Getting Started with Mobile Fundraising: 5 Ways

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By Eric Griego

Almost everyone has a mobile phone these days and that includes your donors. Imagine they’ll see your next fundraising email appeal on their phone and decide to donate right then. Will they be able to do that without getting so frustrated that they’ll want to smash their phones to pieces?

Before we get knee-deep into year-end fundraising season,take some time to get up to speed with mobile fundraising. Eric Griego from @pay shows you how.

Mobile fundraising is a craze that’s sweeping the nation. And if you’re a nonprofit professional that’s curious about how you can jump on this exciting bandwagon, you’re in the right place!

In this article, we’re going to discuss 5 of the top ways to make mobile fundraising a part of your organization’s strategy.

Let’s dive right in!

#1. Upgrade Your Email Strategy for Mobile.

First things first, you have to get your emails in line.

Because Americans spend an average of 6.3 hours a day checking their emails, you’d better believe it’s important to make your emails stand out.

And where are they checking their inboxes most often? You guessed it: on their mobile phones!

That’s why it’s doubly crucial to make sure that all of your correspondence is mobile-responsive and mobile-friendly.

Some easy-to-follow best practices for ensuring this include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Stack content vertically instead of horizontally,
  • Limit the amount of text and large images,
  • Enlarge buttons and calls-to-action,
  • And ensure a quick loading speed,

A couple of these strategies will require more work than others to incorporate, but at the end of the day, it’s vital to invest in your mobile email strategy if you want to launch a successful mobile giving campaign.

For more concrete advice on re-vamping your emails, check out @Pay’s guide to email newsletters.

#2. Investigate Text-to-Give Technology.

Another big piece of the mobile fundraising puzzle is text-to-give fundraising.

Text-to-give technology lets users text their favorite nonprofit (that’s you!) with the donation amount of their choice, and voila! Their gift is submitted!

An example would be a donor has simply texted the number “10” to a Disaster Relief Fund’s text-to-give number. They’ve clicked on the link that was automatically sent to them to confirm their payment, and the nonprofit has sent them an immediate, “Thanks!”

Texting to give is a short, intuitive process that takes less time than tying your shoes.

And it’s an absolute myth that young people are the only ones that text to donate.

In fact, the average text-to-give donor is 49-59 years old and has a college degree.

All of this is just to say that when you’re looking into getting started with mobile fundraising, don’t discount text-to-give technology.

It’s a simple, swift, and — best of all — secure way for your donors to give on the go.

#3. Give Your Website a Mobile Refresher.

Just as you should probably re-boot your email strategy, you should also take a second glance at your nonprofit’s website to make sure that your online giving options translate well to mobile.

Again, you’ll go through a lot of the same procedures as you would when you’re updating your email systems for mobile-responsiveness.

You’ll still want to make sure that the contents of your website stack neatly and vertically on a phone. This will ensure that no one has to pinch, zoom, or swipe around in order to read and navigate your site effectively.

You may also want to figure out an interesting way to tell your nonprofit’s story through mobile-friendly visuals.

But make sure you’re still limiting the number of large images, as they tend to bog down loading times. Striking the right balance is hard, but not impossible!

To read more best practices for sprucing up your nonprofit’s website, click here.

#4. Make Mobile Fundraising a Part of Every Day.

One of the most important facets of mobile fundraising is that it allows your donors to be able to communicate with you from wherever they are, whenever they’d like.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see why you should consider making mobile giving a part of your everyday strategy.

From live fundraising events to direct appeals and so much more, your nonprofit can incorporate every kind of mobile giving into your plans.

For instance, if you’re hosting an auction, you might consider looking into mobile bidding technology.

And if you’re trying to ramp up your year-end giving, you may want to research the ways that email donation buttons can significantly increase annual gifts.

Not to mention the kind of funds that launching a text-to-give campaign at a benefit concert could raise!

If you need further advice on buying software, consult @Pay’s informative article.

#5. Incorporate Mobile into Your Stewardship.  

Nothing is more important than giving your donors a great thank-you experience.

And with mobile giving technology, your nonprofit can make that goal a reality.

