10 Ways To Engage Donors And Boost Donations This Holiday Season

 

2086084757_0dec5905e6_mGuest Post by Jeremy Silverstein

Fundraising for your nonprofit organization occurs year-round as you build relationships with donors, host events, and ask for donations. However, research shows that almost one-third of yearly online giving occurs in December. Capitalize on generosity this holiday season as you engage donors and boost donations. Here are 10 ways you can do that.

Create a Seasonal Holiday Campaign

Deck the halls and give your seasonal donation campaign a holiday flare.

  • Post a picture of a rescue dog sporting a holiday wreath.
  • Bake cookies for families in need, and ask donors to sponsor a plate.
  • Feature a holiday tree on your thank you cards.

Consider hosting a holiday party, too, as you engage donors and incorporate seasonal elements into your fundraising campaign.

Share Your Goals

Tell donors why you’re raising money. Will it provide school supplies to 100 kids or send 10 developmentally delayed adults to job training? Your transparency builds trust in your cause.

Get Personal

Donors are human, and they want to know that their money makes a difference. Why should they give to your cause?

This year, consider asking organization beneficiaries to share their stories as you get personal.

  • Give donors a tour of the handicap van you purchased for client transportation.
  • Showcase photos of rescue dogs with their new families.
  • Ask a job-training recipient to record a video of his/her work day.

Re-Examine Your Donation Process

A cumbersome or time-consuming donation process turns away busy donors. Simplify the process with a few tips.

  • Update your website so it’s mobile-friendly.
  • Add a bright “donate here” button to every page.
  • Make the donation forms short and sweet.

Ask for Gifts in Kind

Cash donations are always appreciated, although not everyone can give a monetary donation. Another way people can help out is with tax-deductible in-kind gifts. Examples include:

  • New, unwanted electronics that you can sell online or use in your next auction fundraiser.
  • Gently used office supplies that keep your organization functioning properly.
  • Vehicles that are sold and turned into cash.
  • Annuities or life insurance policies that continue giving,

Help Donors Give Gifts

Help your donors cross everyone off their gift-giving list when you invite them to donate in someone else’s name. On your print and online donation forms, include a box where supporters can “give a donation as a gift.”

To increase participation, create an attractive gift package. It may include a thank you note, recognition certificate, or small branded gift. As an example, donors who give $100 to your animal rescue receive a stuffed dog in a branded coffee mug.

Participate in Giving Tuesday

Started in 2012, Giving Tuesday promotes charitable holiday giving. More than 700,000 people raised $116 million in 2015.

While Giving Tuesday has passed, be sure to thank donors who participated and encourage giving throughout the month. Prepare social media posts and mailings that give donors facts, photos, and testimonials detailing your organization’s impact in the community.

Be Grateful

Many people show generosity during the holidays. Join in and remind your donors that you’re grateful for them.

Send handwritten thank you notes to all your supporters, whether they give $10 or $1,000. Use social media, your website, and your newsletter, too, to highlight how donations make a difference for your cause. These stories and your gratitude ignite even more generosity.

Target Volunteers

Volunteers already give so much of their time to your cause, but think about asking them for financial gifts, too. Volunteers are twice as likely to give as non-donors partly because they already know and love your cause.

Think Ahead

Of course, you’re focusing on securing year-end donations. Think ahead to next year, too.

Remember that some of your donors may not be able to give during the holidays, but they will resume giving when the new year arrives. Reach out to these donors when you share your goals for your fundraising efforts, thank them for past support, and build bridges for the future.

The holiday season provides 10 excellent ways to engage donors and increase gifts. With these tips, you can increase donations for your cause. What other ideas work for you?

Author bio: Jeremy Silverstein is Vice President of Operations and Vehicle Dispatching at Goodwill Car Donations. During his five years with the organization, Silverstein has handled tens of thousands of donated vehicles and has become an expert in the field.

