Stay Connected With Your Donors by Creating a Communications Calendar

I like to emphasize the importance of keeping in touch with your donors throughout the year. I hope that’s a priority for you, too.

Your donors want to hear from you and don’t just want to be blasted with fundraising appeals. The good news is that better donor communication (thank yous and updates) can help you raise more money.

Ideally, you should communicate with your donors at least once or twice a month throughout the year. I know that might sound impossible, but it will be a whole lot easier if you put together a communications calendar (also known as an editorial calendar).

I like the term communications calendar because it emphasizes the importance of communicating with your donors and other supporters all year round.

Some of you may already have a communications calendar, which is great. Now is a good time to update yours for 2023 (it will be here before you know it). For the rest of you, here are some suggestions to help you get started. Even though it will take a little time to put together, it will be worth it in the end because you’ll be able to do a better job of communicating with your donors.

This is not just a job for your marketing department. All departments need to work together. Figure out what information you need to share and when you need to share it. You want a consistent stream of information – not three email messages in one day and nothing for three weeks.

As you put together your communications calendar, think about how you will use different channels and which audience(s) should receive your messages. You may only send direct mail a few times a year (and I hope you do use direct mail), but send an e-newsletter once a month and communicate by social media several times a week. You’ll often use several different channels when you send a fundraising appeal or promote an event.

Start big by looking at the entire year and then break it down by months and weeks. You’ll keep adding to your communications calendar throughout the year.

Your communications calendar is a fluid document and these past couple of years are a good example of how our world is constantly changing. We’re still in a period of uncertainty, so be prepared to keep things current.

Here are some categories you can use in your communications calendar. Some items will be time-sensitive and others won’t be.

Current events/News stories

At the beginning of 2020, most of us couldn’t predict the year we were about to have. There’s still so much going on. COVID is still a part of our lives, but now the bigger concern seems to be inflation and other economic issues. In 2022, we saw the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Who knows what next year will bring.

Many donors will expect you to address current situations. Keep them apprised of how all this is affecting your clients/community.

Updates

You need to keep your donors updated on how they’re helping you make a difference. Your print and e-newsletter should be included in your communications calendar. If you don’t do a newsletter, make a plan to share updates another way – maybe by postcard, email, and/or social media. Sometimes short updates are more effective.

Share your success and challenges, especially as we continue to navigate through the current climate.

Legislation

Advocacy alerts are a wonderful way to engage with your supporters. Be on the lookout for any federal or state legislation that’s relevant to your organization. Encourage people to contact their legislators about an issue or a bill. Then report back to them with any updates and thank them for getting involved.

Time of year

Is there something going on during a particular month that’s pertinent to your organization? Perhaps it’s homelessness or mental health awareness month.

Thanksgiving, the holidays, and winter can be a difficult time for some people. How can you weave that into an engaging story to share with your supporters? This will be another hard winter for many people.

Keep in mind your organization’s anniversary doesn’t mean much to your donors unless you can tie that in with how they’re helping you make a difference.

Fundraising and recruitment

Be sure to add your fundraising campaigns to your communications calendar. Obviously, these campaigns are important, but you also want to show gratitude and send updates during this time without inundating your donors with too many messages. Planning ahead will help you strike this balance.

If your organization has specific times it needs to recruit volunteers, add that to your calendar, as well. 

Thank your donors

Make this a priority! Find different ways to let your donors know how much you appreciate them. You can combine a thank you with an update. Do this at least once a month.

Events

Some organizations have started holding in-person events again. Some events are hybrid or just virtual. Besides your events, are there other events (virtual or in-person) in your community that would be of interest to your supporters? If so, you could share that on social media.

Ongoing content

If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell. Share a story at least once a month. Client stories (either in the first or third person) are best. Your stories need to be relevant to the ever-evolving current situations, so you may need to create some new ones.

You could also profile a board member, volunteer, donor, or staff member. Be sure to highlight what drew them to your organization.

Put together a story bank to help you with this.

Don’t stop communicating with your donors

As you hear about other relevant information, add it to your calendar, so you can stay connected with your donors/supporters throughout the year.

Here’s more information to help you create a communications/editorial calendar. A couple of these links also include templates.

Nonprofit Editorial Calendars

Free Editorial Calendar & Campaign Planning Documents

Get Organized With a Nonprofit Editorial Calendar

How to create and use a nonprofit editorial calendar

How to Make Your New Donors Feel Welcome

Year-end fundraising is in full swing. I hope your campaign is going well. Perhaps you also participated in Giving Tuesday. The latter often brings in new donors and that’s never something you want to take for granted. 

These donors saw a need and found a connection to your cause. Or maybe they were drawn into whatever Giving Tuesday promotion you initiated, but I like to think they wanted to help you make a difference. 

Unfortunately, the likelihood these donors will stick with you is not great. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the retention rate for first-time donors is a dismal 29%. 

That’s why it’s so important to get a second donation, also known as a golden donation. Once you get that golden donation, you’re more likely to have long-time donors who will stick with you. One way to ensure this is to make your new donors feel welcome.

Start with a special thank you

According to fundraising expert, Dr. Adrian Sargeant, “The thank you is the single most important piece of communication that your donors get. They have a higher recall of it than the appeal that generated the gift.”

This is something to keep in mind, especially for your new donors.

If someone donates online, it’s hard to tailor the thank you email specifically to new donors. But you can do that with a phone call, handwritten note, or thank you letter.

Try to call your new donors or send a handwritten note. This will make a great impression on them. Get together a group of board members, other volunteers, and staff to help you. If that’s not possible, create a thank you letter specifically for your new donors.

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

Create a welcome plan

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, join you on social media, and volunteer.

Your welcome package should include a warm introductory message and a few facts about your organization, but don’t brag too much. Keep it donor-centered. 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. Personally, I don’t like it, but some donors might. 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.

Create a series of messages, also known as a drip campaign. Set a timeline. The first sequence of messages can be about once a week. After that, you should continue to communicate regularly ( at least once a month) and follow the ask, thank, update formula. In a few months, you could invite your new donors to give monthly. Monthly donors are committed donors.

