos below). Confidentiality issues may come up and you’ll need to get permission to use pictures of kids.

5 Killer Photography Tips for Nonprofit Brands

6 Steps to Establishing a Photo Policy that Boosts Giving & Shows Respect

5 Photo Tips For World-Changing Nonprofits

Highlight your work with a video

Create a video to show your programs in action, share an interview, give a behind the scenes look at your organization, or my favorite – thanking your donors. Make your videos short and high quality. If you’re interviewing someone, make sure that person is good on camera.

You can use videos on your website, in an email message, on social media, and at an event.

Nonprofits should Use Video Storytelling to Create Impact!

TIPS FOR CREATING A NONPROFIT VIDEO MARKETING STRATEGY

5 Steps to Successful Video Storytelling

Liven up your statistics by using infographics

A typical annual report is loaded with statistics. You want to share these, as well as your accomplishments, but you don’t want to overwhelm your donors with a lot of text.

Why not use an infographic instead of the usual laundry list of statistics and accomplishments?  

Here are some examples. A Great Nonprofit Annual Report in a Fabulous Infographic

Brochures are becoming a relic of the past, but what if you want an informational print piece to give to potential donors or volunteers?  An oversized infographic postcard should do the trick.

5 Must-Have Nonprofit Infographic Templates to Supercharge Your Campaigns

Infographics for Nonprofits: How to Create One and Why They’re Effective

10 Nonprofit Infographics That Inspire and Inform

Good visuals will enhance both your print and electronic communication. Keep your donors engaged with all types of stories.

Using Visual Storytelling in Your Nonprofit for Greater Impact

 

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Tell the Stories Your Donors Want to Hear

7803683540_76d8f5f45d_zHow often do you use stories when you communicate with your donors? Most likely, not enough. That’s a mistake because people respond better to stories. 

Imagine your donors opening an appeal letter or newsletter and glossing over a bunch of mind-numbing statistics as opposed to being captivated by a story about how the Mason family moved out of a shelter and into a home of their own.

Donors want to hear your stories

You may be reluctant to use stories because it’s more work for your organization, but that shouldn’t stop you. Keep in mind that donors want to hear your stories. Stories bring the work you do to life by using everyday language to create a scene. Here’s an example.

The past several months have been tough for Janet and her three young kids. After losing her job and being evicted from her apartment, she moved between her sister’s house, motels, and shelters. It was taking a toll on her family. Everyone was stressed out and her kids were falling behind in school.

That was about to change because thanks to donors like you, Janet and her family will be moving into a home of their own.

Can you tell a story like that? If you’re making a difference, you can. Stories should show your donors how they’re helping you make a difference for the people/community you serve.

Create a culture of storytelling

If you create a storytelling culture in your organization, you can make storytelling the norm instead of the exception.

Work with your program staff to create stories that will help you connect with your donors. Everyone needs to understand how important this is. Share stories at staff meetings and/or set up regular meetings with program staff to gather stories.

When you put together a story, ask.

  • Why would your donors be interested in this story?
  • Why is this important?
  • Who are you helping?
  • Are you using clear, everyday language (no jargon) to make sure your donors understand your story?
  • How are your donors helping you make a difference or How can your donors help you make a difference?

Client or program recipient stories are best. You can also share profiles of volunteers, board members, and donors. Many organizations profile new board members in their newsletters. Instead of emphasizing their professional background, concentrate on what drew them to your organization. Perhaps she has a brother with autism or he knows what it’s like to arrive in the United States as an immigrant.

Another way to find stories is to put a Share Your Story page on your website. 

4 INSPIRATIONAL “SHARE YOUR STORY” PAGES THAT WILL KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF

Create a story bank to help you organize all your stories. Take advantage of slower times of the year to gather stories. You want to use stories often. Use them in your appeal letters, thank you letters, newsletters, annual reports, website, blog, and other types of social media. You can use the same stories in different channels.

Give your stories the personal touch

Use people’s names to make your stories more personal. I realize you might run into confidentiality issues, but you can change names to protect someone’s privacy. You could also do a composite story, but don’t make up anything.

 Fundraising with Names Have Been Changed Disclaimers

Your stories aren’t about your organization

Let your donors know how with their help, Brenda doesn’t have to choose between buying groceries and paying the heating bill. Your organization stays in the background. And remember, Your Mission Statement is NOT Your Story

Tell your donors the stories they want to hear. In my next post, I’ll write about sharing visual stories.

Here are some great resources to help you tell your stories.