Before the advent of online fundraising, a donor would have to mail in a check or submit one in person (at a gala or other event) and then wait a few days (or weeks, in some cases) to hear that the organization appreciated their donation.

Now, when a donor makes a mobile contribution, the software automatically sends back at least one message of thanks within a few minutes!

And setting that automated message is as easy as apple pie.

In addition to setting up automatic messages of gratitude, your organization can (and should!) also be prepared with personalized email messages to send out to your mobile donors.

You don’t want to leave the conversation with just a “Thanks!” You want to demonstrate to those supporters that their gifts are instrumental to your cause.

So be sure to draft up several different digital letters of thanks throughout the year.

Update your email messages with current project info, real photos of progress, and most of all, sincere words of gratitude.

Because when you thank your donors promptly and personally, you end up with happy, loyal supporters!

Hopefully, this article has enlightened you on some of the ways that you can get started with and incorporate mobile fundraising into your existing strategy.

Until next time, happy fundraising!

Eric Griego is the Director of Business Development at @Pay, a simple Eric Griego Headshotand secure giving platform that provides donors a seamless way to give on a mobile device. He has implemented effective fundraising strategies for hundreds of Nonprofit & Church organizations. In his spare time, he roots for the Denver Broncos while enjoying a nice craft beer.

iPhone photo by Martin Halek

Stand Out With an Amazing Appeal Letter

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Year-end appeal season is about to start. In some cases it already has. Many nonprofits rely on their fall fundraising campaign to raise a good chunk of revenue.

It’s never easy to raise money. It’s it even tougher when you’re competing with scores of other organizations for your donors’ attention, although many of these appeal letters are mediocre at best, as Fundraising Consultant Mary Calahane pointed out in a recent post. Warning: bad mail coming to a box near you

You can have an advantage if you stand out by creating an amazing appeal letter. Here’s how.

Make a good first impression

First, you need to get your donor to open your letter. Give some thought to the outer envelope. That doesn’t mean a teaser that says 2016 Annual Appeal. Instead, say something like Learn how you can help Jason boost his reading skills.

You want to be both personal and professional. If hand addressing the envelopes isn’t feasible, make sure your mailing labels look clean, are error-free, and aren’t crooked. Use stamps if you can.

Create an inviting piece of mail.

Tell me a story

Start your letter with a compelling story. Focus on a person or family and not your organization. Your donors want to hear about the people they’re helping. For example, you could tell a story about Jason and his struggles in school.

Include a photo

Include an engaging color photo in your letter or on your pledge form. Photos can tell a story in an instant.

Here’s more information on creating stories and photos.

Dazzle Your Donors With a Great Story

Capture Your Donors’ Attention in an Instant by Using Visual Stories

Don’t bury your ask

Ask for a donation at the beginning of the next paragraph (after the story). Also, ask your current donors if they can give a little more this year.

Phrase your ask like this – We’re so grateful for your previous gift of $50. Could you help us out a little more this time with a gift of $75?

If you’ve been doing a good job of engaging your donors throughout the year, they shouldn’t mind if you ask for a larger gift. BTW, including the amount of your donor’s previous gift is helpful since people often don’t remember what they gave before.

Be donor-centered

Don’t make your letter all about your organization. Show how you’re making a difference and how much you appreciate your donor’s role in that. Make your donor feel good about supporting your nonprofit.

Share your success

Highlight a few accomplishments from the year and show how you plan to continue your good work with your donor’s help. Remember to stay donor-centered!

Give it the personal touch

Send different letters to people who have donated before and thank them for supporting you. You can also tailor letters to other groups such as lapsed donors, people on your mailing list who haven’t donated yet, event attendees, volunteers, and friends of board members.

Make every effort to do this, especially for people who have given before. Go the extra mile for your donors, so they’ll continue to support you.

Your letter should also have a personal salutation and not be addressed to Dear Friend.

Make it easy for your donors

Include a return envelope with amounts to check off or an envelope and a pledge form. Show what each amount will fund. Do this on your donation page, too. Using Giving Levels to Drive Donations

Some donors may prefer to donate online. Direct them to a user-friendly donation page on your website.