Who are your new donors?

They could be event attendees, volunteers, or newsletter subscribers. If you know, refer to that in your thank you note, letter, or phone call. If not, send a short survey with your welcome package and ask, “How did you hear about us?” or “What drew you to our organization?” 

Another question to ask is whether your donors prefer print or electronic communication. Short surveys are also a good way to connect throughout the year. The more you know about your donors the easier it will be to communicate with them.

Make your current donors feel special, too

While I’ve been focusing on new donors in this post, retention rates for current donors aren’t anything to celebrate. The overall donor retention rate is 43%, so we have some work to do.

Remember the golden donation, but don’t stop there. You want a third (would that be platinum?) and a fourth, etc. donation.  

If you’re not acknowledging a donor’s past support, you’re making a huge mistake. Imagine how you would feel if you gave to an organization for over five years and they never thank you for your long-time support.  

These valuable, long-time donors could leave at any time, so ignore them at your own peril. Make sure they also get a special thank you from you.

Keep it up throughout the year

It’s so important to communicate with your donors regularly. Plan on special mailings or emails specifically targeted to new donors. Try to send something by mail if you can. It’s more personal and your donors are more likely to see it. 

Think of other ways to do something special for your new donors too, such as offering virtual tours or an invitation to a Zoom discussion.

Of course, don’t ignore your other donors. You could do something special when you get that all-important second gift. Keep reaching out – at least once or twice a month. 

Show appreciation and share updates. A huge factor in donor retention is a good donor relations plan that you’ll carry out regularly as long as your donors support you, which hopefully will be for many years.

Google Grant Compliance: What You Need to Know

Complying with Google’s guidelines will help you maintain a healthy Ad Grant account. Here’s what any nonprofit needs to know about Google Grant compliance.

Google Grants have transformed the nonprofit marketing landscape. By meeting eligibility requirements, you can receive $10,000 every month to promote your cause through Google Ads. However, nonprofits must follow certain requirements to remain eligible.

Nonprofit fundraising professionals are likely familiar with the process of seeking grants and following compliance standards. Grantmaking organizations create standards to award money to nonprofits that will spend it in line with the program’s goals. Google Grants are no exception!

To keep your Google Grant account compliant, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the program’s rules, starting with why they were created.

Why Does Google Implement Compliance Requirements?

Every grantmaking organization, including Google, strives to fund responsible organizations and advance worthwhile missions. That’s why they require nonprofits to undergo an intricate vetting process and meet ongoing requirements.

For the Google Grants program, the primary purpose of compliance regulations is for nonprofits to create meaningful conversions, not just maximize ad spend.

When the program first launched, there weren’t many compliance rules. Instead of concentrating on connecting with likely prospects, nonprofits focused on spending as much as possible to increase search visibility. This led to nonprofits:

  • Advertising any content on their website, including pages that people wouldn’t find useful.
  • Targeting keywords that didn’t align with the searcher’s intent and brought unqualified prospects.

This decreased the program’s value and led to users encountering content they weren’t searching for. To counteract this, Google’s team created a list of compliance rules, requiring nonprofits to create meaningful ads for mission-centric topics.

A Rundown of Google’s Compliance Rules

To comply with Google’s regulations, you need to understand them. Getting Attention’s Google Grants eligibility guide explores them in-depth, but for now, here’s an overview of the program’s rules:

  • No single-word or generic keywords are permitted.
  • Keywords must have a quality score of at least three. 
  • Maintain a 5% click-through rate.
  • Have at least one conversion each month.
  • Include at least two ads per ad group and two ad groups per campaign. The official guidelines have indicated two ads per group in the past; however, Google has recently moved to RSAs and indicated that each ad group must have at least one RSA. This may replace the need for two ads in the future, but Google’s official guidelines haven’t changed.
  • Include at least two sitelink ad extensions (which link to additional landing pages within your ad).
  • Respond to the annual program survey.

Complying with these rules will also optimize your campaigns. For example, choosing high-quality keywords will display your ads to qualified prospects, while sitelink extensions will provide users with alternative ways to engage with your cause.

Tips for Complying with the Google Grant Rules

While it’s one thing to understand the program’s rules, it’s another thing to put them into practice. Let’s walk through ways to develop a healthy Google Grant account.

1. Set Meaningful Conversion Goals.

As mentioned above, Google requires nonprofits to have at least one conversion per month. A conversion is when a user completes an action that’s valuable to your nonprofit. 

While Google gives you free rein over your conversion goals, common ones include:

  • Online donations
  • Volunteer registrations
  • Event sign-ups
  • Newsletter sign-ups

The idea behind conversion goals is to ensure each ad serves a role in advancing your mission. So think about what will push your cause forward. 

For instance, an animal shelter might view adoption inquiry form submissions as meaningful. On the other hand, a community organization might track newsletter subscriptions. Also, remember different ad groups can track different conversions, so you’re not tied to one specific goal for the entire account.

2. Choose Valuable Keywords.

Another essential component of a healthy Google Grant account is keywords. Keywords should be relevant to your cause and connect you with people searching for content in line with what you’re promoting.

To comply with Google’s keyword standards, here’s what we recommend:

  • Leverage keyword research tools. As part of the program, you can access Google Keyword Planner. Brainstorm what prospects might search to find your organization. Put these terms into Keyword Planner to view estimated search traffic, how much you should bid, and keyword suggestions.
  • Check your keyword quality regularly. Google assigns a Quality Score to each keyword. A higher score means the ad and landing page are relevant to users searching that term. Regularly review your account and pause any underperforming keywords (i.e. those with a score below three).
  • Center each ad group around similar keywords. Focus each group on a specific theme and related keywords. For a wildlife sanctuary, one ad group might focus on generating volunteer registrations and include terms like “wildlife rescue volunteer opportunities” and “animal sanctuary volunteering.” Then, another ad group might focus on driving donations and target terms like “donate to wildlife rescue” and “animal sanctuary donations.”

