Are You Still Using Jargon?

Over the last two years, we’ve seen many examples of real problems affecting real people. We’ve also seen more authenticity. So why are some nonprofit organizations still using jargon in their donor communication?

They may be using the same, boring templates they’ve used for years or they’re so used to some of these terms they don’t realize they fall flat with their donors. I think people use jargon because it’s insider language that makes them feel like they’re “in the know” in their professional community. It’s easy to slip into jargon mode in your work environment (whether that’s in person, virtual, or hybrid). But the danger comes when jargon creeps outside of your insular world and into your donor communication.

People need to understand you to connect with you

Sometimes we get lazy and use jargon when we can’t think of anything fresh and original. Instead, you see appeal letters, thank you letters, newsletter articles, and annual reports laced with cringe-worthy terms such as food insecurity, at-risk youth, underserved communities, and impactful. While donors may know what some of these terms mean, they’re vague, impersonal, and can come across as demeaning.

Are You Speaking The Same Language As Your Donors?

How to do better

You may know you need to freshen up some of your messages, but aren’t sure how to start. You may also have a lot going on and feel pressed for time. 

Sometimes you need to give a little more information. Let’s look at these problem terms and what you can say instead. You may use some of these terms internally and they might be in your mission statement, but please try to limit them when you communicate with your donors.

  • Food insecurity The USDA defines it as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.” That’s a mouthful! I’ve never liked the term food insecurity because it’s so impersonal. We’re hearing this term a lot right now because it continues to be a big problem. Let’s go a step further and put it in human terms by describing a situation where a single mother has to choose between buying groceries and paying the heating bill.
  • At-risk means there’s a possibility something bad will happen. Instead of just saying at-risk students or youth, tell a story or give specific examples of something bad that could happen or has happened. Our tutoring program works with high school students who are more likely to fail their classes, be held back, and drop out of school. Remote learning didn’t work for many of the students in our community and they have fallen behind. 
  • Underserved means not receiving adequate help or services. Instead of saying we work with underserved communities, explain what types of services these residents don’t receive. Maybe it’s healthcare, affordable housing, decent preschool education, or all of the above. Tell a story or give a specific example. Mara has to take two buses to see a doctor for her diabetes because there isn’t a good healthcare facility in her community. This makes her feel anxious because not everyone on the bus wears a mask, so sometimes she skips her appointments.
  • Impact means having an effect on someone or something. How are you doing that and why is it important? Again, give a specific example. Thanks to donors like you, we’ve helped families find affordable housing so they don’t have to live in a shelter, with other family members, or in their car. Now they have a place to call home. And, let’s please all agree to stop using the word impactful.

Tell a story

This is why stories are so important. You can get beyond that vague, impersonal jargon and let your donors see firsthand how they’re helping you make a difference for your clients/community.

Make Connections With Your Donors by Sharing Stories

What would Aunt Shirley or Uncle Ted think?

I always like to use this analogy. Imagine you’re at a family gathering and you’re explaining what your organization does to your 75-year-old Aunt Shirley, or maybe it’s Uncle Ted. Does she look confused and uninterested when you use words like underserved and at-risk, or does he perk up and want you to tell him more when you mention you’ve been able to help homeless families move into their own homes?

Stop using jargon in your work environment

Another way to help you transition from jargon to understandable language is to stop using it in your work environment. That means at staff meetings and in interoffice written communication. Maybe you go so far as to re-write your mission statement to make it more conversational. And telling staff and board members to recite your mission statement as an elevator pitch is a bad idea unless you can make it conversational.

Let’s stop using jargon when we can use clear, conversational language instead. Keep reading for more examples of why you should stop using jargon.

Too Much Jargon, Too Little Time: 3 Easy Tips to Simplify Your Copy

Nonprofit Jargon: Do Your Supporters Understand Your Fundraising?

How Jargon Destroys Nonprofit Fundraising & Marketing

What to Include on Your Crowdfunding Page: 7 Best Practices

An online fundraising page is crucial for a crowdfunding campaign’s success. Follow these seven best practices to attract donors and deepen engagement. 

By Missy Singh

One of the crucial elements of building any crowdfunding campaign for a nonprofit is setting up a crowdfunding page online. A well-designed crowdfunding page allows your campaign to stand out and reach an audience far beyond your immediate supporters.

While your cause may be unique, every crowdfunding page should contain certain consistent elements. In this guide, we’ll look at the following features to include on your crowdfunding page:

  • High-Quality Images and Videos
  • Regular, Specific Text Updates
  • Clear Goals and Deadlines
  • Robust Social Sharing Features
  • Consistent Branding
  • Secure Donation Submission Form
  • Additional Ways to Get Involved

In addition to these features, your crowdfunding page should be mobile-friendly, have fast page load times, and meet web accessibility guidelines. Taking these steps will make your crowdfunding site accessible to as many visitors as possible, and users can make donations on the go. If supporters can’t access your page, there’s a 0% chance they’ll end up donating.

1. High-Quality Images and Videos

What’s the first thing visitors will notice when they arrive on your crowdfunding page? Most likely, the images and videos.  

Visual components can make your campaign feel more personal and human, and increase donations and social sharing among supporters. However, if your images are outdated, generic, or poor-quality, you set the wrong tone for your campaign.   

According to crowdfunding best practices, the images and videos you post on your page should be:

  • Visible, clear, and adjustable depending on screen size. 
  • Related to the cause, project, or event you’re raising money for.
  • Regularly updated throughout the campaign.
  • Uploaded chronologically to show the progress you’re making in your campaign.

If your fundraiser involves in-person events or activities, also include a place on your page where participants can share their own photos to supplement the ones you post. Supporters will appreciate the opportunity to play an active role in showcasing your work. 

2. Regular, Specific Text Updates

Donors want to stay apprised of your campaign. Posting on your crowdfunding page is an effective way to keep them informed. Moreover, regular updates directly correspond to fundraiser success. According to Fundly’s fundraising statistics, campaigns that update supporters every five days raise three times more than those that don’t. 

