How You Can Write a Better Fundraising Appeal

28108457619_e48bd8944e_mWow, what happened to summer? How did it get to be September already?

We’re about to enter the busiest time of the year, especially if you’re doing a year-end appeal. Hopefully, you’ve started planning your campaign. Now it’s time to think about writing your appeal.

Your donors will receive a multitude of appeal letters this fall and many of them will be the same old generic, boring appeal.

You can stand out if you take some time to write a better appeal. Don’t settle for the same old, same old. 

Make your first impression a lasting impression

First, you need to get your donors to open your letter. If you can’t get them to do that, then all your hard work has gone to waste.

Perhaps you’d like to include a teaser on the outer envelope. That doesn’t mean one that says 2019 Annual Appeal. That’s not inspiring. Instead, say something like Learn how you can help the Miller family move into a home of their own.

An oversized or colored envelope can also capture your donor’s attention.

You want to be both personal and professional. If hand addressing the envelopes isn’t feasible, make sure your mailing labels look clean, are error-free, and aren’t crooked. Use stamps if you can.

Create an inviting piece of mail.

Share a story

A good appeal letter should open with a compelling story. Focus on a person or family and not your organization. Your donors want to hear about the people they’ll be helping. For example, you could tell a story about how the Miller family moved from shelter to shelter before being able to move into their own home.

You could also share a first-person story from a client/program recipient.

Include a photo

Include an engaging color photo in your letter or on your pledge form. Photos can tell a story in an instant.

Here’s more information on creating stories and photos.

Tell the Stories Your Donors Want to Hear

Entice Your Donors With Visual Stories

Next comes the ask

Ask for a donation at the beginning of the next paragraph (after the story). Make sure it’s prominent and clear. Also, ask your current donors if they can give a little more this year.

Phrase your ask like this – We’re so grateful for your previous gift of $50. Could you help us out a little more this time with a gift of $75?

If you’ve been doing a good job of engaging your donors throughout the year, they shouldn’t mind if you ask for a larger gift. Including the amount of your donor’s previous gift is helpful since people often don’t remember what they gave before.

Make donor-centered front and center

Don’t make your letter all about your organization. Show your donors how they can help you make a difference and how much you appreciate their role in that. Make your donors feel good about supporting your nonprofit.

Share your success

Highlight a few accomplishments from the year and show how you plan to continue your good work with your donor’s help. Remember to stay donor-centered!

Personalization is key

Send different letters to current donors, monthly donors, lapsed donors, people on your mailing list who haven’t donated yet, event attendees, volunteers, and friends of board members.

Don’t send everyone the same appeal. The more you can segment, the better, but at the very least, you must do these two things.

Send a personalized appeal to current donors. Let them know how much you appreciate their support.

Also, send a specific appeal tailored to monthly donors, giving them the recognition they deserve. You can ask them to upgrade, too.

It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when I get a generic, one-size-fits-all appeal letter. Go the extra mile for your donors, so they’ll continue to support you.

Your appeal letter should also have a personal salutation and not be addressed to Dear Friend, which is really more like Dear Anonymous Stranger.

This may sound like a lot of work, but if you give yourself enough time, it should be doable. Personalizing your letters can also help you raise more money.

Make it easy for your donors

Include a return envelope with amounts to check off or an envelope and a pledge form. Show what each amount will fund. Do this on your donation page, too.

How To Create Donation Tiers That Drive Donations

Some donors will prefer to donate online. Direct them to a user-friendly donation page on your website.

Donation Page Best Practices For Nonprofits; Tips for Great Donation Pages

Offer a monthly or recurring giving option

Monthly gifts can generate more revenue and improve donor retention. Encourage your donors to give $10 or $20 a month. If they do, you’re getting gifts over $100 each!

How to start a monthly giving program for your small nonprofit

Be careful and don’t send an appeal to your current monthly donors that invites them to become monthly donors. That’s one reason why they need their own appeal.

Your letter must be easy to read (or scan)

Use short paragraphs and bulleted lists, along with bold or color for keywords, but keep it tasteful. Make it easy to read and scan. Most people won’t read your letter word for word. Use a simple font and 14-point type.

It’s fine to go over a page, especially if you’re breaking up the text with a photo and short paragraphs, but I wouldn’t go over four pages. You can also add a quote or short testimonial. These can be powerful and it helps break up the narrative.

Think of your letter as a conversation with a friend

You can create a better appeal if you think of your letter as a conversation with a friend. That means not using jargon like at-risk youth and underserved communities. Be specific and use everyday language. Your goal should be for your reader to understand you.

Refer to your reader as you and use you a lot more than we. How to Perform the “You” Test for Donor-Centered Communications – Do You Pass?

