Many nonprofits, especially small ones, are working with limited resources (money, staff, time). I know how hard that is and your default mode may be to say we can’t afford to do this.
Be careful. What are you saying you can’t afford to do? It may be something you should be doing.
Here are a couple of areas you may be neglecting that I believe you can’t afford not to invest in. You’ll need to spend some money up front, but it will pay off in the long run.
Invest in a good database
If you’re using Excel instead of a database because it’s free, stop doing that. A spreadsheet is not a database. Your Worst Fundraising Enemy
A good database won’t be free, but there are affordable options for small organizations. Compare Non-Profit Software You don’t want to limit yourself by choosing a database that can only hold a certain number of records or can only be used on one computer because you don’t want to pay for additional licenses.
A good 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.
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. No more Dear Friend. You can welcome new donors and thank donors for their previous support. You can send targeted mailings to lapsed donors to try to woo them back. You can record any personal information, such as conversations you had with a donor and their areas of interest.
Don’t cut corners when it comes to your donor data. You can’t afford to do that.
Invest in direct mail
If you never or rarely use direct mail, you’re missing out on an effective and more personal way to communicate with your donors. Think of the immense 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.
If money is tight, you don’t have to mail that often. Quality is more important than quantity but aim for at least four times a year.
Put some thought into what you send. Some ideas, besides appeal letters, include thank you cards; Thanksgiving, holiday, or Valentine’s Day cards; infographic postcards; and two to four-page newsletters and annual/progress reports. Make everything donor-centered like the examples in this post. Your Donors Are Your Partners You could put a donation envelope in your newsletter to raise some additional revenue, but don’t 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 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 to communicate by mail, then you should too.
Invest in donor communications
Here’s some great wisdom from Tom Ahern – If you do better donor-communications, you’ll have more money This means thanking your donors and keeping in touch with them throughout the year.
Communication budgets often get the short shrift but creating thank you cards and infographic postcards are a smart investment. Perhaps you need to reallocate your budget to cover some of these expenses. You could also look into additional sources of unrestricted funding.
If you think you don’t have enough time or staff to send thank you cards, then call up your thank you army, which can include board members, volunteers, and all staff.
Don’t limit yourself by saying you can’t afford to do something important. If you invest in a good database, direct mail, and donor communications, you should be able to raise more money.