The Storytelling Nonprofit

INFOGRAPHIC: A Nonprofit Storytelling How-To

The Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Storytelling (30+ Tips)

How To Create A Culture of Storytelling in Your Nonprofit

 

How to Stay on Track for the Rest of the Year

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACan you believe we’re already halfway through the year? I hope your fundraising and communications are going well so far. If not, you’re not alone. According to the 2019 Giving USA report, overall giving is down 1.7%.

5 Key Takeaways from the 2019 Giving USA Report

The mid-point of the year is always a good time to see if you’re meeting your fundraising and communications goals. If your fundraising is down, you’ll need to make some smart choices for the rest of the year. This often includes better donor communication.

If you never made a fundraising plan for 2019, stop right there and put one together now and use it for the remainder of the year.

Nonprofit Fundraising Plan: 6 Must-Do Steps For Success

No need to panic yet. There are ways you can stay on track and raise more money in the second half of the year. Here’s how.

Ask your donors for an upgrade

An obvious, but overlooked, way to raise more money is to ask your donors to upgrade their gifts. Even if you’re a smaller organization, it’s not too much to ask $25 donors to give $50, $50 donors to give $75, and so on.

Make a point to do this in your next fundraising campaign. If you don’t, you’re leaving money on the table.

How to Get Your Donors to Give More this Year than Last Year

Start or enhance your monthly giving program

I’m a big fan of monthly or recurring giving. It’s a great way to raise more money, as well as your donor retention rate. Retention rates for monthly donors are 90%, much much better than other retention rates.

If you don’t have a monthly giving program, plan to promote one in your next campaign. To get more monthly donors, send a special targeted letter to current donors inviting them to become monthly donors. This another good opportunity to upgrade smaller dollar donors, or any donors for that matter.

Also, do something special for your current monthly donors. Send them a thank you postcard or email. They’ve made a commitment to you, now make a commitment to them.

Get in touch with your lapsed donors

Reaching out to your lapsed donors could help you raise additional revenue. An organization I used to contribute to sent me a nice letter asking me to come back. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but I stopped donating to them mainly because my giving priorities changed. 

I was impressed that they made a special attempt to reach out, because most organizations don’t do that. Yes, you might get the usual generic letter.

In your next fundraising campaign, send targeted letters to your lapsed donors telling them you miss them and want them back. After your campaign is over, make an attempt to reach out to any additional lapsed donors.

Do a better job of thanking your donors

Last week’s post was all about doing a better job of thanking your donors by creating a thank you plan. 

Creating a Thank You Plan Will Help You Stay Focused on Gratitude All Year Round

Showing gratitude is just one part of the donor communication mix. Stay in touch throughout the year with donor-centered updates. Show your donors how they’re helping you make a difference.

You still have time to stay on track

If you’re falling short of your goals, you still have time to do better, but you have to make an effort.

Giving USA 2019 | How to fundraise smarter, not harder

Be sure to keep evaluating your progress for the rest of the year to help ensure a successful 2019.

3 Ways to Stay Ahead of Giving Trends

 

Creating a Thank You Plan Will Help You Stay Focused on Gratitude All Year Round

2503278977_df634081d6_mHave you seen the recent posts from the Agitator blog about thanking your donors? It’s worth reading, as are all Agitator posts. They cite a study where thank you calls didn’t result in an increase in donations.

Thanks, But No Thanks

This prompted a flurry of responses, all in support of thanking your donors, including this one by Penelope Burk, whose research has shown that thank you calls can increase future donations.

Just Do It? No. In Fundraising, You Have to Do It Right

Some donors may not care if and how they get thanked, but most people want to feel appreciated. Perhaps these thank you calls didn’t make a difference since some people don’t like phone calls. These calls were made three to six months after the donation, which is way, way too long afterward. It should have been more like three to six days.

Maybe these calls were done poorly and someone was just robotically reciting from a script. Donor thank yous are often done poorly, so it may not be surprising that your generic thank you email didn’t resonate with your donors.

If you want donors to respond positively about how you thank them, then you need to do a better job of it.

This is a good time to revisit the importance of having a thank you plan. Thanking donors often takes a back seat to fundraising when you should spend equal time doing both. Many organizations just thank donors after they receive a gift and then go into hiding until the next fundraising appeal.

Thanking your donors is not a one and done deal. It’s something you need to do throughout the year. Creating a thank you plan will help you stay focused on gratitude all year round.  

Here’s what you need to include in your thank you plan.

Plan to make a good first impression with your thank you landing page

Your landing page is your first chance to say thank you and it’s often just a boring receipt rather than something that makes a person feel good about making a donation.