Keyword research is critical for Google Grant compliance. Failure to choose relevant keywords can result in account suspension, so consistently revisit your performance.

3. Assign a Knowledgeable Google Grants Manager

Consider designating a specific person to manage your account, respond to performance data, and follow Google’s compliance standards. In addition to building relationships with monthly donors, that individual can reach new audiences as they refine your campaigns. 

However, many organizations don’t have the staff capacity to devote an internal team member’s time. Instead, they outsource the work to a Google Grants agency. Typically, a professional will manage the following areas related to compliance:

  • Keyword research. Backed by search engine marketing knowledge, an agency can pick keywords that meet Google’s quality standards.
  • Landing page optimization. Optimized landing pages will drive more campaign conversions. An agency will help pick and create promotable landing pages.
  • Valid conversion tracking. A professional agency will have experience with Google Analytics and can pick the right conversion goals for your nonprofit.

A professional’s expertise extends beyond basic Google Grant rules. They may also create ad copy and choose meaningful conversions.

Whether you assign someone internally or outsource the work, assigning a grant manager lays a foundation for maintaining Google Grant compliance. 


Google Grants empower nonprofits to share their stories online. Don’t waste this opportunity by not following compliance guidelines. Using the guidance we shared, you can start improving your strategies and getting more out of your grant every month.

Getting Attention contributed to the content of this post.

How to Make Giving Tuesday Less Transactional

What’s the difference between Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday? Unfortunately, it seems like not a whole lot. According to the Giving Tuesday website, “Giving Tuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of radical generosity.” In theory, that sounds nice, but in reality, it’s a day when nonprofit organizations unleash an onslaught of transactional fundraising appeals by email and social media.

For the last 10 years, Giving Tuesday has taken place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This year it will be on November 29.

I’m not going to tell you whether or not you should participate in Giving Tuesday. Perhaps you’ve participated in the past and it’s been successful, or maybe it wasn’t. Perhaps you’re planning to participate for the first time. Maybe you’re on the fence. 

Whether you participate or not, Giving Tuesday is part of the nonprofit landscape and if you’re doing a year-end appeal, you’ll need to factor it into your campaign. If you do participate, you want to make it a better experience for your donors instead of the usual barrage of generic, transactional appeals.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as Giving Tuesday approaches.

Just because it’s Giving Tuesday isn’t a compelling reason to give

I see so many email messages that say donate because it’s Giving Tuesday. Many donors don’t care if it’s Giving Tuesday or if it’s your “annual appeal.” That’s often not why they donate. They give because they care about your cause and want to help make a difference. 

Let them know that with their help Kayla can sleep in a warm bed tonight or Jeffrey can boost his reading skills.

We’re still living in difficult times and people and communities are struggling. You need to acknowledge this in your appeals.

It’s not just about the money

A successful Giving Tuesday campaign is about more than just raising a lot of money. You also want to build relationships and make your donors feel good about supporting your organization. This is often where it falls short.

I haven’t been a huge fan of Giving Tuesday or any giving days, for that matter, because they focus too much on getting donations. Many of these donors are first-time donors who don’t give again. The end result is you’ve just spent a lot of time and effort on getting one-time gifts. That’s not what you want. You need donors who will support you for many years.

Make it personal and segment your donors

Don’t just blast a bunch of generic, transactional appeals that resemble Cyber Monday ads or those relentless requests for political donations. I receive so many political emails, which are just “noise” that I end up ignoring. That’s not what you want. You want to attract your donors’ attention, and in a good way.

You also don’t want to send all your donors the same appeal. If someone donated last year on GivingTuesday, this is the perfect opportunity to thank them for that gift and ask them to donate again this year. If they donated two weeks ago, maybe they shouldn’t get an appeal right now.

Segment your donors. Acknowledge past donors and make a connection with potential donors. 

Focus on building relationships with your donors instead of just begging for donations.

Also, if you’re sending an appeal to your monthly donors, recognize them as monthly donors and ask them to give an additional gift. They get their own thank you, too. Monthly donors are one of your most loyal types of donors. Be sure to make them feel special.

If you’re one of the few organizations that sends more personalized appeals, then kudos to you because that’s what everyone needs to do. I saw some evidence of more personalized, nuanced appeals during the height of the pandemic, so let’s continue to do that.

Use Giving Tuesday 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 sending 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. if you’d like. Obviously, you’ll want to keep following up with anyone who didn’t donate on Giving Tuesday.

Remember, your donors will be barraged with email and social media messages on Giving Tuesday. Make yours stand out and be prepared to keep following up.

Put gratitude front and center

Your donors should be feeling the love right after they make their donation.

Make sure you have an engaging thank you landing page and thank you email for your online donors. You could even create ones especially for Giving Tuesday. Then you need to follow that with a phone call, handwritten note, or thank you letter.

Send welcome packages to new donors or welcome back messages to current donors. 

Go the extra mile and do a good job of thanking these donors – both right after they’ve made their donation and throughout the year.

We’re going to skip Giving Tuesday 

Maybe you’ll decide you’re going to skip Giving Tuesday altogether. Remember, other organizations will be participating and your messages will be competing with the onslaught of Giving Tuesday appeals. 

You have an opportunity to stand out here by keeping your fundraising campaign focused on gratitude and relationship building. Year-end is a good time to ramp up your donor communication (examples include thank you messages, holiday greetings, and updates) so people don’t think you’re only asking them for money.

Give back to your donors

I think you’ll find your Giving Tuesday campaign, or any fundraising campaign, will be more successful if you focus on more than just the giving part. And a big part of a successful campaign is getting repeat donations. This means giving back to your donors, as well.

Always focus on relationships and not the transaction.

How to Incorporate Gratitude Into Your Year-End Fundraising Campaign

Year-end fundraising coincides with the gratitude season, which includes Thanksgiving in the U.S. and the December holidays. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as if stores go into holiday mode earlier each year.