Your updates don’t need to be extensive. Focus on providing interesting or useful information while avoiding jargon and generic text. When you include text on your page, you should:

  • Include the most relevant, up-to-date information. 
  • Share specific, relatable stories about the community you serve and the problems they face. 
  • Make a call to action that details the impact a donation will have.
  • Break it up with images, lists, examples, and bullet points.

However, don’t go overboard or make your posts too self-promotional. Your supporters don’t want to be pressured into donating. Instead, develop a communication schedule that dictates what and when you’ll post updates to your crowdfunding page.

3. Deadline and Goals

Because you’ll likely tie your updates to the fundraising goals and deadlines you’ve set, these should be clearly communicated on your page. 

To use your goals and deadlines to encourage supporters, make sure they are realistic. For example, it’s pretty unlikely a small nonprofit could raise millions of dollars over the course of a single day. Unrealistic goals can ultimately discourage staff and supporters alike and lead to decreased donations. If there’s no chance of meeting the goal in time, why should they even donate?

On the other hand, a realistic goal and timeline can be a good challenge for your supporters to meet. Add a countdown clock and fundraising thermometer to your crowdfunding page, showing how much time is left in the campaign and how much you have left to raise. These features will help visitors visualize the campaign’s success so far and how much more support you need. 

4. Social Sharing Features

Crowdfunding campaigns rely on social sharing. So, if it’s not easy for supporters to share your page, you’re hurting your campaign. Include buttons that facilitate sharing via email as well as to major social media platforms, including:

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • TikTok

Sometimes, crowdfunding campaigns will start with significant social media engagement from supporters, but sharing then quickly dies off. You can try to avoid this decline and encourage continued sharing throughout the campaign by regularly adding new, shareable content to your crowdfunding platform. 

You can also encourage social sharing by reposting these updates on your social media profiles. When posting on social media, remember to ask questions and respond to comments to promote engagement.

5. Consistent Branding

Customize your crowdfunding page to align with your nonprofit’s existing brand. It should match your website, social media pages, and physical outreach. These should all include the same: 

  • Logo
  • Colors
  • Fonts
  • Mission
  • Language
  • Tone

Creating a consistent brand builds trust in the site and ensures visitors don’t leave mid-donation thinking it’s a scam. For the most consistent features, we recommend that you follow a style guide that clearly defines your brand’s language and visual expectations.

6. Secure Donation Form

What’s the most important part of your crowdfunding page? Probably, the donation form itself. To build trust with your supporters your donation form should be secure. Choose a platform that uses a PCI-compliant payment processor to keep donor data secure. Additionally, your form should include:

  • Custom information fields. Include fields that ask for important information, such as donors’ names and contact information. You might also ask for their demographic information and history with your organization. However, because crowdfunding donors generally want to make their donations quickly, limit your request to only the most necessary information.
  • Suggested donation buttons. Donors aren’t always sure how much they should give. When you include suggested donation buttons, you take the guesswork out of donating. Assess your existing donor data and median donation amounts to determine appropriate amounts to suggest.

To make donating as easy as possible, decrease the number of clicks site visitors need to make and embed your donation form directly onto your crowdfunding page.

7. Additional Ways to Get Involved

Your donor involvement shouldn’t stop at their donation. Use your crowdfunding page as a jumping-off point for deepening relationships with your donors as well as supporters who aren’t in a position to support your campaign financially. Consider including information on the following opportunities:

  • Volunteer Opportunities. Do you need help reaching out to donors, hosting events, or supporting regular programming? If you don’t ask, site visitors won’t know that you need this kind of support.
  • Matching Gifts. According to Double the Donation’s matching gift statistics, one in three donors would give a larger gift if their employer matched their donation. Advertise the opportunity for matching gifts on your crowdfunding page. Then, use a matching gift integration tool to automatically inform donors of the specific steps they’ll need to take to request a matching gift from their employers.
  • Events. Are there in-person or virtual events associated with your campaign? Use your crowdfunding page as an opportunity to remind supporters to register and attend.

That said, don’t overwhelm site visitors with too much information. On your main page, the primary focus should be on getting donations. Highlight just one or two additional ways to get involved and place further details on a post-donation thank-you landing page.


Throughout your fundraiser, keep track of your data, including donor information, donation amounts, communication click-through, open, and conversion rates, and other trends. Then, leverage this information to assess areas for growth and implement new fundraising ideas and strategies. 

For example, if you find that an unusual number of users are abandoning the page before donating, you might try incorporating a more direct call to action at the top of the page. Not every iteration will be a great success. That’s OK! By going through this process of refining your page and making adjustments, you’re setting your campaign up for success.

Missy Singh is the Director of Operations, Client Services & Sales at Fundly. She has been working there since 2011 when she started as a Customer Experience and Implementation Manager. As an integrated platform for social impact, Fundly serves as an industry leader in crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising. In 2015 Fundly combined with NonProfitEasy to offer enterprise-level technology that addresses nonprofit needs with features such as a CRM, volunteer management, membership management, and event registration.

Are You Missing Out by Not Making Good Investments?

Your nonprofit organization may have cut back on some expenses over the past two years. When times are tough, some organizations, especially small ones with limited resources, veer towards trimming and often say “we can’t afford this.” This is known as the scarcity mindset.

Be careful before you nix something you think you can’t afford. It may be something you should be investing in.

This doesn’t mean going wild with your budget. You need to make good investments. Here are a few areas you should be investing more money in. The good news is if you do it right, these investments can help you raise more money.

Invest in a good CRM/database

Plain and simple, a good CRM (customer relationship management)/database 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. Many organizations don’t ask their donors to upgrade their gifts and you’re leaving money on the table when you neglect to do this.

A good database can help you with retention, which will save you money since it costs less to keep donors than to acquire new ones. You can personalize your letters and email messages. Make sure to invest in a good email service provider, too.