What You Can Learn from Your Donors

Image result for creative common images for smiley hearts

Do you know why your donors give to your organization? Most likely they feel a connection to your cause. Most of us are good people and we want to help others.

I’m very upset about the results of the recent U.S. presidential election, which prompted me to donate to organizations that will help people/communities who will be left behind in the next administration.

There’s no question that nonprofit organizations do good work, but as a donor, I feel that many aren’t good at communicating this or making a personal connection with me.  

You hear a lot about how important it is to be donor-centered, but organizations need to practice this. You need to think from your donors’ perspective. This is what’s important to us.

Why should I give to your organization?

Why is it important to give to your organization now?  It doesn’t matter to me that it’s your annual appeal, #GivingTuesday, or the end of your fiscal year. I want to hear how you’re helping people or the community.

I don’t want a bunch of boring statistics either. Tell me a story. Show me how I can help make a difference for someone or in the community.

I also don’t need to hear about how great your organization is. If I’m a current donor, I wouldn’t have supported you if I hadn’t thought highly of you.

Do you really know me?

I’m barraged with fundraising appeals, especially at the end of the year. Some of them are from organizations I support and others aren’t. There’s not much difference between them. Most are generic with no regard for who I am. I guess I expect that from organizations I don’t support.

But it bothers me when organizations I’ve supported for many years never acknowledge that. It’s not that hard to segment your letters or add a handwritten note.

I’m always thankful for the few organizations who take the time to be more personal.

Let me know that you appreciate my gift

The generic automatically generated thank you email doesn’t cut it. I need something better. Let me know how much you appreciate my gift.

If I’m a new donor, welcome me.  If I’ve given before, thank me for my continued support.  Surprise me with a phone call, handwritten note, or at the very least, a heartfelt letter. Say Thank You Like You Mean It

I made a number of first-time donations this year, many of them monthly gifts. I’m curious to see how many of these organizations welcome me and do anything special for monthly donors.

Use language I understand

I don’t use words like at-risk and underserved and neither should you. Your jargon is boring and makes me gloss over your letter. Instead of using the term food insecurity, tell me families have to choose between buying groceries or paying the heating bill. Use plain language to help me understand your messages.  10 plain English principles for writing better web content

This feels like a transaction

Many fundraising appeals focus more on the transaction than the relationship. Yes, you’re trying to raise money, but you should also try to build a relationship with me.

I make a majority of my donations on #GivingTuesday. I almost dread opening my email inbox because there’s a relentless stream of Donate Now messages.

As a donor, I like the idea of #GivingTuesday and I’m always happy if there’s an opportunity for a matching gift, but it’s very transactional, and that includes the thank you experience or lack there of.

Whether you participate in #GivingTuesday or not, please keep your relationship with me front and center.

Don’t ignore me

After I give a donation, I want you to stay in touch, and that doesn’t mean blasting me with appeals. Send me updates on how my gift is making a difference.

Very few organizations do that and do it well. I’m always grateful when I get an endearing update like the one in this post. Knock it Out of the Park

Remember, your donors give to your organization because they care about what you do. Show them that you care about them, as well.

Is Donating Online as Easy as Pie?

3062406535_cf83c41981_m

Year-end giving is in full swing and even if you’ve mailed your appeal letter, many people will choose to donate online. Chances are you’ll send most of your reminders by email and social media with a link to the donation page on your website.

That means online giving on your website needs to be easy to do. It’s tricky because you want to capture vital information without overwhelming your donors. 5 Donation Page Blunders That Kill Fundraising Response Rates

Use this checklist to make sure your donation page is ready for your online donors.