Open with Thank you, Debbie or You’re amazing! Include an engaging photo or video and a short, easy to understand description of how the donation will help the people you serve. Put all the tax-deductible information after your message or in the automatically generated thank you email.

If you use a third-party giving site, you might be able to customize the landing page. If not, follow up with a personal thank you email message within 48 hours.

How to Create Post Donation Thank You Pages That Delight Donors

Plan to write a warm and personal automatic thank you email

Set up an automatic thank you email to go out after someone donates online. This email thank you is more of a reassurance to let your donor know you received her donation. You still need to thank her by mail or phone (see below).

Just because your thank you email is automatically generated, doesn’t mean it needs to sound like it was written by a robot. Write something warm and personal.

Give some thought to the email subject line, too. At the very least make sure it says Thank You or You made a difference today and not something boring like Your Donation Receipt or Donation Received. And please don’t use words like transaction and processed.

7 Best Practices for Donor Thank You Emails

Email Thank You Letter Examples for Donors

Plan to thank your donors by mail or phone

I’m a firm believer that every donor, no matter how much she’s given or whether she donated online, gets a thank you card or letter mailed to her or receives a phone call.

Try to thank your donors within 48 hours or within a week at the latest. This shouldn’t be hard to do if you plan to carve out some time to thank your donors each day you get a donation. If you wait too long, you’re not making a good impression.

Instead of sending a generic, boring thank you letter, mail a handwritten card or call your donors. Making thank you calls or writing thank you notes is something your board can do. 

Find board members, staff, and volunteers to make phone calls or write thank you notes. Come up with sample scripts. You may also want to conduct a short training. Make sure to get your team together well before your next fundraising campaign so you’re ready to go when the donations come in.

Here’s a sample phone script, which you can modify for a thank you note.

Hi, this is Tanya Lewis and I’m a board member at the Northside Community Food Bank. I’m calling to thank you for your generous donation of $50. Thanks to you, we can provide a family with a week’s worth of groceries. This is great. We’re seeing more people coming in right now because of cuts to food stamp programs. We really appreciate your support.

If you can’t send handwritten cards or call all your donors, send them a personal and heartfelt letter. Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization, we thank you for your donation of…. Open the letter with You’re incredible or Because of you, Michael won’t go to bed hungry tonight. Create separate letters for new donors, renewing donors, and monthly donors.

Add a personal handwritten note to the letter, preferably something that pertains to that particular donor. For example, if the donor has given before or attended one of your recent events, mention that. Make sure all letters are hand signed.

Let your donors know how much you appreciate them and highlight what your organization is doing with their donations.

In addition, write your thank you letter at the same time you write your appeal letter. Make sure they’re ready to go as soon as the donations come in. Don’t wait three weeks.

20 Engaging Ideas for Donation Thank You Letters

INFOGRAPHIC: The ULTIMATE Thank You for Nonprofits

How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

Plan to keep thanking your donors all year round

This is where having a thank you plan makes a difference because as I mentioned before – thanking your donors is something you must do all year round.

Use your communications calendar to incorporate ways to thank your donors. Try to say thank you at least once a month. Here are some ways to do that.

  • Send cards or email messages at Thanksgiving, during the holidays, Valentine’s Day, or mix it up a little and send a note of gratitude in June or September when your donors won’t be expecting it. Try to send at least one or two gratitude messages a year by mail, since your donors will be more likely to see those.
  • Invite your donors to connect with you via email and social media. Keep them updated with accomplishments and success stories. Making all your communications donor-centered will help convey an attitude of gratitude. Be sure to keep thanking your donors in your newsletter and social media updates. Emphasize that you wouldn’t be able to do the work you do without your donors’ support.
  • Create a thank you video and share it on your thank you landing page, by email, and on social media.
  • Hold an open house at your organization or offer tours so your donors can see your nonprofit up close and personal.

Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors

Creating a thank you plan will make it easier to keep showing appreciation to your donors all year round. If you treat them well, maybe they’ll treat you well the next time you send a fundraising appeal.

What Fundraising and Strength Training Have in Common

32004749403_9d5d6ffa41_mAbout a year and a half ago I started doing strength training with a personal trainer. My initial assessment was humbling, to say the least, and at the beginning, there were several times I wondered “Why am I doing this?”

But I’ve benefited so much. Not only am I stronger, but I’ve lost weight, I’m sleeping better, my mood is better, and I have a more robust immune system.

Strength training has a lot in common with fundraising and when I say fundraising, I’m including the stewardship and relationship building components, too.

It’s supposed to be hard, but doable

If I ever say one of my training exercises is hard, my trainer will respond, “It’s supposed to be hard.” That said, it also needs to be doable.