Personalized letters and messages mean you can address your donors by name and not Dear Friend. You can welcome new donors and thank current donors for their previous support. You can send targeted mailings to lapsed donors to try to woo them back. You can send special mailings to your monthly donors. You can record any personal information, such as conversations you had with a donor and their areas of interest.

In short, you can do a lot with a good CRM/database. Invest in the best one you can afford, and Excel is not a database.

Worried about spending $50 to $100 a month on a CRM/database? You may be able to make it back if you can ask for an upgrade and personalize your communication.

Nonprofit CRM Software

Invest in direct mail

You may not use direct mail that much, especially over the last two years. Some organizations were never or rarely using it before the pandemic.

If that’s the case for you, you’re missing out on an effective and more personal way to communicate with your donors. Think of the enormous amount of email and social media posts you receive as opposed to postal mail. Your donors will be more likely to see your messages if you send them by mail.

Yes, direct mail is more expensive, but you don’t have to mail that often. Quality is more important than quantity but aim for three or four times a year.

Give a little thought to what you send. Some ideas, besides appeal letters, include thank you letters/cards; Thanksgiving, holiday, or Valentine’s Day cards; infographic postcards; two to four-page newsletters; and annual/progress reports. You could put a donation envelope in your newsletter to raise some additional revenue, but do not put one in a thank you or holiday card.

Shorter is better. Lengthy communication will cost more and your donors are less likely to read it. 

A few ways you can use direct mail without breaking your budget are to clean up your mailing lists to avoid costly duplicate mailings, spread thank you mailings throughout the year – perhaps sending something to a small number of donors each month, and look into special nonprofit mailing rates. You may also be able to get print materials done pro bono or do them in-house, as long as they look professional.

Of course, you can use email and social media, but your primary reason for communicating that way shouldn’t be because it’s cheaper. It should be because that’s what your donors use. If your donors prefer you to communicate by mail, then that’s what you should do.

Direct Mail vs. Email Marketing for Nonprofits

Invest in monthly giving

If you don’t have a robust monthly giving program, you’re missing out on a great way to raise more money. Monthly giving is good for all nonprofit organizations, but it’s especially useful for small nonprofits.

All it takes is for someone to start giving $5.00 or $10.00 a month (hopefully more). These small gifts add up. The retention rate for monthly donors is an impressive 90%. Plus, they’re more likely to become major and legacy donors.

Why Monthly Giving is Important for Your Nonprofit Organization

Invest in donor communications

By donor communications I mean thank you letters/notes, newsletters, and other updates. Some organizations don’t prioritize these and want to spend their time “raising money.” They don’t seem to realize they can raise more money with better donor communications. Remember this cycle – ask, thank, report, repeat.

Don’t skimp on your communications budget. Creating thank you cards and infographic postcards is a good investment and a necessity, not a luxury. Thank you cards are a much better investment than mailing labels and other useless swag.

Maybe you need to reallocate your budget to cover some of these expenses. You could also look into additional sources of unrestricted funding. 

Remember, you can also use email and social media to communicate with donors. This reiterates the need for a good email service provider with professional looking templates for your e-newsletter and other updates.

Donor Communication for Nonprofits: Essentials & Best Practices

Invest in infrastrucure

We need to stop treating overhead or infrastructure as something bad. Some funders want us to spend our budget on programs, but how can we successfully run our programs if we don’t have enough staff and can barely afford to pay the people we do have? A rotating door of development staff makes it hard to maintain those important relationships. Even though some people may be working from home, we still have rent and other expenses.

Until these funders stop worrying so much about overhead, you may want to invest some time in finding unrestricted funding sources – often individual gifts, such as monthly donations and major gifts.

Why The Nonprofit Sector Can No Longer Dance Around Infrastructure Challenges

Don’t limit yourself by saying you can’t afford certain expenses. If you make the right investments, you should be able to raise more money.

Photo via www.hilltopfinance.co.uk/

How You Can Make Your Messages Stand Out

Do you feel as if information overload is getting worse every year? There’s so much going on right now. Getting your messages out is never easy, but like everything else, it’s gotten a whole lot harder over the past two years.

Your nonprofit organization needs to continue communicating regularly with your donors and you need to do it well. With everything that’s going on, it’s possible they’ll miss your messages. 

Here are a few ways you can make your messages stand out. 

What’s your intention?

What’s the purpose of your message? What do you want your reader to do? Are you asking for a donation? Maybe you’re thanking your donor or sharing an update.

Think from your reader’s perspective. What would she be interested in or what would make him take action?

Don’t muddle your messages with too much information. Keep it simple and stick to one call to action or type of message. 

Choose the right channels

Most likely you’ll use more than one channel to communicate. Pay attention to the channels your donors are using and focus your efforts there.

Email may be the primary way you’re communicating right now and there’s a reason for that. It’s fast, easy, relatively inexpensive, and almost everyone has an email address. You can quickly get a message out to a lot of people. Also, unlike social media, it’s something you can control. You don’t have to rely on a social media algorithm to hope your message ends up in your donor’s feed.

The downside is people get a huge amount of email from a variety of different sources. Plus, the average open rate is around 20%. I don’t know what’s going on in the conservative world, but some liberal political groups send way too much email, which I pretty much ignore. And, social media is often just a lot of of a lot.  

It’s easy for your electronic messages to get lost in the shuffle. Your donors may just tune things out, even if you have something engaging to share. 

While you’ll likely use electronic communication pretty regularly, don’t discount direct mail. Your donors are more likely to see these messages. We get far less postal mail than electronic communication. Also, someone can put a piece of mail aside and look at it later. Don’t count on that happening with any type of electronic communication. You can also communicate by phone. This is a great way to thank your donors.

Going multichannel is usually your best bet. This is very common for fundraising campaigns and inviting people to events, as well as including a link to your e-newsletter on your social media platforms. This way if people miss your initial message on one platform, they may see it on a different one. You’ll also want to send regular reminders for fundraising appeals and event invitations.