  • Is it easy to use and navigate?
  • 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?
  • Does it allow for multiple donors, for example, spouses with different last names?
  • Does it include an option for a gift in memory or in honor of someone?
  • Are you capturing mailing addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers?
  • Does it include a check-off box to join your mailing list?
  • Is it also easy to give on a mobile device?  This is crucial. More people are donating on mobile devices now. Getting Started with Mobile Fundraising: 5 Ways
  • After someone donates, does it take the person to a thank you landing page and generate a thank you email?
  • Does your homepage include a blurb about your appeal and a prominent Donate button, in case a donor Googles your organization instead of going directly to your donation page?
  • Is the rest of your website up-to-date and engaging? Donors might visit other pages to find out more about your programs or learn how they can volunteer. Is Your Website Up to Par?

Test it out

Put yourself in your donors’ shoes by donating to your organization online. Try it on a computer and a mobile device. Remember not all your donors are tech savvy. You might want to find someone who’s also not tech savvy to test it out.

Was it easy or did you feel like kicking and screaming?

Create a memorable thank you experience

If you’ve ever donated online, you know the thank you experience often doesn’t leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. This is easy to fix.

Start with an engaging landing page that says You’re amazing! or Thank you,Susan! Include a picture and a short, friendly message. An online donation should also generate an equally engaging thank you email.

You’re not off the hook yet. You still need to thank your donors by mail or with a phone call.

3 Things Your Nonprofit Must Do Well After An Online Donation

The perils of third-party sites

If you use a third-party site, such as PayPal, you don’t have much, if any, control over how the donation page and thank you experience will look and work. To make up for this, you’ll want to send a super-incredible thank you email, followed by something just as incredible by mail or phone.

Are you ready?

Be sure your donation page is in good shape for your year-end fundraising campaign, and throughout the year. Make it as easy as pie for your donors to give online.

Read on for more information on creating a great donation page.

7 Ways to Upgrade Your Nonprofit Donation Page

8 Best Practices for Building an Online Donation Page

And, if you’re looking for an online donation platform, here’s some information on that. 15 Online Donation Tools to Please Your Nonprofit’s Donors

Your Appeal is Just The Beginning

627569325_d5c408dcb0_m

Many of you are immersed in your year-end appeal, but if you think you can rest easy once the letters have gone out, think again. Your work has just begun.

In fact, what comes next is even more important, especially if you want to to keep your donors for a long time.

Do a good job of thanking your donors

I write a lot about the importance of thanking your donors, but I think this bears repeating. Your first step after you receive a donation is to thank your donors within 48 hours, preferably with a handwritten note or phone call. Don’t send the same old boring, generic thank you letter. Take time to create an awesome thank you. Say Thank You Like You Mean It

Create a welcome plan for your new donors

Approximately 70% of first-time donors don’t make a second gift. This is unacceptable. We have to do better.

Research by fundraising expert Penelope Burk states that first-time donors who receive a thank you call are more likely to donate again and give at a higher level the next year. Get a group of board members and other enthusiastic volunteers to call your new donors, or send them a handwritten thank you card.

*Make sure these are actually new donors. A good database will help you avoid any embarrassment.*

A week or two after the initial thank you, send a welcome package. You can do this by mail, email, or a combination of both.

Welcome your new donors. Thank them again and show them other ways they can connect with you. Invite them to subscribe to your newsletter and join you on social media.

Your welcome package can include a warm introductory message and a brochure or fact sheet. Get to know your new donors better. Pop in a short survey to find out how they heard about you and if they prefer print or electronic communication. You could also direct people to your website for more information about your organization.

Be careful about how much information you send. Donors want to feel welcome not overwhelmed.

I don’t recommend sending unsolicited swag. You could offer your new donors a gift and they can let you know if they want to receive it, but it’s not necessary.

What donors really want from you is to know how they’re helping you make a difference.

New Donor Welcome Kits | Your Next Gift Strategy

How to Welcome New Donors and Keep Them Engaged

Make your current donors feel special, too

You may think your most valuable donors are the ones who give the most money, but what about the people who have supported your organization for three, five, or even ten years? These are your valuable donors, considering repeat donor retention rates are about 65%.