Now is a great opportunity to show some gratitude to your donors. You could hold a thankathon, especially if you haven’t launched your appeal yet. Traditionally, thankathons are done by phone, but you can use other channels, too.

If you’re thinking you’re too busy with your year-end campaign to spend much time thanking your donors right now, that’s precisely why you need to get on the thank you train.

You’re never too busy to thank your donors. Showing gratitude and building relationships should help you raise more money. Plus, many donors stepped up to support you over the last two and half years. Don’t they deserve some extra attention?

Showing gratitude doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should, but you need to spend just as much time thanking your donors and building relationships as you do on fundraising.

Here are a few ways to incorporate thanking your donors into your year-end fundraising campaign.

Say thank you in your appeal

Does your appeal thank donors for their past or potential gifts? It should. Remember, you need to be showing gratitude while you’re trying to raise money.

This is especially important around #GivingTuesday and I’ll write more about that in my next post.

Wish your donors a Happy Thanksgiving

One way to show gratitude right now is to send your donors a special Thanksgiving message. A lot of nonprofits already do this. If you’re not one of them, make this the year you start. If you can send a card or postcard, that’s great, but an email message is also fine.

In a recent post about running a multichannel campaign, I suggested skipping the reminder during Thanksgiving week and pour on the gratitude instead. That can also be beneficial if you’re planning to send appeals on #GivingTuesday, which tends to be very transactional.

We’re still living in a time of uncertainty and your donors will appreciate a heartfelt message from you. Let them know how grateful you are to have them as part of your donor family. 

Don’t stop with Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving isn’t the only time to show some appreciation. The holidays and New Year’s are coming up soon and that’s a good opportunity, especially for those of you outside the U.S., to express gratitude. But you don’t need a holiday or other special occasion. Just thank your donors and do it often. 

Whatever you decide, DO NOT include a donation envelope or any other type of ask with your thank you message. This is known as a thask and it’s guaranteed to deflate your donor’s good feelings in an instant.

Be ready to thank your donors as soon as you receive a donation

Every single donor, no matter how much they’ve given or whether they donated online, gets a thank you card/letter mailed to them or receives a phone call.

Planning ahead will help you thank your donors as soon as possible. I’m sure you’re spending a lot of time and effort getting your fundraising appeal out. Perhaps you’ve recruited other staff or volunteers to help you.

You need to do the same thing when you thank your donors. Get your board, other staff, and volunteers to help make phone calls, write thank you notes, or include a handwritten note on a thank you letter. This is another opportunity for a thankathon.

Make thanking your donors a priority

Your donors deserve more than just the same boring, generic thank you letter. The initial thank you right after you receive a donation is important. So is the next one and the one after that and the one after that….

Thanking your donors is not something you just do after receiving a donation. You want to thank your donors at least once a month. Here are some ideas to show gratitude throughout the year.

  • Send a handwritten note.
  • Create a thank you video and share it on your website, by email, and on social media. Better yet, personalize it.
  • Send welcome packages to your new donors.
  • Invite your donors to connect with you via email and social media. Keep them updated on your success and challenges. Making all your communications donor-centered will help convey an attitude of gratitude.
  • Thank your donors in your newsletters and other updates. Emphasize that you wouldn’t be able to do the work you do without their support.
  • Create a virtual tour or other engaging video content so your donors can see your nonprofit up close and personal.
  • Thank your donors just because they’re great.
  • Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors.

Create a thank you plan to help you with this.

Always choose kindness 

The world could use some more kindness right now. We’re all still dealing with a lot and the divisiveness doesn’t help. In the spirit of kindness, show some gratitude to your donors and make them feel special.

A Few Ways You Can Raise More Money This Year

It’s year-end fundraising time. You may have already started your campaign or are planning to soon. 

Nonprofit organizations rely on year-end for a good chunk of their revenue. Maybe you haven’t raised as much money as you planned this year and need to make up for that. Maybe your fundraising appeals never seem to perform as well as you would like.

Fundraising is hard and you can’t just send a bunch of generic appeals and hope the money comes in. If you want to raise more money, you need to put in some extra effort.

One way to raise more money is to segment your donors and send targeted appeals. You also need to have a good CRM/database and follow the ask, thank, update, repeat formula. 

Here are a few ways you can use these tactics to raise more money.

Ask for an upgrade

Many nonprofits don’t ask their donors to upgrade their gifts and they’re missing an opportunity to raise more money. You may be reluctant to ask donors to give more right now because of the uncertain economy, but that’s why you should ask. 

Your clients/community may be struggling and your need is growing. If you can relay this to your donors, some of them will give more. Many donors step up during tough times.

Of course, some of them won’t be able to give more now, but it’s unlikely any of them will upgrade if you don’t ask. They’ll also be more receptive to upgrading their gift if you’ve done a good job of thanking them and sharing updates throughout the year.

Target your upgrade asks based on past giving. Be reasonable. A donor who gave $50 is unlikely to give $500. Here’s an example.

We really appreciate your past gift of $50. Could you help us out a little more this time with a gift of $75?  We’re seeing more people at our food pantry right now because of rising food prices. Your generosity will help our community during this difficult time.

If your donors upgrade their gifts, do something special for them such as sending a handwritten thank you note or creating a personalized thank you video.

Promote monthly giving

Monthly donors are the backbone of nonprofit organizations. The retention rate is an impressive 90%.

The more monthly donors you have, the better. Promoting monthly giving is always a good way to raise additional revenue. You can also send targeted appeals to donors encouraging them to convert to monthly giving.

Your best bet is single gift donors who have supported you for at least two years. They’ve already shown some commitment to your organization. Now it’s time to take that to the next level.

You could do this at year-end, as well as other times of the year. You want to ask for gifts more than once a year, so this can be another opportunity to request an upgrade.

You could also reach out to your new donors in a few months to encourage them to join your family of monthly donors.

Here’s a sample ask. We really appreciate your past gift of $50. Could you make your generous support count even more by becoming a monthly donor? Five or 10 a month will help us serve more families at our food pantry.