Offer a monthly or recurring giving option

Monthly gifts can generate more revenue. Encourage your donors to give $10 or $20 a month. If they do, you’re getting gifts over $100 each!

It must be easy to read (or scan)

Use short paragraphs and bulleted lists, along with bold or color for key words, but keep it tasteful. Make it easy to read and scan. Use a simple font and 14-point type.

It’s fine to go over a page, especially if you’re breaking up the text with a photo and short paragraphs, but I wouldn’t go over four pages. You can also add a quote or short testimonial. These can be powerful and it helps break up the narrative.

Have a conversation with a friend

Use a conversational tone and keep out jargon like at-risk youth and underserved communities. Be specific and use everyday language. Refer to your reader as you and use you a lot more than we. How to Perform the “You” Test for Donor-Centered Communications – Do You Pass?

Too many editors spoil the appeal

Generally, the more people you involve in writing your letter, the worse it becomes. Fundraising Consultant Tom Ahern refers to this as letter writing by committee.

Your best writer should craft it and then turn it over to your best editor. Whoever signs the letter (your Executive Director?) can take a quick look at it, but don’t send it to a committee.

Besides weakening the content, involving more people takes extra time.

All’s well that ends well

Repeat your ask at the end of the letter. Don’t forget to say please and thank you.

Add a PS

Give some thought to this. People often gravitate to the PS as they scan the letter. Here you could emphasize monthly giving or ask if their company provides matching gifts.

Get your pens out

Include a short handwritten note, if you can. Make it relevant to each donor, such as thanking her for a previous donation or letting him know it was nice to see him at a recent event.

Hand sign the letters in blue ink.

Are you ready?

Stand out with an amazing appeal letter that will capture your donors’ attention and bring you the donations you need. Good luck!

Read on for more inspiration.

How to Write a Better Fundraising Letter

Cutting Through the Clutter of Year-End Appeals

[INFOGRAPHIC] How To Write An Annual Fundraising Appeal Letter

Photo by Modestas Jonauskas

 

Is Your Website Up to Par?

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It’s hard to believe it’s almost the end of August and year-end fundraising is just round the corner. One thing you need to do before you switch from going to the beach to apple picking is to make sure your website is up to par. This means it’s up-to-date, easy to read and navigate, welcoming, and audience-centered.

How does your website fare?  Use the checklist below to find out.

Home page

Your home page is often the first place a newcomer will visit. Make it an entryway to the rest of your website.

  • Is it free of clutter and easy to navigate and read?
  • Does it include an engaging photo and a small amount of text, such as a tagline or position statement?
  • If you’re highlighting something such as an event, is the information up-to-date, and is it the most newsworthy item you can feature?
  • Does it include a Donate Now button that’s prominent without being tacky?
  • Does it include a newsletter sign-up box and social media icons?
  • Does it include your organization’s contact information or a link to a Contact Us page?
  • Is the navigation bar easy to use?
  • Does it include a search feature?

Donation page

Many people donate online now.  Make this a good experience for your donors. Don’t stress them out with a cumbersome and confusing donation page.

  • Is it easy to use?
  • Does it include a strong call to action with the same messages as all your other fundraising appeals?
  • Does it show how the donation will be used and what different amounts will fund?
  • Does it include an option for recurring gifts?
  • Does it have an engaging photo?
  • After someone donates, does it take the person to a thank you landing page and generate a thank you email?

The rest of your pages

Be sure to take a look at the rest of your web pages, too.