Get noticed right away

Remember, your donors have a lot going on and you need to capture their attention right away.

Your fundraising letters and anything else you send by mail needs to look appealing enough to open. You could put a tagline on the envelope. That doesn’t mean something like It’s Our Annual Appeal. Try something like – How you can help families put food on the table. Your envelope should look personal and not resemble a bill or junk mail.

“Dale’s” mail

Once your donor opens your fundraising appeal, lead with a story followed by a clear, prominent ask. When they open your thank you letter, they should be greeted with gratitude.

A good subject line is the key to getting someone to open your email message. Keep in mind that your donor’s inbox is bursting with messages. Don’t use something boring like April e-newsletter or Donation Received. Entice them with Find out how you helped families put food on the table or You just did something amazing today!  

Keep them engaged once they open your message.

Keep it short

In many cases, a shorter message is best. You want a good balance between saying too much and saying too little. All your words should count, so be careful about adding too much filler. That often includes bragging about your organization and explaining what you do.

Keep in mind the average human attention span is a mere eight seconds.

What’s in My Inbox | Shorter attention spans means you need to deliver with your enews

Your goal is to get your donors to read your messages. If it looks long and boring, they probably won’t bother.

Make it easy to read and scan

Besides sending a short message, use short paragraphs and lots of white space, too. Your messages need to be easy to read and scan in an instant. Most people aren’t going to read something word for word. Be sure they can quickly get the gist of what you want to say. Don’t use microscopic font either – use 12 point or higher.

Be personal and conversational

Write directly to your reader using clear, conversational language – no jargon. Don’t confuse your donors with generic messages.

Don’t cast a wide net

It’s important that you send your messages to the right audience and your audience isn’t everyone.

You’ll have more luck with a fundraising appeal when you send it to past donors or people who have a connection to your cause. The same is true for event invitations or recruiting volunteers.

You may want to reach out to as many people as possible, but that won’t guarantee you’ll get more donations or event attendees. Segmenting and engaging with the right audience will bring you better results.

Be a welcome visitor

If you communicate regularly and do it well, your donors should recognize you as a reputable source and are more likely to read your messages. If all you do is send them generic fundraising appeals, then it’s time for a change.

When you send email, make sure people know it’s coming from your organization. In the from field, put DoGood Nonprofit or Brenda Davis, DoGood Nonprofit. If you just put a person’s name or info@dogoodnonprofit.org, people may not know who it’s from and ignore your message.

Only send email to people who have opted into your list. Otherwise, you’re spamming them. Some people will choose not to receive email from you and that’s okay. The ones who do are interested in hearing from you. Give people the option to unsubscribe, too.

Even though people only get a few pieces of mail a day, most of it’s junk mail. You never want any of your letters, newsletters, or postcards to be perceived as junk mail (see above).

By putting in a little time and effort, you can help ensure that your messages stand out.

3 Strategies for Nonprofit Messages that Stand Out in Donors’ Mailboxes

How to Write Awesome Emails Your Donors Want to Read

Your Nonprofit Newsletter Should Engage Your Donors, Not Bore Them

A newsletter can be a great way to engage with your donors. Unfortunately, that doesn’t often happen because most donor newsletters can put you right to sleep. They’re too long and filled with boring articles that brag about how wonderful the organization is.

The good news is you can create an engaging newsletter your donors will want to read. Here’s what you need to do.

Think about what your donors want

You need to include content that will interest your donors. You also need to reference the current situations. Do you think your donors would rather read an article about your CEO receiving an award or one about Marla, a single mother who is having trouble making ends meet, but is grateful she can get food for her family at the Eastside Community food bank? 

The answer should be obvious. Your donors want to hear about how they’re helping you make a difference for your clients/community.

If you’re a larger organization, you could create different newsletters for different programs or one specifically for monthly donors.

Don’t shy away from a print newsletter 

You may opt not to do a print newsletter because it’s expensive and takes too much time, but you’re making a mistake if many of your donors prefer print.

I think you’ll have more success if you can do both print and electronic newsletters. I recommend a short e-newsletter once or twice a month and one to four print newsletters a year.

Many organizations put a donation envelope in their print newsletter. This is a proven way to raise additional money and you may be able to recoup your expenses.

You can also save money by creating a shorter print newsletter (maybe two pages instead of four) or only mailing once or twice a year. You can print them in-house, as long as it looks professional.

Be sure you have a clean mailing list. If you can get rid of duplicate and undeliverable addresses, that’s another way to save a little money.

Donors are more likely to read a print newsletter. But ask them what they like, and listen to what they say. If a majority of them prefer print, then you need to find a way to accommodate them.

Share your stories

Each newsletter needs to begin with a compelling story. If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell.

Client stories are best, but you could also do profiles of volunteers, board members, and donors. Focus on what drew them to your mission (more on that below).

Create a story bank that includes at least four client stories to use every year.

Make Connections With Your Donors by Sharing Stories

Don’t stray from your mission

A common article I see in many nonprofit newsletters is one about a foundation or major donor giving a large gift. This may be accompanied by a picture of someone holding a giant check. Of course, you should recognize these donors (and all donors), but why is this gift important? How will it help your clients/community?

For example – This generous $50,000 grant from the Eastside Community Foundation will help us serve more students in our tutoring program. Many students have fallen behind since the pandemic started.

Something else I see a lot is a profile of a new board member. Instead of focusing so much on their professional background, let your donors know what drew them to your organization. We welcome Lisa Clark, Vice President of First National Bank, to our board. Lisa has a brother with autism and is very passionate about finding ways for people with autism to live independent lives. 

Write to your donors

Write your newsletter in the second person, emphasizing you much more than we. Be personal and conversational. Say – You helped Marla feed her family or Because of donors like you, X number of families have been able to get healthy food every week. 

Leave out the jargon and other language your donors won’t understand. Write as if you’re having a conversation with a friend.