Once your donors start giving monthly, they should always be acknowledged as monthly donors. Be sure to give them a special thank you (see above).

Get in touch with your lapsed donors

In January or whenever you finish a campaign, get in touch with your lapsed donors. Not all lapsed donors are the same. A donor who gave last year is more likely to give than the mother of a staff member who left your organization five years ago.

Donors who gave a year ago but not this year may have been too busy to give at year-end. Focus your efforts on more recent donors. If you have donors who haven’t given for several years, you may want to move them to an inactive file. It’s costing you money to mail appeals to donors who are unlikely to give.

You can create appeals based on how long a donor has lapsed. If that’s too complicated, try an ask like this.

We really appreciate the $50 gift you made in 2021. This helped us serve more families at our food pantry. We’re still seeing a growing number of people coming in because of rising food prices. Could you help us out again with another gift of $50 or more?

Some donors won’t give again. Maybe they can’t afford to. More likely it’s because of poor communication. Remember –  ask, thank, update, repeat.

If your lapsed donors give again, be sure to give them an extra special thank you, so they’ll continue to support you without interruption.

I know there’s a lot of economic uncertainty, but it’s important to be savvySpend some time segmenting your donors and sending targeted appeals. Don’t forget about showing appreciation and sharing updates, too. All of this can help you can raise more money 

Your Fundraising Campaign Will be More Successful if You Go Multichannel

Year-end fundraising season is starting to gear up. I’m already seeing appeal letters in my mailbox and this is just the beginning.

Speaking of appeal letters, you should plan to send one by mail. I know email is easier and less expensive, but people respond better to mail and it’s well worth the investment. 

However, if you just send one fundraising letter and wait for the donations to come in, you’ll be disappointed. Your donors have a lot going on and may put your letter aside to handle later, and then never get to it.

Of course, you can also send email appeals, but you’ll need to plan to send more than one appeal due to the enormous volume of email people receive. Some donors will respond to the first appeal, but most are going to need a few reminders.

Your fundraising campaign will be more successful if you use a combination of mail, email, social media, and phone calls. Some donors may respond to your direct mail piece but will donate online. This is what I usually do. Others will see your email message but prefer to send a check. You could also include a text to give option.

You’ll have a lot of competition since you’re not the only organization seeking year-end donations. Most nonprofits rely on year-end for the bulk of their fundraising. Plus, donors may be overwhelmed with everything that’s going on in the world, but they still want to help.

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

BEFORE YOU START

Clean up your mailing lists/database

If you haven’t already done this, clean up and organize your mailing lists/database. Do you have both postal and email addresses for all your donors? Be sure to segment your donors into different groups (current, monthly, etc), as well. Having good donor data is a must.

Make it easy to donate online

You need to 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 says your appeal is underway. Make sure your donate button is in a prominent place.

Which channels do your donors use?

Don’t spend 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 time frame 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. Remember, you’re not the only game in town. If you’ve already mailed your appeal, you can start planning your reminders.

Also, if you haven’t already done this, you could send your donors a warm-up letter or email before you launch your campaign.

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, provided you have their mailing address. Encourage them to donate online right now. This means your donation page needs to be in great shape.

Keep in mind the fact your year-end appeal is going on will matter to some donors and not to others. Use an enticing subject line such as  – How you can help local families put food on the table.  

Make sure it’s obvious your message is coming from your organization so you have a better chance of getting it opened. 

Week of October 31

Mail your appeal letters. I know mid-term elections are coming up in the U.S., but that doesn’t always affect nonprofit fundraising.

Week of November 7

Start sending follow-up reminders via email and social media. Weekly or regular reminders are a proven way to help you raise more money. 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.

Thank you so much to all of you who donated to our year-end appeal. We’re well on our way to serving more families at the Eastside Community Food Pantry. This is crucial. We’re still seeing more people coming in because of rising food costs.

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 round of reminders. A reminder this week is important, especially if your donors have been blasted with political emails and may not have seen your earlier messages.

Week of November 21

Send a reminder, along with a Happy Thanksgiving message. You could skip the reminder and make this week all about gratitude.

Week of November 28 

November 29 is #GivingTuesday so you could tie that into a reminder message. You may already have a campaign planned.

Your donors’ inboxes will be bursting at the seams on #GivingTuesday and your messages can easily get lost in the chaos. Make your messages stand out and remember to show some gratitude, too. 

Also, not all of your donors will care that it’s #GivingTuesday. Focus on how they can help you make a difference.

Make sure your reminders don’t look like spam. And, keep it positive. Don’t make your donors feel bad because they haven’t donated yet.

Week of December 5

Start making reminder calls, along with sending electronic messages. If time is an issue, you could just call people who have donated before. That’s probably most effective. Leaving a voice mail message is fine. 

It’s a busy time of the year and your donors may need a gentle prompt.

The rest of December and beyond

Keep sending reminders throughout December. It’s tricky because you want to get your messages across without being annoying. This is another reason why you should only send reminders to people who haven’t donated yet.

Be sure to keep up with your donor communication (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 appreciation and send holiday greetings.

The end of December is the busiest time of this already busy fundraising season. Send a reminder email on December 29th, 30th, and 31st. This is also proven to be an effective strategy. And, it’s 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 raise money, don’t forget about building relationships, too. That’s just as important.

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 letter or a reminder postcard to donors who don’t use electronic communication. The more you can personalize it, the better.

You can continue following up in the New Year when donors aren’t as busy.

Once is not enough. Your fundraising campaign will be more successful with multiple asks and by using multiple channels. Good luck!

  •                                                

Improve Your Fundraising and Communications by Segmenting Your Donors

Do you send all your donors the same appeal and thank you letter? Do you also feel your appeals aren’t bringing you the donations you need?

Hmm, there may be a correlation here. If you’re not segmenting your donors into different groups, you’re missing a chance to raise more money and let your donors know you recognize them for who they are.