What a wonderful world we’d live in if people just donated money to nonprofit organizations without us have to do anything.

Fundraising is hard. It doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it, but you also need to be realistic. I’m not lifting 100-pound weights. That would be too much for me. Certain fundraising endeavors, such as events, may be too much for your organization to take on right now.

How to raise money: 3 steps to creating sustainable funding for your new, young, or small nonprofit

Starting small is often the way to go

I work out twice a week and do what’s known as a circuit –  seven or eight exercises each of the days, usually three sets of 10-12 reps each. People who are more advanced might do four or five sets of two different exercises with heavier weights.

This same formula can work for your organization when you concentrate on individual gifts. Many of these will be under $100 each, but you’ll be able to get a larger number of them.

Be patient and you’ll see results

It took about two or three months for me to see the results I mentioned above. Some of your fundraising will take even longer.

You can get smaller gifts fairly quickly. Securing major gifts and grants will take longer.  It can take up to a year to cultivate major gifts and it takes a lot of relationship building to get there. If you get approved for a grant, it can take several months to get the money and there are often restrictions.

But if you persevere, you should see results.

Take it to the next level

If I kept doing the same exercises I started with, I wouldn’t make much progress. The same is true with fundraising.

Most appeal letters are generic,one-size fits all. You’re missing an opportunity to grow when you don’t ask donors to upgrade their single gifts or invite them to become a monthly donor.

There are so many opportunities to take your fundraising to the next level. Smaller dollar donors can upgrade to mid-level donors, mid-level donors can become major donors, and major donors are potential legacy donors.

You need to stick with it

If I miss a week or two of training, it suffers. The same is true with your fundraising. If all you do is send appeals a few times a year, you won’t have much success.

You need to engage with your donors regularly – at least once or twice a month. That includes showing gratitude and sharing updates.

Build Relationships With Your Donors Every Step of the Way

You need a plan

When I started strength training, my trainer designed a plan for me that we can build on and modify as needed. You need to do the same thing with your fundraising.

You shouldn’t be raising revenue without a plan in place. You also need a donor communication and stewardship plan.

Nonprofit  Fundraising Plan: 6 Must-Do Steps For Success

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

My workout consists of exercises for the upper body, lower body, and core. Your fundraising will also consist of different endeavors – individual giving, major gifts, grants, events, etc.

And as I mentioned before, and I’ll mention again since many organizations ignore this, your fundraising also needs a gratitude and relationship building component.

Fundraising takes a lot of hard work, but if you keep building and stick with it, you should see results.

Photo via https://thoroughlyreviewed.com/

Don’t Ignore Your Donors This Summer

37260748030_6285b8673f_mSummer is almost here, yea! This is often a quieter time for most nonprofits, but you don’t want to be too quiet and ignore your donors. In fact, this is a great time to do some relationship building.

You should be communicating with your donors at least once a month and that includes the summer months. Don’t make the mistake of taking a vacation from your donor communication – never a wise decision.

Here are a few ways you can connect with your donors this summer, as well as throughout the year, and build those important relationships.

Send an update

If you haven’t communicated with your donors much since your last appeal, send them an update to let them know how they’re helping you make a difference.

One of my favorite ways to connect is with a postcard. This is a donor communication win-win. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the importance of investing in direct mail.

I know mail is expensive, but a postcard shouldn’t cost too much. It’s also a quick way to share an update with busy donors. I recently received one that included a bunch of donor-centered phrases such as your support is helping and thanks to your support.

If it’s impossible to send something by mail right now, you can use email.

Show some #donorlove

You don’t need a reason to thank your donors. Just do it and do it often. Most organizations don’t do a good job of thanking their donors, so you’ll stand out if you do.

This is another situation where a postcard will work wonders. You can do a combo thank you and update. Go one step further and make your donor’s day with a handwritten thank you card. You could also create a thank you video.

There are so many ways to thank your donors. Have some fun and get creative.

15 Creative Ways to Thank Donors

Create a better newsletter

You may already keep in touch with your newsletter, whether it’s electronic, print, or both. In theory, newsletters can be a great way to engage, but in reality, most of them are boring bragfests.

For the summer, I would suggest a shorter newsletter to capture your donors’ attention. Also, can you jazz up your newsletter to create a better one going forward? Spend time this summer working on finding some engaging stories and photos.

How You Can Create a Better Nonprofit Newsletter

Tie in current events

There’s a lot going in the world right now. Will certain policies or budget cuts affect your organization? Many states are working on their budget for the next fiscal year.

Share ways your donors can help – perhaps by contacting their legislators, volunteering, or making a donation.