I’m not a fan of the letter from the CEO because those tend to be organization-centered instead of donor-centered.  

Pour on the gratitude 

Never miss an opportunity to thank your donors. Many donors have stepped up over the last two years and they deserve to be thanked as often as possible. Every one of your newsletters needs to show gratitude and emphasize how much you appreciate your donors.

Make it easy to read (and scan)

Most of your donors aren’t going to read your newsletter word for word, especially your e-newsletter. Include enticing headlines and email subject lines (if you don’t, your donors may not read it at all), at least a 12-point font, and lots of white space so your donors can easily scan your newsletter.

Stick to black type on a white background as much as possible. Colors are pretty, but not if it’s hindering your donor’s ability to read your newsletter. Photos can be a great way to add some color, as well as tell a story in an instant.

Use the inverted pyramid and put the most important story first (client story or profile), keeping in mind your donors may not get to all the articles.

Keep it short

Your print newsletter should be no more than four pages. Limit your monthly e-newsletter to four articles. Some organizations send an e-newsletter twice a month. Those should be even shorter – maybe just two articles. People have a lot going on and don’t want to be bombarded with too much information.

Do the best you can

For some of you, putting together a newsletter may be too much to take on right now. You don’t have to do an actual newsletter, but you do need to keep your donors updated.

Do what you can, but be sure to update your donors at least once a month. You may find you have more success with shorter, more frequent email updates and postcards with an infographic a few times a year.

Create an engaging newsletter that won’t bore your donors.

Keep reading for more information on how to create a great donor newsletter.

Nonprofit Donor Newsletters | Print or Enews?

Worthwhile Nonprofit Newsletters: Content Donors Adore 

Tips for Using your Nonprofit Newsletter to Get More Donations Without Even Asking

10 Nonprofit Newsletter Ideas and Examples to Save for Later

A Fundraiser’s Guide to Measuring Donor Engagement

By Ally Smith

Donor engagement is vital to nonprofit success. By donating, volunteering, and spreading the word about your organization, donors fuel your nonprofit mission. 

As a fundraiser, you need to increase donor engagement, and the only way to do that is by tracking engagement metrics and monitoring your success. This article will show you four metrics for measuring donor engagement and tell you why they’re important for your fundraising team. 

Why is Measuring Donor Engagement Important?

Every phone call, donation, and click on your website is a part of your nonprofit’s donor engagement strategy. 

Effective donor engagement increases donor retention. Retaining donors is one of the best ways to increase fundraising efficiency because it’s much cheaper than acquiring new donors. In fact, acquiring a new donor costs about ten times more than retaining a donor.

Additionally, nonprofits retain about 52% of their engaged repeat donors. Increasing donor engagement can motivate a donor to give a second gift and keep them donating. 

However, before you improve your donor retention, you need to track metrics that tell you the effectiveness of your engagement strategies. These metrics will help you understand how engaged your donor base is and help you identify areas for improvement. 

Four Key Donor Engagement Metrics 

  1. RFM Analysis

The RFM analysis model is a method of measuring engagement levels by scoring donor contributions across three dimensions: recency, frequency, and monetary value. 

Recency of Donations 

The “recency” dimension is the amount of time that’s transpired since a donor’s last gift. First, you’ll need to determine what “recent” is for your organization. Many organizations assign their highest scores to donors who have given within the last six months. 

Having too short of a “recent” period would pressure fundraisers to solicit donations too frequently, which would result in lower donation amounts and higher donor turnover.

Frequency of Donations 

How often does a donor give? The more often a donor gives is a great indicator of how engaged they are. For example, someone who gives monthly would likely be more engaged than someone who gives sporadically every few years. The highest frequency scores are assigned to your most consistently active donors. 

Monetary Value of Donations 

How much money is a donor giving? The more a donor contributes to your nonprofit, the higher the monetary score they’ll receive. Similar to how every nonprofit has a different definition of a major gift, every organization will have a different threshold for its monetary scores.

Once you have scored your donors’ contributions across each dimension, you need to combine their scores and consider the results. 

For example, if you only look at monetary value, you may think that someone who donates $500 is more engaged than someone giving $20. However, if that person gives $20 every month for a few years, they are likely more engaged. RFM analysis helps you develop a holistic understanding of donor engagement.

To help you create your own, here’s an example of what an RFM analysis scorecard should look like: 

Once you’ve developed a scorecard that’s right for your organization, you can score each donor. For example, a donor that’s given in the last six months, given four gifts in a year, and given an average of $150, would receive a score of 5-4-4. 

Then, you can group donors with similar scores to create donor segments. This will allow you to tailor your engagement efforts to specific donor groups. For example, you can send more frequent appeals to the donor group’s frequency score that you want to increase. 

Additionally, you can observe how the distribution of your segments changes over time to determine if your engagement strategies are working. 

  1. Fundraising Participation Rate 

There are many ways to measure donor engagement beyond just tracking donation activity. 

For example, donors can participate in campaigns by becoming a fundraiser themselves. This engagement is important to measure because peer-to-peer fundraising is becoming more popular. Facebook fundraising grew by 14% in 2021

Fundraiser Participation Rate tells you the percentage of donors who fundraised on your behalf by doing things such as being sponsored in a charity run, soliciting door-to-door, or accepting donations as birthday presents. 

You can measure this metric using the following equation: 

(# of P2P Fundraisers ÷ # of Donors) x 100 = Fundraiser Participation Rate

The higher you can make this percentage, the better. A high fundraising participation rate tells you that your donors are highly engaged because they are willing to take time out of their busy days to grow support for your cause. 

  1. Social Media Metrics 

Social media engagement does not always mean donor engagement, just look at Unicef Sweden’s ad calling out “slacktivism”. Very bold!

But, if you are tracking the right social media metrics, they can help you measure donor engagement. We recommend focusing on conversion rates that tell you when social media engagement actually leads to donations. 