Too many editors spoil the appeal

Your entire staff doesn’t need to be involved in writing your appeal. Generally, the more people you involve in writing your letter, the worse it becomes. Fundraising Consultant Tom Ahern refers to this as letter writing by committee.

Your best writer should craft it and then turn it over to your best editor. Whoever signs the letter (your Executive Director?) can take a quick look at it, but don’t send it to a committee.

If you don’t have someone on your staff who can write a good fundraising appeal, then hire a freelancer or consultant to do it.

Besides weakening the content, involving more people takes extra time.

Keep that good impression going

Repeat your ask at the end of your appeal. Don’t forget to say please and thank you.

Be sure to add a PS. People often gravitate to the PS as they scan the letter, so include something that will capture their attention. Here you could emphasize monthly giving, ask if their company provides matching gifts, or thank them for being a donor.

Get your pens out

Include a short handwritten note, if you can. Make it relevant to each donor, such as thanking her for a previous donation or letting him know it was nice to see him at a recent event. Hand sign the letters in blue ink.

Are you ready? Spend some time writing a better appeal letter that will capture your donor’s attention and bring you the donations you need. Good luck!

Read on for more advice and resources on writing a better fundraising appeal.

10 Steps to Create a Fundraising Appeal Letter That Brings in the Money

Six Ways to Punch Up Your Fundraising Appeals

Direct Mail Fundraising: 5 Strategies for Every Nonprofit

Write the Perfect Donation Letter (+ Examples & Template)

FUNDRAISING LETTER TEMPLATES

 

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Nonprofit Fundraising: 5 Ways to Expand Community Engagement

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By Wayne Elsey

Fundraising is the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations. But, planning and executing effective fundraisers is not an easy task to juggle while pursuing your mission. However, without crafting and enacting successful fundraisers, nonprofit organizations would not be able to continue their charitable work.

While many fundraisers focus on the amount of funds you earn, what has a greater impact on the progress of your organization is the amount of support you receive.  

Rather than focusing on just revenue, your nonprofit organization should be focusing on building relationships with your donors and expanding your engagement with your community. 

Bring your nonprofit’s fundraising success to new heights by focusing on these 5 ways to expand community engagement:

  1. Donor Communication
  2. Social Media Fundraising
  3. Community Events
  4. Community Drives
  5. Corporate Philanthropy

Let’s delve into the top strategies to expand your community engagement and your organization’s fundraising strategy!

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1. Donor Communication

Think of pursuing your mission and engaging your community as twin sides of the same core goal. You have to put time into both tasks to succeed as a nonprofit organization, and hosting fundraising campaigns is where they meet.

Nonprofits need to fundraise effectively to garner support from their community of donors. For the best results, and to ultimately make more of an impact, you must keep your communication donor-centric.

Donor-centric communication shows your donors that you care about them and their community. Focus on your donors’ interests, acknowledge them in your appeals, and recognize donor differences to enhance your donor communication.

Do not fall into the trap of writing generic donation appeals and other communications— it’s boring and irrelevant. Become fluent in the language of your donors and talk with them, not at them.

For example, if your organization is located within a school district, try to organize fundraisers to be held throughout the school year. Reach out to parents, teachers, and the district’s board to promote all of the benefits incorporating fundraisers would provide their children, their families, and their communities.

If your nonprofit, for example, holds a shoe drive fundraiser, focus your communication efforts on the points that truly matter to your donors. Emphasize the impact donors will make if they participate in the fundraiser. Emphasize that by engaging with your nonprofit, donors can teach students the benefits of philanthropy and unite their community by aiding others.

Before sending your next donor message, make sure that it follows these donor-centric tips:

  • Stay focused on your donors and their needs. Your organization’s communication with your donors should remain focused on your donors, their aspirations, and how your organization aligns with their interests.
  • Lose the jargon to gain donors. While your organization’s office may be up-to-date on all the latest nonprofit jargon, many of your donors are not. Do not patronize, confuse, or bombard them with unfamiliar language. Opt for decisive and donor-centric communication instead.
  • Glow with gratitude. Your thank you letters should demonstrate your appreciation for the donor’s gift. Your appeal should be teeming with compliments, praise, and recognition of your donor’s efforts.
  • Illuminate their impact. Show your donor more than your gratitude, show them how their gift made (or is going to make) a valuable impact. Specify the exact ways their contributions will be used—can $25 feed a family of four for one week? Include photos, personalized messages, or videos from those impacted by your donor’s contribution. Personal appeals to your donor will create stronger bonds with your organization.
  • Recognize each donor specifically. Storing information in your database and referring to this relevant information about your donors is vital to the success of donor-centric communication. The way you address each donor should differ depending on whether this is a first-time donation, an increased donation, or a recurring donation.
  • Build relationships and trust with your donors. Ensure that your appeal is directed toward the correct segment of your donor base. Your message to a committed donor of five years should not sound the same as your message to a new donor. Personalizing messages to your donors will foster trust and build relationships.