  • Are they easy to read/scan and navigate?
  • Do all your pages have a consistent look?
  • Is the content well written in a conversational style (no jargon!) and free of grammatical errors and typos?
  • Are your pages audience-centered? Remember, some visitors know you well and others don’t. A person visiting your volunteer page may not know much about your organization, so you’ll need to include a compelling description of what you do.
  • Do your pages contain a clear call to action? For example, your volunteer page should entice someone to volunteer.
  • Does each page have one or two photos related to its subject matter? Going back to your volunteer page, you could include a photo of volunteers interacting with clients.
  • Is all the content up-to-date?
  • Do all your links work?
  • Do all your pages include a Donate Now button, navigation bar, social media icons, a newsletter sign-up box, contact information, and a search feature, so your visitors don’t have to go back to the home page?
  • Are you using analytics to see how often people visit your pages? If you have pages that aren’t generating a lot of interest, find out why that’s happening. You may need to make the page more engaging or take it down.
  • Do you periodically survey your supporters to get feedback about your website?
  • Is your website mobile-friendly? This is crucial. 7 Steps To Ensure Your Nonprofit Has A Mobile-Friendly Website
  • Is there other content you should include (or take out)?

After you’ve made all your changes, have someone who isn’t as familiar with your organization (maybe a friend or family member) look at your website to see if the content is clear and it’s easy to navigate.

Your goal is to have a website that’s welcoming and audience-centered for everyone from first-time visitors to long-time donors.

Read on for more information to help you get your website up to par.

14 Best Practices for Nonprofit Websites

Best Websites of Non-Profit Organizations

10 Must-Haves For A Successful Nonprofit Website

Photo by Steve Cook

 

Knock it Out of the Park

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I’ve written a lot about the importance of nonprofit organizations communicating with their donors, but that’s not enough. You have to do it well. You have to knock it out of the park. Sadly, many organizations fail at this. Their communication is okay at best and just dreadful at worst.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised when I received an update in the mail from Heifer International, an organization that brings sustainable farming and commerce to poor areas around the world. It went beyond the usual generic, boring update.

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Here’s what I liked about it.

It came in the mail

You may balk at communicating by mail because you think you can’t afford it, but honestly, you can’t afford not to use direct mail. Mail is more personal, and your donors will be more likely to see your message. Try to mail an update to your donors at least twice a year.

Heifer sent a simple 8½ by 11 two-sided self-mailer. Even if you’re a small organization, you can do something like that. You could also do a postcard.

Don’t cut back on mailing because it costs too much or takes too much time. Imagine how you would feel if you received something like this. INTERNAL EFFICIENCIES & TRAGIC FUNDRAISING COMMUNICATION.

Read on to learn How You Can Print and Mail Without Breaking Your Budget

“It started with your gift”

This update knocked it out of the park by opening with “It started with your gift.” It went on to say, “to show you how your support creates lasting change, here are a few of the most recent updates that we’ve received from our projects that you have helped Heifer support.” Talk about donor-centered!

It said Thank You

Never miss an opportunity to thank your donors. Besides thank you letters (of course), you can show gratitude in your newsletter, updates, and even fundraising appeals.

This update said “Thank you, Ann!” in big bold letters.

It told me how I was helping to make a difference

This update gave specific examples about how bringing beehives to Honduras, goats to women farmers in Nepal, and chickens to Cambodia is making a difference for the families and communities in those countries.

I heard from the recipients

Each of the examples included quotes from the recipients so we can hear first hand how these people are earning money and feeding their families.

It was visual

If I didn’t have time to read the whole update, I could get the gist of it by seeing pictures of beekeepers and farmers.

Give your donors something special

Don’t settle for mediocre communication. Knock it out of the park by giving your donors something special and letting them know how much you appreciate them.

Fundraising consultant Pamela Grow has some great (and a few not so great) examples of donor communication – both mail and email, including a different one from Heifer International.

Photo by Alan English

 

Why Having an Open House Makes Sense

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If you’re stuck trying to figure out a special way to show appreciation to your donors, how about having an open house at your organization?  If you can’t hold one on site, have it at a restaurant or other venue. You may be able to find someone to donate space.

Invite other supporters, too

You could just have an event for donors, but why not invite other supporters such as event attendees, email subscribers, and social media followers, as well? This could be a great way to convert these supporters into donors. Encourage your donors to bring a friend.

Coordinate it with your year-end appeal

Depending on your resources, you may only be able to hold one open house a year. If you can hold more, that’s great.

A good time to have your open house is before you launch your year-end appeal, so you could hold one sometime between mid-September and early November.

Another option is spring if you have an appeal then, or you could make it a thank you event.  