A great place to start is by tracking how many donations come directly from social media. Luckily, most social media platforms will be able to tell you your conversion rate.

However, you’ll also want to know how many people get to your website’s donation page from a social media post. You can track this using Google Analytics. 

To get started, there are lots of helpful Google Analytics resources for monitoring traffic that comes from social media. For example, check out Whole Whale’s video, which gives a great overview of Google Analytics for nonprofits. 

  1. Major Donor Contact Frequency

Measuring contact frequency tracks your touchpoints with a major donor or major donor prospect. Many interactions need to occur between meeting a potential donor and receiving a donation. These donor interactions are a part of donor relationship building and should be tracked to help you understand your progress towards a gift. 

You can track this as a metric by determining how many touchpoints you have with a donor in a given time period, such as a year or six months. Then, in your donor database or spreadsheet, track every communication you have with your major donor prospects, whether it’s a phone call or an email blast with a donation form attached. 

Not all contact efforts are created equal, so you may want to score communications differently. For example, if you have lunch with a donor, it may be worth five touchpoints, compared to an e-blast worth one. 

You can measure this metric using the following equation: 

(# of Touchpoints ÷ # of Months) = Major Donor Contact Frequency

While there’s no clear benchmark for Major Donor Contact Frequency, use your most engaged major donors’ scores as targets for success. And as always, don’t forget to use your fundraising common sense; if a donor doesn’t want to be contacted a lot, don’t contact them. 

—– 

As a fundraiser, you understand the value of building a deep and meaningful relationship with each donor. However, you can only tell how strong a relationship you’ve built is by tracking engagement indicators. Hopefully, these four metrics give you a good place to start!

Author Bio

Ally Smith | Content Writer at KIT

With a passion for nonprofit innovation, Ally has spent her career helping build community capacity and supporting social innovation as a customer success manager turned, youth worker, turned social researcher.

After leaving the tech start-up landscape, she pursued a Master’s in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership and has since supported nonprofits to innovate and grow. A Canadian ex-pat and social entrepreneur based in Edinburgh, she enjoys hiking, baking bread in a panic, and pursuing the full Scottish experience- rain and rugby included!

Time for a Little Nonprofit Spring Cleaning 

It’s spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, although depending on where you live, it may or may not feel like it. 

A lot of people use this time of the year to do some spring cleaning. I know, groan. I envy the people who have taken on a bunch of cleaning and decluttering projects since the pandemic started. I’m not one of them. 

I know I should do more. As much as I dislike cleaning and organizing, I’m happy once it gets done. Often getting started is the hardest part.

Your nonprofit organization may have put off some version of your own spring cleaning and decluttering. It’s been a tumultuous two years and counting.

Take some time to tackle these so-called cumbersome tasks. Just think how happy you’ll be when you’re done. You’ll also make some much-needed improvements to your infrastructure and donor communication.

Here are a few suggestions to help you get started.

Clean up your mailing lists and database/CRM

Has it been a while since you’ve updated your mailing lists? Did you have an influx of address changes, returned mail, and bounced emails after you sent your year-end appeal? This is a good time to clean up and update both your direct mail and email mailing lists.

Don’t wait until right before your next mailing to clean up your donor data. If it’s been a while since you’ve done this, then you really need to do what is known as data hygiene.

Even though it’s tedious, have someone who’s familiar with your donors (your development director?) go through your mailing lists and database/CRM (customer relationship management) to see if you need to make any additions, changes, and deletions.

Be meticulous. No donor wants to see her name misspelled, be addressed as Mrs. when she prefers Ms., or receive three mailings because you have duplicate records.

Your donor database is an important tool and it needs to be up-to-date and filled with accurate information about your donors.

CLEAN UP YOUR ACT: DONOR DATA MANAGEMENT FOR NONPROFITS

Donor Database Best Practices To Care For Your Data Like You Care For Your Donors

Run your donor list through the National Change of Address database. It may cost some money to do this, but it’s worth it if you come out with squeaky clean data. Do this at least once a year.

Also, if you haven’t already done this, segment your donors into different groups – new donors, returning donors, monthly donors, etc. You may need to make some changes. For example, if a single gift donor starts giving monthly.

Make This the Year You Segment Your Donors

You might also want to move some lapsed donors who haven’t donated for several years into an inactive file. Don’t do this until you’ve sent targeted, personalized appeals asking them to donate again. And if you’ve never gotten in touch with any lapsed donors from 2021, you could reach out to them now.

Do the same thing with your email list. It doesn’t make sense to send email to people who don’t respond to it. Give these people a chance to re-engage, and if they’re not even opening your emails, move them to an inactive file. Don’t worry if people unsubscribe. You’re better off with an email list of engaged subscribers.

What’s in My Inbox | The Benefits of Cleaning Your Email List

Maybe you need a better CRM/database. If you’re using a spreadsheet to store your donor records, then you need an actual database. Get the best one you can afford.

Choosing a Donor Database: The Ultimate Guide for Nonprofits

Spring is about bringing in the new and a better database would be a wise investment. It can help you raise more money. You can also save money by having clean mailing lists.

Freshen up your messages

Now that you’ve cleaned up your mailing lists and segmented your donors, it’s time to freshen up your messages, if you haven’t done that for a while. I’ve written about this in a couple of recent posts, emphasizing that your donor communication needs to reference the current situations and steer clear of generic language and jargon. If you’re still using templates from before March 2020, you need a refresh.

Your thank you letters need to actually thank your donors, not brag about your organization. Make sure your automatically generated thank you emails and landing pages don’t look like boring receipts. Create separate templates for new donors, current donors, and monthly donors.

Why You Need a Thank You Plan

Let go of what you don’t need

The pandemic forced many organizations to rethink the way they did certain things. You may have held an in-person event for years, but in the spring of 2020 had to switch to virtual or run an emergency campaign. Maybe this worked better for you.