With these facets of donor-centric communication incorporated, the next message your organization sends to your donors should illustrate how much your nonprofit cares about the individual donor and your community of donors.

Once you’ve got your messaging down-pat, it’s time to think about how you’re going to distribute those messages. By using the powerful features of social media fundraising, your nonprofit can create stronger ties between your organization, your donors, and your community.

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2. Social Media Fundraising

As the popularity of online fundraising among donors continues to rise, ensure that you are maximizing your community engagement by investing in your online outlets for both communication and fundraising.

The useful aspects of social media have allowed for two very prominent nonprofit fundraising techniques to stem from this central concept:

Crowdfunding

What if there were a way to grow your organization’s social media presence and use your online prominence to secure more donations? With crowdfunding, there is.

Crowdfunding not only provides the opportunity to increase your fundraising revenue but also enables your organization to strengthen and widen the scope of its community support. By fostering a sense of camaraderie and teamwork with crowdfunding, your organization can capitalize on community support and the power of social media to spread awareness. Crowdfunding enables your organization to:

  • Collect small donations from a broader audience by convincing them to fund your cause
  • Make your fundraising appeal outside of your usual donor base
  • Grow your donor community
  • Share your mission, fundraiser, and impact
  • Promote your campaign on all social media avenues

Check out this list of some of the ultimate crowdfunding websites. Choose a platform that will help expand your community engagement and your crowdfunding campaign’s success.

Crowdfunding, however, isn’t the only social media fundraising tool. With peer-to-peer fundraising, social media gives supporters the chance to fundraise on your behalf.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

With crowdfunding, your nonprofit organizes the campaign and solicits donations. With peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising, your donors act on your behalf. Your supporters are given the opportunity to make more of a direct impact and take on more responsibility by creating their own fundraising pages for your organization.

When donors engage with your organization through peer-to-peer fundraising, they:

  • Share their fundraising content with all of their social circles across their various social platforms
  • Raise money in support of your organization through online promotions
  • Convince their friends to join your organization’s fight and invite them to your events
  • Expand your organization’s reach to new prospective donors
  • Persuade their peers with personalized appeals

The absolute magic of P2P fundraising comes from the relationships that your organization will build. Carefully cultivating donor relationships can be a tricky process, but with peer-to-peer fundraising, your organization reaps the reward of previously developed relationships between existing and potential donors. 

Through networking with your donors, your organization receives an immediate donor referral. It’s a boost of trust and authenticity to prospective donors to hear about the amazing work that your organization does from someone that they already know and trust. Remember to follow the donor relationship advice in section 1 to help you keep these new donors.

With social media fundraising, your organization can more easily optimize your web presence for mobile donors while gaining new relationships. With these relationships primed, you can continue to grow them by inviting donors to community events.

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3. Community Events

Communities are built on trust. Without the stability of trust and transparency, your organization’s donor base would dwindle, and your fundraiser’s effectiveness will suffer. After all, donors need to trust that you’ll responsibly steward their gifts. One way to expand your nonprofit’s community engagement, your community trust, and, thereby, your fundraising efforts is to host community-oriented events.

Whether you hold an open house or coordinate a silent auction, you need to do something special for your donors as a way to thank and encourage them. There are so many fundraising ideas out there that can engage, enliven, and educate your donors about your organization’s cause.

Your community events do not need to be elaborate productions— in most cases, that will work against your goals. Forgo the glamorous for the authentic. 

  • Keep it informal and informative. Let your donors drop by after work, with their children, or in any way they can. Do not exclude donors with any formal dress code. The gathering should be a chance for your organization to meet and impress donors, not for donors to impress one another.
  • Keep it personal. Embrace the proximity of your donors. You have an opportunity to speak with each donor personally. Take advantage of this opportunity instead of speaking on stage.
  • Keep it focused on the community. The point of these community events is to bring people together, inspire community spirit, and achieve donor unity. If your donors can work together to solve a problem in front of them— like seeing which team can surpass the others in collecting and donating running shoes—they can work together with your organization to help the people/community you serve.
  • Keep it fun! Make sure your donors are having a good time. Do not allow donors to leave your community event without a smile. It will not bode well for their loyalty to your organization or the community’s trust in your organization. 

To maximize your organization’s community events, your fundraisers must increase community engagement. One of the most potent events you can do to harness community spirit is a community drive.

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4. Community Drives

Hosting community drives highlight the ties between your organization and the community, ultimately strengthening your bond. Community drives not only support your organization, but they support your community.