Winter is tricky unless you’re fortunate to live someplace where it doesn’t snow. And summer’s not good since most people are off in vacationland.

Whenever you decide to hold your open house, don’t ask for money at this event.

Keep it informal

No three-course dinners and speeches that put you to sleep. Hold a gathering where your supporters can drop in after work, and serve something to eat and drink. You may be able to get food and beverages donated or find a sponsor.

Have a brief program. You could show a video and/or let a client share his/her story. Your executive director or board chair should thank your guests and share some accomplishments and plans for the future. Again, keep it brief. You don’t want anyone fleeing the room.

Create some photo displays and have literature available. You could also show a video on a laptop. Offer tours, if that makes sense. 7 Tips to Create an Amazing Donor Cultivation Tour

Let your donors and other supporters see the heart and soul of your organization.

Get your board involved

You must have a good turnout from your board. Encourage board members to invite friends and other potential prospects.

Make everyone feel welcome

Don’t hide in the corner or spend all your time talking to your co-workers. Your staff and board need to mingle with your guests and make them feel welcome.

You may want to go over your organization’s talking points and brush up on your elevator pitches, so everyone is prepared to talk about what you do and answer questions.

How to Get Everyone in your Organization on the Same Page

The Big Mistake That’s Hurting Your Nonprofit (and How to Fix It)

Don’t forget about the follow-up

Anyone who has taken time out of her/his busy schedule to attend your open house needs to be showered with love. Nonprofits often do a poor job of following up after an event and miss out on a great opportunity to build relationships.

Collect names and addresses of people who attended and send a thank you note right away. This is a good project for your board. Don’t ask for money (that comes later).

When you do send your next appeal, include a sentence that says, “It was great to see you at our open house.”

Not all your donors will attend your open house, but will appreciate the invitation. Donors and other supporters who do come are showing you they’re interested in your organization. Keep them interested! This will help ensure they’ll continue to support you. That’s why having an open house makes sense.

Don’t Take a Vacation from Your Donor Communication

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Summer is vacation time. You and other members of your staff may have a fun vacation planned. I recently came back from a wonderful trip to Spain.

Even though this might be a slower time, don’t hold back on your donor communication. Yes, your donors are also taking vacations, but they still want to hear how they’re helping you make a difference.

Here are some tips to help you stay in touch this summer.

Keep it short

Our attention spans wane even more when it’s hot. There’s no need for a lot of long-winded text. Send a thank you or infographic update postcard instead.

Another way to get your donors’ attention in an instant is with a photo. Create a thank you photo to share on email and social media. You could create a short video, too.

Capture Your Donors’ Attention in an Instant by Using Visual Stories

Lighten up

If you’re a reader, you gravitate towards lighter fare in the summer. My favorite beach reads are mysteries.

Fundraiser Shannon Doolittle has some fun and creative ideas to stay in touch with your donors this summer. Maybe you can think of others.

Fun, sun and donor love

Meet your donors where they are

You’ll make it easier for everyone if you communicate by channels your donors use. That might be direct mail, email, social media, or a combination of those. Don’t spend time and effort communicating via channels your donors don’t use.

Is it time for a newsletter makeover?

If you already send a regular newsletter,that’s great. What’s not great is if your newsletter is just plain boring, as many are.

Take a look at yours. How can you make it better? Use your “downtime” this summer to give your newsletter a makeover.

Keep it donor-centered, Focus on sharing success stories and don’t forget to thank your donors for helping you make a difference.

Shorter is always better, especially in the summer. Send a two-page print newsletter instead of a four-page one and stick to one or two updates in your e-newsletter.

Is Your Newsletter Putting Your Donors to Sleep?

Plan for staff vacations

If the staff who are responsible for sending email updates and social media posts go on vacation, that doesn’t mean your communication comes to a screeching halt. Have someone else fill in so you don’t miss a beat.

Keep it up

Stay in touch with your donors so they have a good feeling about you come appeal time. Keep retention in mind. You want your donors to give again and you can help ensure this with good communication and by building relationships.