Your donors are not the same. Some donors have given for at least five years (these donors should get a lot of attention). Some are monthly donors. Yet, nonprofit organizations fail to recognize that and send everyone the same letter. 

I often receive generic, one-size-fits-all communication from organizations that don’t acknowledge I’m a longtime donor or recognize that I’m a monthly donor. Um, hello!

These organizations are missing opportunities to do a better job of connecting with their donors. Unfortunately, this happens way too often.

Don’t you think it’s time to start segmenting your donors? If you’re already segmenting your donors, kudos to you!

You may be worried about how much time this will take. Plus, you don’t think your current CRM/database can handle it and it will cost too much to get a better one. 

In reality, it may cost you more not to segment. A good CRM/database is worth the investment. Segmenting your donors will help you with retention, which costs less than trying to find new donors. 

You also don’t need to create a 100 different types of letters. Four or five should be sufficient. Your appeals and thank you letters will stand out if you can personalize them and not send everyone the same generic letter.

Here are a few different types of donor groups to help get you started. Remember, investing in a good CRM/database will help you with this.

Current single gift donors

An appeal letter to current single gift donors (Monthly donors get their own appeal. More on that below.) must acknowledge their past support. This is also a good opportunity to ask for an upgrade. Many organizations don’t do this, but it’s a good way to increase your revenue.

Your donors will be more receptive to upgrading their gifts if you’ve been doing a good job of thanking them and staying in touch throughout the year.

If these donors give again, they should get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter letting them know how much you appreciate their continued support. If they’ve upgraded their gift, be sure to acknowledge that, too. 

Potential/new single gift donors

If you’re sending an appeal to someone who’s never donated to your nonprofit before, what is your connection to them? Are they volunteers, event attendees, or people on a list you purchased?

The more you can establish a connection, the better chance you have of getting a donation.

The retention rate for first-time donors is horrible. One of the reasons is poor communication. You can help boost your retention rate by making your new donors feel special.

New donors should get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter welcoming them as donors. Invite them to connect with you in other ways such as signing up for your newsletter, following you on social media, and volunteering.

Then a week or so later, send them a welcome package by mail or email. Personalization is crucial with new donors.

One of the biggest hurdles nonprofits face is ensuring first-time donors give a second time. If they keep giving after that, they’re showing their commitment to your organization. That’s why the second gift is called a golden donation. Don’t blow it by ignoring this.

New monthly donors

Brand new donors who opt for monthly or other recurring donations get the same special thank you treatment mentioned above. Welcome them to your family of monthly donors. 

Current monthly donors

Your current monthly donors must get their own appeal that recognizes them as monthly donors. In this appeal, you can either ask them to upgrade their gift or give an additional gift. 

When your donors renew or upgrade their monthly gifts, they, of course, get an amazing thank you.

Current donors who become monthly donors

Your current donors who decide to become monthly donors are also showing their commitment to you. They get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter thanking them for their continued support and for joining your family of monthly donors. From now on they should get specialized appeals and other communications targeted to monthly donors. 

Segment as much as you can

While I’ve suggested a few ways you can segment, there are many more options. You can segment by gift amount and number of years someone has been a donor. You can segment volunteers, event attendees, and non-donors. You can also use segmentation in other types of communications, such as creating a special newsletter for monthly donors (or at the very least including a cover letter for monthly donors with your newsletter) and sending handwritten thank you notes to donors who have given for over two years.

Segmenting your donors makes a difference

As we continue to navigate through uncertain times, some donors may cut back on their giving. Don’t let them choose between organizations that communicate throughout the year with engaging personalized appeals, thank yous, and updates and organizations that just send generic, one-size-fits-all communications. People like personal connection.

Spending some extra time segmenting your donors and personalizing your communications will be worth it if you can raise additional revenue and boost your retention rate.

In a future post, I’ll highlight specific ways segmenting your donors can help you raise more money.

5 Ways to Optimize Your Web Presence for Mobile Donors

Your website is the main factor in increasing your nonprofit’s online visibility. Here’s how to attract more mobile viewers by optimizing your website.

By John Killoran 

Social network user login, website mock up on computer screen, tablet and smartphone

Developing your website and ensuring your donors have the ability to notice you, learn about your story, and donate to your organization online was a great undertaking for you. You probably saw a spike in donations and donor engagement. But did you know there’s a way to make online giving even more effective?

Mobile search traffic has increased over time, and it shows no sign of stopping. The majority of nonprofit website traffic came from users on mobile devices — 54%, with 46% of traffic from users on desktop devices. So, your nonprofit should invest in optimizing your donation page to be mobile-friendly to accommodate these users. By adjusting your nonprofit website design and donation opportunities to appeal to mobile donors, you open up a new avenue for giving to your nonprofit organization.

In order to effectively appeal to and communicate with your mobile donors, your organization should:

  1. Optimize your donation page.
  2. Launch a text-to-give campaign.
  3. Maximize your social media campaign.
  4. Incorporate mobile-optimized emails.
  5. Host a pledge campaign.

Ready to learn more about mobile-friendly design? Let’s get started!

1. Optimize Your Donation Page

Your online giving form is the first place to start your mobile optimization processes. Submitting online donations is already incredibly convenient for your supporters. But making your online giving form mobile-optimized makes it easy for people to give from any device, further growing your potential donor base.

Your donation page is a crucial aspect of your website and should be mobile-responsive. A mobile-responsive site is one that automatically adjusts to fit the screen on which it is displayed. This means the online resource is visually appealing and accessible on smartphones, tablets, and desktops alike. Make sure your online donation platform provider offers the ability to adjust form elements such as:

  • Images. There’s nothing worse than having to scroll across a webpage on your phone to try to see an entire image! Make sure your images are visible, clear, and size-adjustable depending on the screen they’re viewed on.
  • Straightforward text. Eliminate unnecessary “fluff” text from your donation page. Lots of text can look bulky on a smaller screen. Limiting this text to only include essential information and calls-to-action will make it easier for donors to read or skim the page.
  • Customized (and limited) information fields. Typing lengthy information onto a form on a computer is much easier than on a cell phone. Most of us type much faster with a keyboard than on a touchscreen. Therefore, limit the amount of information you require from mobile donors on your donation page to speed up the process.
  • Page Speed. A speedy page load time is important because conversion rates drop heavily on slow sites. In fact, the probability of a bounce (when users quickly exit the page) increases by 37% from 1 second to 3 seconds of loading time. You certainly don’t want your donor to click off because the page speed is wasting their time! Increase your page speed by minifying code, reducing redirects, and compressing images.