In-person events take a lot of staff time and don’t always bring in that much money. It’s also not clear they’re safe to put on right now. Just like those old clothes taking up room in your closet or a file cabinet stuffed with years of paperwork, it may be time to let go of this event (or anything else that doesn’t serve you) and find a different way to raise money.

Think better rather than new

In uncertain times, it’s better to focus on what’s going to work for your nonprofit instead jumping onto the latest craze. Focus on what you can do better. Instead of going on TikTok, think about growing your monthly giving program and building relationships with your donors. These are proven ways to help you raise more money.

Don’t wait too long

I know you have a lot going on, but you need to take on these initiatives sooner rather than later. Just like the clutter and dust in your home won’t disappear on their own, the longer you ignore it, the worse it gets. 

Get started on these spring cleaning projects as soon as you can. You’ll be happy once they’re done. Your donors will also be happy if they don’t get duplicate mailings and a fundraising letter laced with jargon, but do receive a personalized appeal and a stellar thank you letter.

Image by Marco Verch

What Casablanca Can Teach Us About Nonprofit Organizations

Casablanca is one of my favorite movies. I’ve seen it many, many times and I always discover something new in that wonderful script. This year it turns 80 and with a few exceptions, it’s still very relevant now.

Over the past several years, the story of refugees fleeing Europe mirrored what was going on in other parts of the world. Now we have a new set of refugees and the storyline of the Germans invading France parallels what’s going on in Ukraine.

If you haven’t seen the movie, and I highly recommend it, here’s a synopsis. Warning – does contain spoilers. Even if you haven’t seen it, you’re probably familiar with many of the quotes.

Here are a few Casablanca quotes that can apply to nonprofit organizations.

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

One of the most important words in nonprofit communication is you. When you write to donors and other supporters, you need to write directly to them. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen as often as it should.

I just received an annual report from an organization that was quite liberal with its use of the word you. Hats off to them because most annual reports go heavy on organization-centered language. 

Here are a few examples.

You’re feeding kids today.

You gave more students access to school nutrition.

On the front line, you helped the helpers.

As fundraising expert Tom Ahern says, “You is glue.” Writing directly to your readers, using you much more than we, helps establish important connections. No one wants to hear you brag about yourself.

Do Your Donor Communications Pass the “You” Test?

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.”

There are a plethora of nonprofit organizations out there that your donors can choose from, but they chose yours. Once they have, your goal should be to keep them for a long time. 

Unfortunately, many organizations spend a good deal of time on getting donors, but not on keeping them.

“Louis, this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

One key to keeping your donors is establishing a relationship with them. Building relationships is just as important as raising money.

Work on keeping your new donors and getting that ever-important second gift, also known as the golden donation. Once you get that second gift, your donors are more likely to keep giving.

Keep that beautiful friendship going!

Fundraising Should be About Building Relationships, Not Making a Transaction

Besides quotes, here are a few scenes and themes from Casablanca that are relevant to nonprofits.

The passion of La Marseilles

My favorite part of Casablanca is the La Marseilles scene. The Germans are singing “Die Wacht am Rhein,” a patriotic German song, when Victor orders the band to start playing “La Marseilles,” the French equivalent. The bar is filled with refugees trying to escape to freedom. They all start singing with such a passion, which moves me every time I see it. 

Nonprofits also have a passion for their work. It would be hard to succeed if you didn’t. Plus, many of your donors are passionate about your cause.

Bring some of this passion into your fundraising letters and other donor communication instead of the usual same old, same old.

On the front lines

Before Rick came to Casablanca, he ran guns to Ethiopia in 1935 and fought in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Even though these countries had their own armies, Rick saw a need and headed to the front lines to help make a difference.

Nonprofit organizations are also out on the front lines. We’re seeing countless nonprofits working with refugees who are fleeing from Ukraine. We’ve seen nonprofits stepping up during the pandemic and also working to combat racism, economic crises, and climate disasters. They’re often going above and beyond what the government and other institutions provide. 

A story of resilience

Throughout the movie, there is an underlying story of resilience. After the two years we’ve been through, resiliency is a common theme. Not that it’s easy, but going through difficult times can make us more resilient.

How to Build Nonprofit Resilience: Three Strategies to Strengthen Organizations

Casablanca has its serious parts, but there’s also romance, intrigue, and a surprising amount of humor. It deserved its Oscar for best screenplay, as well as best picture. You might find it a nice escape from everything that’s going on in the world.

Fundraising in an Ever-Changing World

We’ve been through so much over the last two years – the pandemic, an economic downturn, supply chain issues, inflation, a racial reckoning, political turmoil, and climate disasters. Now we can add the war in Ukraine. 

Your nonprofit organization has gone through a lot and is continuing to navigate this ever-changing world. It’s important to not give up and keep persevering.

Don’t stop fundraising

Whatever is going on in the world, please don’t stop fundraising! I know the crisis in Ukraine is on all of our minds right now. Your donors may be supporting organizations that are helping Ukrainians, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stop giving to your organization. Let them decide.

Fundraising in Times of Crisis: What Helps Ukraine Most Right Now?

Fundraising in a time of war: what should you do?

You don’t need to be in crisis!

Donors will give if they can. If you’re short on revenue, here are a few ways to raise more money.

Maybe you have a fundraising campaign planned for the spring. If not, you could run an emergency campaign. These were successful at the height of the pandemic. I’m sure you have pressing needs and a lot of people are still struggling now.

Organizations with a strong monthly giving program have done well. Monthly giving makes sense on so many levels. Nonprofits receive a steady stream of revenue throughout the year, monthly giving makes it easier for donors to spread out their gifts, and the monthly donor retention rate is 90%. Monthly donors are also more likely to become major donors and legacy donors. Having a strong monthly giving program will help during times of uncertainty.

Why Monthly Giving is Important for Your Nonprofit Organization

Another option is to reach out to your lapsed donors. Donors stop giving for a variety of reasons. Maybe things have been tough for them financially or they were just too overwhelmed to donate. 