Imagine how you would feel if you gave to an organization for over five years and they never acknowledge your long-time support.

This is why segmenting your donors and personalizing their correspondence is crucial, so is a good database to help you with this. Let’s Stop Putting Donors Into A Bucket Your donors are individuals and not a collective bunch.

Don’t skimp on donor communication

I know you’re swamped with your year-end appeal right now, but this is not the time to scale back on your donor communication. Continue to send your newsletter and other updates. Keep them donor-centered.

Send your donors Thanksgiving and holiday greetings, either by mail or email. Intersperse your fundraising appeals with messages in which you’re not asking for donations.

Keep spreading the love

Your first New Year’s resolution can be to communicate with your donors more. Keep reaching out to them  – at least once or twice a month. Show appreciation and update them on your success.

Think of other ways to do something special for your donors, such as offering tours of your facility or holding an open house.

You want to keep your donors for a long time and making them feel good about supporting your organization will help with this.

#Nonprofits, Keep Doing Your Good Work!

4397711604_2afe581dcc_m

I’m still in shock over the U.S.election. I had planned to submit a post today and mulled over whether I should wait until tomorrow. Somehow a post about donor communication seems trivial, even though it’s not. But it can wait.

How do we deal with uncertainty the next four years brings us?  Some of you may want to delve into your work to take your mind off things. Others will need a break to process this. Do whatever you need to take care of yourself.

Nonprofits, we need you more than ever. Don’t stop doing all the good things you do – for women, families, children, people of color, immigrants, the LBGTQ community, homeless people, the environment, etc.

Keep doing your good work!

It’s #Giving Tuesday Not Asking Tuesday

download

By now you’ve heard about #GIvingTuesday.This year it’s on November 29 and it’s billed as a global day to give back. Some people think it’s a great way to raise more revenue and find new donors. Others find it a complete waste of time.

Personally, I like the idea of a giving day and make most of my year-end donations on #GivingTuesday. On the other hand, it feels more like Asking Tuesday with a relentless stream of email messages and social media posts begging you to donate now. It forces you to spend too much time focusing on one day. Fundraising and donor relations are a year-round effort

As Fundraising Coach Mark Pittman points out, #GivingTuesday is to going to happen anyway. Is #GivingTuesday worth it?  You can choose to ignore it, but if you do decide to participate, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Focus on relationship building

Never miss an opportunity to build relationships, whether you’re reaching out to new donors or following up with current ones. Keep your appeal donor-centered. Thank current donors and find a way to make a connection with potential donors.

I realize the purpose of a fundraising appeal is to ask for donations, but don’t forget to build relationships, too. Why Does Giving to Your Organization Feel Like a Transaction and Not a Relationship?

Use #GivingTuesday as a way to follow up with your donors

If you don’t want to launch a full #Giving Tuesday campaign (understandable), it can be a great opportunity to follow up with people who haven’t donated to your year-end appeal. You should be doing regular reminders, anyway.

Send email and social media messages before and on #Giving Tuesday encouraging people to donate. You can use the #Giving Tuesday logos, etc. Obviously, you’ll want to keep following up with anyone who didn’t donate on #GivingTuesday.

Show some #donorlove

Be sure to give equal weight to thanking your donors, including sending welcome packets to new donors. You don’t want this to be a one-time thing. And, Say Thank You Like You Mean It

Another idea is to scrap #GivingTuesday all together and make it Giving Thanks Tuesday instead.  Try this fresh twist on Giving Tuesday We ask a lot of our donors, especially at year-end.  Why not take the time to give back to them?

Of course, you could also participate in #GivingTuesday, followed by Giving Thanks Wednesday.

How did you do?  

Be sure to make a plan to measure your results, whether you do a full campaign, a follow-up, or a thank you fest. Was it worth the time and effort?

I think you’ll find that any fundraising campaign will be more successful if you focus on building relationships.