Ensuring your donation page is welcoming to all visitors, whether they access it from their computer or from their mobile device, is a key factor to improve higher donation rates. So, be sure to accommodate your givers who are on the go! 

2. Launch a Text-to-Give Campaign

In addition to optimizing your usual online fundraising page, a great investment to encourage mobile donations from your donors is including giving options on native texting platforms, otherwise known as text-to-give. As the name suggests, text-to-give encourages donors to text their donations to organizations.

Depending on the software you choose, you may encounter different models of the text-to-give collection process. Your provider should:

  • Offer your organization a text-to-give number. This is the number your donors can text in order to donate. The number may be a complete 10-digit phone number or simply 5 digits. Whichever you choose, your donors can text their gift amount to your organization’s number when prompted.
  • Collect your donor’s contact information. This is especially relevant for first-time donors who have not yet filled out any contact information with your organization. They may receive a link that will redirect them to a complete contact form. This information is critical for follow-up communications and increasing donor retention. 

Mobile giving with a text-to-give campaign is a great resource to combine with other unique fundraising ideas and marketing materials. For instance, if you host a fundraising event, announce your text-to-give number over a loudspeaker so your attendees can donate from the event. Or, you can post your text-to-give number on your social media platforms so your mobile viewers don’t even have to put down their devices.

3. Leverage Your Social Media Presence

One platform nonprofits often already take advantage of is social media. Social media is a huge driver of mobile phone use, so it makes sense to integrate it into your mobile fundraising strategy! 

Increasing your social media presence increases the likelihood your followers will see your organization’s latest updates when scrolling through their news feed and interact with your content. Bolstering your presence by posting is just the tip of the iceberg to using your social media to its fullest extent.  

You also have the ability to spread fundraisers through social media platforms for people to view (and donate to) from their mobile devices. Two of the online fundraisers most suitable for social media promotion are:

  • Crowdfunding. Crowdfunding enables your organization to collect small donations from a wide audience, making the vast reach of social media the perfect platform to promote such campaigns. Conduct research on the various providers to make sure you choose the website that will best suit your organization in terms of fees and platform capabilities. Then, determine what incentives you’ll offer to donors at different tiers. A popular prize that your nonprofit might already produce is branded merchandise.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising. Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns are similar to crowdfunding in that you are collecting small donations from a wide audience. However, these campaigns differ in how those donations are collected. With peer-to-peer fundraising, you invite your supporters to create fundraising pages and raise money on your behalf across their respective networks. This works perfectly on social media because your participants can effortlessly share their campaigns on their accounts for their followers to see and donate to.

Both of these fundraising opportunities are more frequently accessed on mobile devices as opposed to computers because of their reliance on social media. Therefore, increasing your visibility with more frequent posts and starting a mobile-minded fundraiser is a great way to entice your wide audience of donors who are checking social media on their smartphones.

4. Incorporate Mobile-Optimized Emails

One of the cornerstones of online fundraising outreach is email. Chances are, your nonprofit already uses this tried-and-true method. But, are your emails optimized for mobile viewers?

Optimizing your email content is very similar to optimizing your general website or donation pages. Take the necessary steps to ensure your emails are visually appealing on screens of all sizes. This includes properly sizing your images, limiting the amount of text you use, and resizing the font for a mobile screen. 

In addition to optimizing your emails’ visual appearance, you can do even more to increase the success of your donation emails. For instance, you can:

  • Include actionable donation buttons. Ensure the buttons you use in your emails quickly and easily lead donors to your donation page. You may also choose to include a link to your text-to-give number or your campaign information landing page. Increasing the size of these buttons for mobile viewers can make them easier to see (and click!) from a smaller screen.
  • Connect your emails to other platforms. Be sure your donors have an easy way to access the other donation platforms you have available online. For instance, including linked social media buttons will instantly connect your supporters to your profiles, and by extension, marketing for future campaigns.
  • Feature a calendar with donation opportunities. Be sure your supporters know about your nonprofit’s upcoming events by using a calendar feature. This may include volunteer opportunities for them to donate their time as well as upcoming fundraising campaigns to get involved in.

Marketing emails, such as email newsletters, are a donation opportunity that your nonprofit should leverage. Many of your supporters likely check their email from their phones, so be sure they have direct access from that device to other donation opportunities.

5. Host a Pledge Campaign.

Imagine you’re hosting a fundraising campaign that your donors are excited about. However, there are a number of your supporters who can’t give to your organization right at this moment, even though they want to.

Pledge campaigns are designed to help your organization still profit in these types of situations. You can appeal to those people who can’t give right now, but have the heart and the desire to show their support and donate in the future.

Pledges are the promises of future donations. For instance, a donor can pledge $100 now, then actually give the money to the organization next week once they cash their paycheck. Choose an online tool with the option to optimize your pledge campaign for mobile devices. Situations in which a mobile-optimized pledge campaign may come in handy include:

  • Social media fundraising pushes. In addition to your typical fundraising promotions featured on social media, give people the option to participate in your pledge campaign. This gives them a quick option to give while they’re feeling inspired by your or your supporters’ messages.
  • Busy holiday seasons. While the year-end months are an extremely charitable time, some donors might need to postpone their giving until after the holiday season due to money spent on presents, food, and travel. A pledge provides the flexibility for them to get back on their feet and still make a difference for your nonprofit once they’re able to.

