Five Ways to Improve Your Fundraising and Communications in 2015

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2014 is winding down and the New Year is just around the corner.  I hope you had a successful year.

The end of the year is a good time to figure out what worked and where you can make improvements for next year.

Here are five ways you can improve your fundraising and communications in 2015.

Tell stories

Don’t bore your donors with a lot of facts and statistics.  Tell a story.  Use stories in your appeal letters, thank you letters, newsletters, annual reports, and on your website.

Take time to create stories and profiles of clients, board members, volunteers, donors, and staff members.  It’s okay to use stories more than once.

A couple of appeals I received used first-person stories, which can be very compelling.  Be sure to use the person’s own words.  In an appeal from a college-age woman who attended a theater’s program for 14-20 year olds, she writes “Donors help advance the theater’s mission…”  I doubt that’s language she would use.

Create a memorable thank you experience

Nonprofit organizations can do a better job of thanking their donors. Some thank you letters look like computer-generated receipts.

Instead of going through the motions, create a memorable thank you experience.  Make your donors feel good about donating to your organization. Give them specific examples of how their gift is helping you make a difference.

Get creative. One organization I support printed Thank You! on the outer envelope of their thank you letter.  You could also handwrite this.

Keep thanking your donors throughout the year.  Make this a priority.

Be donor-centered

So many newsletters, annual reports, and other communications sound like one big bragfest.  You don’t have to tell your donors you’re great.  They wouldn’t have donated if they didn’t find your organization worthwhile.

You need to tell them they’re great.  Again, make them feel good about being a donor.

Always put yourself in your donors’ shoes.  When thinking about what to include in your newsletter, write articles they’ll want to read, such as success stories about the people/community you serve.

Nix the swag and premiums

I receive so many mailing labels from organizations that I can wallpaper a room. Although, they do come in handy when I mail holiday cards.

You may be tempted to send swag or offer a premium if someone upgrades their gift or gives at a certain level.  Think twice about doing that.

Here’s a better idea from a community foundation.  They found an anonymous donor who will match all new donations and any increases in giving from 2013.

You also want donors to give because they care about your organization, not because they want a tote bag.

Pay attention to your data entry

I know data entry is tedious, but you need to do it well.  Donors don’t want to see their names misspelled.

Use the right titles too.  Personally, I don’t like being addressed as Mrs., Miss, or with my husband’s last name, but some donors will feel differently.   Include a title field, along with a space for the name of a second donor to ensure donors are addressed the way they want to be.

Use extra care when soliciting new donors.  I’ve received several appeals with serious data entry errors from organizations I don’t already support.  I was not impressed.

These are just a few improvements you can make in 2015. Can you think of any others?

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