Circumstances change. Reach out to donors who have given in the past, but who haven’t donated in the last year or two. Send them personalized appeals. If you find out a donor can’t afford to give right now, respect that, but keep sending messages of gratitude and updates, unless they opt out. I’ll go into that more below.

The right way to win back lapsed donors

Nonprofit organizations are essential

Never forget that nonprofit organizations are essential. Kudos to you for continuing to provide essential services as best you could.

It doesn’t matter what type of work you do, whether you work with refugees, in human services, protect the environment, or are an arts/culture organization, just to name a few. Your work is important!  

Don’t go silent

One reason donors stop giving is because they rarely hear from you or when they do, your messages are uninspiring. This is something you can control.

Imagine this scenario – Jane Donor has been supporting ten nonprofit organizations. She’s feeling pinched financially right now and has decided to only support seven this year. Which ones will she choose? The ones that regularly send personal messages of gratitude and engaging updates or the ones that rarely or never communicate unless they’re asking for donations?

It’s important to keep up with your donor engagement. An underlying theme of many of my posts is better communication will help you raise more money. 

Even if it’s hard, you can’t ignore your donors. You don’t need to take on too much. Aim for short, high-quality messages once or twice a month. Just don’t go silent.

You can’t ignore current situations

When I see communication that doesn’t reference the pandemic or other current situations, it makes me wonder if the organization is using a template that needs to be revised. It’s a good idea to refresh your messages at least once a year, but in this ever-changing world, you’ll need to do it more often. I elaborated on this in my last post. 

Steer Clear of Generic Communication

The good news is that over the last two years, most donor communication is more personal and less generic. Some specifically reference situations such as the pandemic, economic uncertainty, and systemic racism, while others mention a challenging two years. You also have specific needs and an urgency. Organizations that made this clear raised more money.

Your organization has faced challenges, everyone has, and you need to acknowledge that.

What the future holds

It would be nice to think the worst of COVID is behind us, but we don’t know that. Another crisis may also be looming out there. All this uncertainty makes it harder to plan. Plus, it’s stressful.

Many of the practices we implemented at the start of the pandemic may need to stay. We may be looking at a hybrid of in-person and virtual gatherings for a while. That includes events, donor meetings, and the workplace. If you’ve found some of these have worked better for your nonprofit, you could keep them for the time being.

Donors are going to expect honest communication about your need and want to hear about your success and challenges. No going back to generic messages. If you’ve communicated more with your donors over the last two years, keep that up. If you’ve been holding back, you need to do more. Don’t be afraid to ask for donations. Keep up the better communication. 

Keep up your essential work!

Fundraising in Inflation and Under Threat of Nuclear War. 7 Survival Tips for 2022

Don’t Be Tone Deaf on Ukraine

Steer Clear of Generic Communication

Are you still sending all your donors the same appeal and thank you letters? In these letters, you never thank a donor for their past support or acknowledge they’re a monthly donor.

If that’s not bad enough, many of these letters use vague and impersonal language and even worse, jargon.

Since the pandemic started, some nonprofits have done better and have created more nuanced, personal communication. Let’s keep this up and all do better. Your donors deserve that.

Steer clear of anything generic and create something more personal. Here’s what you can do.

Segment your donors

Your donors aren’t the same, so they shouldn’t all get the same letter. Segment your donors into different groups as much as you can. At the very least, create different letters for new donors, repeat donors, and monthly donors. You can also personalize letters to lapsed donors, event attendees, volunteers, etc.

I emphasize segmenting your donors a lot in my posts because it’s so important. Donors like it if you recognize their past giving or anything that shows them this is more than a generic, one-size-fits-all message.

Make This the Year You Segment Your Donors

Donor Segmentation | Comprehensive Guide + Tips For Success

And while we’re on the subject of personalization, please stop sending Dear Friend letters, as well. You’re not being a good friend if you don’t even use your donors’ names.

I know this will take more time, but it’s worth the investment. So is a good database to help you with this. Your donors will feel appreciated and are more likely to give again, possibly at a higher level.

Use language your donors understand

If you use vague, generic language and jargon, you’re going to instantly bore and/or confuse your donors. Most of your donors don’t have a medical or social services background. They don’t use terms like food insecurity, at-risk populations, and underserved communities, and neither should you.

Connect with your donors by using language they’ll understand. Instead of talking about food insecurity, give an example of a family choosing between buying groceries and paying the heating bill.

What do you mean by at-risk or underserved? Are high school students less likely to graduate on time? Do residents of a certain community not have good health care nearby? Is housing too expensive? Get specific, but at the same time, keep it simple. Also, terms like at-risk and underserved undermine your clients/community. Remember, these are human beings you’re talking about.

Let’s Try to Stop Using Jargon So Much

How Jargon Destroys Nonprofit Fundraising & Marketing

A great way to steer clear of generic language and jargon is to tell stories. Most people respond better to a human-interest story than a bunch of boring statistics.

Make Connections With Your Donors by Sharing Stories

Why your good story leads to a better world

Make time for improvement

You may be between fundraising campaigns right now and have a little more time (maybe). If so, work on segmenting the donors in your database, if you haven’t already done that. Segmenting your donors isn’t a one-time deal. Make changes as needed. For example, some of your single-gift donors may have upgraded to monthly. If you can do this after every campaign, you should have fairly up-to-date information on your donors.

In addition, dust off those templates and freshen up your appeal letters and thank you letters. We’re living in an ever-changing world and you need to acknowledge current situations in your communication. Create letter templates for different donor groups and replace your vague, generic language with something clear, conversational, and specific.

You can also use this time to add new stories to your story bank or start putting one together, if you don’t already have one

Have someone outside your organization, a friend or family member, look at your messages. Something that’s clear to you may mean nothing to others.

Steer clear of your generic communication with something that shows your donors how much you appreciate them by recognizing who they are and giving them engaging content they can relate to.