Be sure to pick a pledge fundraising tool that offers mobile customization for your organization. Pledge buttons included on these screens can help boost the user’s ease of using the tool as well.


Optimizing your web presence over a variety of pages and platforms can help boost your donations by increasing the available giving opportunities. So, it’s worth putting forth your time and money towards whichever strategies work best for your nonprofit. After all, who wouldn’t love the opportunity to give to your organization without having to put down their phone?

John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the Chairman of Clover Leaf Solutions, a national lab services company. He currently leads Clover Leaf’s investment in Snowball Fundraising, an online fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations. 

Snowball was one of John’s first public innovations. It’s a fundraising platform that offers text-to-give, online giving, events, and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofits. By making giving simple, Snowball increases the donations that these organizations can raise online. The Snowball effect is real! John founded Snowball in 2011. Now, it serves over 7,000 nonprofits and is the #1 nonprofit fundraising platform.

Let Your Donors Know How Much You Appreciate Them

Year-end fundraising season is underway. You may have started working on your appeal, which is great. But don’t stop there. It’s just as important, if not more important, to plan how you’ll thank your donors. 

I highly recommend creating a thank you plan, which will help you show gratitude before, during, and after a campaign. 

Many organizations treat thanking their donors as an afterthought and it shows. You can’t do that. It will hurt your chances to get future donations. If someone gives to your organization, they deserve to be showered with appreciation. 

There are many ways to thank your donors after an appeal – by mail, phone, email, on your website, or a combination of those. The more you can do, the better.

Thanking your donors is something you need to do well. Don’t shortchange your donors with a lame, generic thank you.

Make thanking your donors a priority. Here are a few ways to do a better job of thanking your donors. 

Start planning now

Don’t wait until the day after your appeal goes out. Give yourself plenty of time to plan. Write your thank you letter at the same time you write your appeal. Remember, things often take longer than you think.

Figure out what you’ll be able to do. I highly recommend a handwritten note or phone call. Can you do that for all your donors? If not, maybe you’ll break it down by new donors, long-time donors, or donors who have given a certain amount.

I understand that handwritten notes and phone calls may be hard to do right now. At the very least, your donors should get a letter, even if they’ve donated online. Whatever you decide, remember to get started on the content now. 

In the past, the standard was to send thank you letters within 48 hours. If that’s too hard to do now, don’t wait much longer than a week. Make sure you’re ready to go when the donations come in. 

Make your donor’s day with a handwritten thank you note

I love it when a nonprofit sends a handwritten thank you note. This is a rare occurrence, so if you do it, your thank you note will stand out in your donor’s mailbox.

Handwritten notes are great in many ways, but one advantage is you don’t have to write that much. In fact, you can do one in just a few minutes.

You could make thank you cards with an engaging photo or buy some nice thank you cards. Get together a team of board members, staff, and volunteers right after your appeal goes out to help you with this.

Think about how much your donors will appreciate this nice gesture. Here’s a sample note.

Dear Jill,

Thank you so much for upgrading your gift to $75. We’re still seeing more people coming into the Northside Community Food Pantry. Rising food prices are making it difficult for many families to afford groceries. Your generous gift will help a lot. We’re so happy you’ve been a donor these past five years.

Phone calls are another personal way to show gratitude

Calling first-time donors is known to improve retention rates. But you could also call long-time donors to make them feel special.

Again, you want to get a team together to help. This is a great thing for your board to do. You may need to do a short training first. Here’s a sample phone script.

Hi Steve, this is Lisa Walsh and I’m a board member at the Northside Community Food Pantry. Thank you so much for your generous donation of $50 and welcome to our donor family. Your gift will help feed more local families right now. Many of them are struggling due to rising food prices.

Write an incredible thank you letter

If it’s impossible to send handwritten notes or make phone calls, you can still impress your donors with an incredible thank you letter. Many thank you letters aren’t incredible at all and are mediocre at best. You’ll have an advantage if you take some time to create a great, donor-centered letter.

The purpose of a thank you letter is to thank your donors. Keep that in mind at all times.  

Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization…. If you’re sending it on your letterhead, it should be obvious it’s coming from your organization. Instead, start your letter with – Thank you, You’re amazing, or You did something great today!

You also don’t need to explain what your organization does. This often comes across as bragging by saying something like – As you know, X organization has been doing great work in the community for 20 years…. Someone who’s donated to your organization should already be familiar with what you do. 

And, don’t ask for another gift in your thank you letter. You did that in your appeal letter. You can ask again another time. Always keep gratitude front and center.

Write separate thank you letters for different types of donors. Welcome new donors and welcome back your current donors. Monthly donors should also get special recognition.

Your thank you letter needs to make your donors feel good about giving to your organization. Let them know how their gift is helping you make a difference. Include a brief story or example. Make it relevant to our current situations.

As with all writing, make your letter personal and conversational. Write to the donor using you much more than we and leave out jargon and any other language your donors won’t understand. Also, you must address your donors by name – not Dear Friend.

A few other ways to make your letter stand out are to use a colored envelope or include a teaser that says Thank You!, and use a nice stamp (You can buy thank you stamps). Hand address the envelopes and include a handwritten note inside that will help make it more personal. You could also include an engaging photo in the letter.

Yes, you do need to include the tax-deductible information, but do that at the end, after you impress your donors with your letter, or include it on a separate page. It’s easiest to include this with the thank you letter or email. Then you don’t have to send it again unless your donor requests it.

Create a more personal online thank you

The thank you plan I reference above gives you advice on how to create better thank you landing pages and email acknowledgments. These often come across as transactional. You need to think of the donations you receive as the start or continuation of a relationship, not a transaction.

Remember, even though your online donors will get an electronic acknowledgment, they should still get thanked by mail or phone.

With all the uncertainty that’s going on, it’s crucial to do a good job of thanking your donors, both now and throughout the year. 

Keep reading for more advice on letting your donors know how much you appreciate them.

Guide to thanking donors

How to Thank and Retain Year-End Donors

Sample Phrases You Can Use to Thank Your Donors