Once is Not Enough,and Why You Need a Multichannel Fundraising Campaign

9299959937_3edb05f367_m

If you think you can send one fundraising appeal and then wait for the donations to pour in, you’re in for a rude awakening. Your donors are busy and may put your letter aside to handle later, and then never get to it. Or, they may not see your fundraising email in their ever growing inbox. While some donors will respond to the first appeal, most are going to need a few reminders.

You also don’t want to rely on one communication channel. Your fundraising campaign will be more effective if you use a combination of mail, email, social media, and phone calls. Some donors may respond to your direct mail piece but donate online. Others will see your email message but prefer to send a check.

You’ll have a lot of competition since you’re not the only organization seeking year-end donations. Not to mention, election season is in full force in U.S. but, thankfully, will be over on November 8.

This is why you need a multichannel campaign with a series of asks.

BEFORE YOU START

Clean up your mailing lists

If you haven’t already done so, clean up and organize your mailing lists.

Make it easy to donate online

You must have a donation page that’s engaging and easy to use on all platforms, including mobile. Test all links in email messages and social media posts. The last thing you want is a donor contacting you about a broken link or have to hunt around on your website for a link to your donation page.

When you’re ready to launch your campaign, include a blurb on your homepage that your appeal is underway. Make sure your donate button is in a prominent place.

Consistency is key

Your messages need to be consistent across channels. Use the same story and call to action in direct mail, email, and on your website.

Everything you send needs to look like it’s coming from the same organization.

Which channels do your donors use?

Yes, we’re talking about multichannel, but that doesn’t mean spending a lot of time on channels your donors aren’t using. Figure out in advance where you want to focus your efforts.

SAMPLE SCHEDULE AND STRATEGY

Come up with a schedule of when the appeals will go out. I’ve created a sample schedule below. Of course, you can adjust the timeframe as needed, and use this for campaigns at other times of the year. That said, I do recommend starting your year-end campaign sooner than later.

October 26

Give your supporters a heads up by email and social media. Let them know your year-end appeal is underway and they should receive a letter from you soon. Encourage them to donate online right now. This means your donation page needs to be in great shape.

Week of October 31

Mail your appeal letters.

Week of November 7

Start sending follow-up reminders via email and social media. If possible, don’t send reminders to people who have already donated. Otherwise, be sure to thank your recent donors. You can even phrase your reminders as more of a thank you or an update.

Thanks so much to all of you who donated to our year-end appeal. We’re well on our way to our goal. If you haven’t donated yet, please help us out today by visiting our website (include a link to your donation page) or sending us a check (provide address).

Week of November 14

Send another reminder. Your donors are busy and may need a gentle prompt. Keep it positive. Don’t make your donors feel bad because they haven’t donated yet.

Week of November 21

Send a Happy Thanksgiving message along with a friendly reminder. Share a success story in your appeal.

Week of November 28

Start making reminder calls. If time is an issue, you could just call people who have donated before. That’s probably most effective.

Also, November 29 is #GivingTuesday so you could tie that into a reminder message.

The rest of December and beyond

Keep sending reminders throughout December. It’s tricky because you want to get your message across without being annoying. Be sure to keep sending your newsletter and other updates. You don’t want the only messages your donors receive to be fundraising appeals. December is also a great time to show some #donorlove.

The end of December is the busiest time of the fundraising season. Network for Good recommends sending an email reminder on December 23, 29 or 30, and 31. This is especially relevant if your fiscal year ends on December 31 or your donor wants to give before the end of the calendar year. Even though you’re trying to secure donations, don’t forget about building relationships, too.

Look to see who hasn’t contributed yet. Concentrate on people who are most likely to donate, such as past donors. You may need to send another mailing to donors who don’t use electronic communication.

Remember, your fundraising will be more successful with multiple asks and by using multiple channels. 9 Tips for Making a Multichannel Fundraising Ask  Good luck with your campaign.

Photo by Daniel Iverson