Advocacy alerts can be a great way for people to engage with your organization. Be sure to thank participants and keep them updated on any outcomes.

Focus more on relationship building in your fundraising appeals

A fundraising appeal can be a way to connect with your donors if you make relationship building the main focus. This rarely happens because most appeals are transactional and generic.

Whether you have an appeal planned soon or later in the year, keep relationship building front and center. Thank donors for their past support, share some updates, and show them how their gift will help you make a difference.

A couple of other ways to connect and raise additional revenue this summer are to invite current donors to join your family of monthly donors and send a special letter to your lapsed donors letting them know you miss them and want them back.

Building meaningful relationships with Donors: What it takes

Keep it up throughout the year

Your donors want to hear from you this summer and throughout the year. A communications calendar will be a huge help with this so your donors won’t wonder why you’re ignoring them.

 

A Few Common Donor Communication Problems and How You Can Fix Them

8775923664_553640db9e_mSome nonprofits do a good job of communicating with their donors, but many do not and that’s a problem.

Mediocre or poor donor communication will hinder your success. If you wonder why your retention rates are floundering that may be the reason. Here are a few common donor communication problems and how you can fix them.

Sending your donors the same appeal letter

Your donors are not the same, so why are you sending everyone the same generic appeal letter? When you do this, you’re showing your donors you don’t know who they are.

I recently received a letter that was a good appeal, but didn’t recognize me as a monthly donor or acknowledge any previous donations. Monthly donors shouldn’t get a generic appeal like this. What should have happened is the organization should have thanked me for my monthly gifts and either asked for an upgrade or an additional one-time gift.

The same applies if someone is a theatre subscriber, museum member, or college alumni. I spend a significant amount of money on a theatre subscription. It’s perfectly fine for this theatre to ask for an additional donation, but I also want them to thank me for being a long-time subscriber.

This happens way too often. You should always recognize a donor’s past support.

Here’s an organization that did that. Their appeal letter opened with For the past 4 years, your generosity has made a world of difference. Wow, this organization knows me! The appeal included several instances where they mentioned how my support has made a difference.

What kind of message are you sending to your donors? That you recognize them for who they are or that they’re just a source of revenue for you?

6 easy ways to segment your fundraising appeal letter

Thank you letters that don’t focus on gratitude

The purpose of a thank you letter is to thank your donor. It’s not to brag about your organization or explain what your organization does. It’s also not a receipt. You can include a donation summary, but don’t lead with that or make it the main focus of your letter. If you do that, you’re implying that the donation is a transaction instead of the beginning or continuation of a relationship.

I use the term thank you letter, because that’s what most organizations send. Although, sometimes it’s just an email. You can do a better job of thanking your donors if you send a handwritten note or make a phone call.

I get so many thank you letters and emails that are uninspiring. They lead with the usual On Behalf of X organization before veering into receipt territory. Occasionally, I’ll get a card in the mail that pours on the gratitude with phrases like We cannot thank YOU enough and You make it possible.

Also, the thank you that you send after you receive a donation is just beginning, not the end, of a donor engagement journey that lasts throughout the year.

Take Thanking Your Donors to the Next Level

Newsletters that ignore donors

Newsletters are a big problem area. They’re usually too long, boring, and organization-focused. I recently received an eight-page newsletter written in the third person that primarily mentioned a bunch of accomplishments. It had no stories and read like a promotional piece, which is not the purpose of a donor newsletter.

Your newsletter should show your donors how they’re helping you make a difference.

The magic word you was nowhere to be found in any of the articles. That’s why your newsletter needs to be written in the second person dominated with phrases such as Thanks to you or Because of you.

The only time the organization mentioned donors and used the word you was in a section asking people to give to a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). It was basically a solicitation and required a minimum contribution of $100,000, which most people aren’t going to be able to do. As someone who gives $5.00 a month, I’m certainly not in that demographic.

They didn’t even thank their current donors before asking them to make such a big financial commitment. They would have been better off targeting people who would be likely to donate to their DAF.

You’re ignoring your donors (or at least most of them) when you include a message that’s only relevant to a small number of people.

Of course, you can share your success in your newsletter, but you need to let your donors know how they helped with that. Another organization did a better job with their newsletter. It included a cover letter thanking donors, as well as a success story and a section titled You Make a Difference.

A good rule of thumb for your newsletter is more donor appreciation – less bragging.

Why your fancy newsletter is failing you

You don’t want to upset your donors with poor communication. Send different appeals to different types of donors, write a thank you letter that focuses on gratitude, and continue that appreciation in your newsletter instead of bragging so much about your accomplishments.