Read on to find out how other organizations are communicating this summer. Get Your People Out of the Heat & Into Action

Image by David Smith

Are You Ready for Your Year-End Appeal?

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You may think fall is a long way off. We just celebrated Independence Day in the U.S. and temperatures are creeping into the 90’s.

Don’t let that deceive you. September will be here before you know it. Fall is a busy time, especially if you’re doing a year-end appeal.

Many nonprofits rely on their year-end appeal for a good portion of their revenue. Get a jump start on your appeal and start planning it now. Use this checklist to help you get started. Of course, you can use this for fundraising campaigns at any time of the year.

How much money do you need to raise?

You may have already set a goal in your 2016 fundraising plan (at least I hope you did) and perhaps you need to revise that goal. If you haven’t set a goal, determine how much money you need to raise before you start your campaign.

Do you have a plan?

Put together a plan for your appeal that includes a timeline, task list, and the different channels you will use. Make it as detailed as possible.

When do you want to send your appeal? At the beginning of November?  Figure out what you need to get done and how long it will take. You may need to recruit extra volunteers or get your materials to a mail house.

Do you have a good story and photo to share?

Find a good story for your year-end appeal. You’ll want some engaging photos for your letter and donation page, too. Quotes from clients will also enhance your appeal.

Dazzle Your Donors With a Great Story

Capture Your Donors’ Attention in an Instant by Using Visual Stories

How did your donors help you make a difference?

Your appeal letter should highlight some of the year’s accomplishments and state what you plan to do next year. For example, let’s say you run a tutoring program. Let your donors know how with their help 80% of the students in your program are now reading at or above their grade level. Next year you’d like to expand to four more schools.

Focus on the people you serve and show how your donors are helping you make a difference.

Are your mailing lists in good shape?

Make sure your postal and email mailing lists are up-to-date. Check for duplicate addresses and typos. Your donors don’t want to receive three letters at the same time or have their names misspelled. Also, segment your lists – current donors, lapsed donors, event attendees, etc.

Do you have enough letterhead, envelopes, and stamps?

Don’t wait until the end of October to check your supply of letterhead and envelopes. Make sure you have enough. Perhaps you want to produce a special outer envelope. You may also want to create some thank you cards.

Even though many people donate online, you want to make it easy for donors who prefer to mail a check. Include a pledge envelope or a return envelope and a preprinted form with the donor’s contact information and the amount of last year’s gift.

Stamps are more personal, so you might want to find some nice ones to use.

Is it easy to donate online?

Be sure your donation page is user-friendly and consistent with your other fundraising materials.  Highlight your year-end appeal on your homepage and include a prominent Donate Now button.

Elements of Donation Page Design

19 Ways to Raise More Money From Donation Pages

While you are at it, check your website for out-of-date information and broken links.

Is Your Website in Good Shape?

How does a donation help the people you serve?

Create a set of giving levels and let your donors know how their gift will help.

Using Giving Levels to Drive Donations

Do you have an incentive to entice donors to give a larger gift?

Instead of premiums, see if you can find a major donor who will match any upgrades. I know of an organization that used this as an incentive to get new donors.

Boost Your Fundraising Results With a Match From a Major Donor

Do you offer a monthly or recurring giving option?

Monthly or recurring giving is another way to get a larger gift. Some people might balk at donating $100 or more, but if you present it as $10 a month ($120 a year!), it sounds more feasible.

How will you thank your donors?

Don’t skimp on this. Spend as much time on your thank you letter/note as you do on your appeal letter. You need to thank your donors, and thank them well, as soon as you receive their gifts.

Handwritten notes and phone calls are much better than a pre-printed letter. Create or buy some thank you cards (see above) and start recruiting board members and volunteers to make thank you calls or write notes.

Give Your Donors a Great Thank You Experience

Are you showing the love?

Even though you’ll be busy with your appeal, you want to ramp up your donor communication.  Keep engaging your donors and other supporters (who may become donors) by sharing success stories and gratitude. Pour on the appreciation and create a thank you video or hold an informal open house.

How are you getting ready for your year-end appeal?

Photo by James Stoneking