Hosting community drives is an innovative and inexpensive fundraising idea for your organization to grow your community connections. Because these types of fundraising events are low-cost, your organization can build your community without blowing your budget!

Try coordinating one of these drives into your next community fundraiser

There are plenty of ways that your organization can inspire your community into action and demonstrate the power of teamwork. While it is certainly essential to unite your organization with your community, it is equally important for your organization to partner with your community’s corporations.

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5. Corporate Philanthropy

The rising generation of donors and consumers are socially conscious and philanthropic. That means that for both nonprofits and corporations to secure these incoming prospective donors and consumers, they must work together. They must engage in corporate philanthropy.

Corporate philanthropy creates opportunities for both nonprofits and corporations to expand their community engagement through corporate giving programs.

Corporate giving programs allow:

  • Nonprofits to secure more financial backing to achieve their missions
  • Corporations to gain socially philanthropic equity among their consumer market
  • Both to expand community engagement because employee donations drive the programs

With matching gifts and volunteer grants, the two main types of corporate giving programs, your nonprofit can maximize the number of donations it receives and encourage further community involvement.

Matching Gifts

Matching gifts are the buy-one, get-one coupon of the nonprofit world. The matching gifts process is a simple one:

  1. A donor makes a gift to your organization
  2. They check their eligibility in a matching gifts database
  3. If eligible, they submit their application for their matching gift request before their company’s deadline
  4. Your organization receives the donor’s initial gift plus a matching gift from the donor’s employer based on their matching gift ratio.

Without any extra work on your organization’s part, you have just increased your organization’s fundraising efforts and your donor’s impact two-fold!

The more your organization expands its community engagement and encourages matching gifts, the more success you will have with your fundraising.

Volunteer Grants

Volunteer grants are the premier way for corporations and nonprofits alike to encourage direct community engagement. When employees of eligible corporations volunteer their time to better their communities, companies donate financial compensation to match their employee’s efforts.

With volunteer grants, donors in your community can now directly impact your organization through both hard work and financial benefits.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Your nonprofit is all about one thing: achieving your mission. But your nonprofit’s fundraiser is all about another thing: your community.

You cannot achieve your mission without the support of your donors and your community. Try incorporating these 5 ways to expand your organization’s community engagement and the impact your supporters have on your nonprofit’s fundraisers.

Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE) and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Sneakers4Funds, which is a social enterprise that helps schools, churches, nonprofits, individuals and other organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations. 

How to Get Ready for Your Year-End Appeal

Image result for free images for get readyCan you believe we’re already halfway through August? Like it or not, September will be here before you know it.

Fall is a busy time for nonprofits, especially if you’re doing a year-end appeal. You don’t need to mourn the end of summer yet, but you should start planning for your year-end appeal.

Many nonprofits rely on their year-end appeal for a good portion of their revenue so you want it to be successful. Use this checklist to help you get started. You can also use this for fundraising campaigns at other times of the year.

How much money do you need to raise?

You may have already set a goal in your 2019 fundraising plan (at least I hope you did) and perhaps you need to revise that goal. If you haven’t set a goal, determine how much money you need to raise before you start your campaign.

Do you have a plan?

Put together a plan for your appeal that includes a timeline, task list, and the different channels you’ll use. Make it as detailed as possible.

When do you want to launch your appeal?  I think earlier is better. Remember, you’re also competing with countless other organizations who are doing appeals. If you can get yours out by the end of October, you may be ahead of the game. 

Figure out what you need to get done and how long it will take. Keep in mind things usually take longer than you think. If you want to launch your appeal by November 1, make your goal October 20.

Also, how are you mailing your appeal? You may need to recruit extra volunteers or get your materials to a mail house.

An Annual Appeal Fundraising Timeline You Can Use

13 End-of-Year Appeal Strategies

Do you have a good story and photo to share?

Find a good story for your year-end appeal. You’ll want some engaging photos for your letter and donation page, too. Quotes from clients will also enhance your appeal.

Tell the Stories Your Donors Want to Hear

Entice Your Donors With Visual Stories

How did/can your donors help you make a difference?

Your appeal letter should highlight some of the year’s accomplishments and state what you plan to do next year. For example, let’s say you run a tutoring program. Let your donors know that thanks to them, 85% of the students in your program are now reading at or above their grade level. Next year you’d like to expand to five more schools.

Focus on the people you serve and show how your donors are helping you make a difference or can help you make a difference. Don’t brag about your organization.

Are your mailing lists in good shape?

Make sure your postal and email mailing lists are up-to-date. Check for duplicate addresses and typos. Your donors don’t want to receive three letters at the same time or have their names misspelled.

Also, now is a good time to segment your mailing lists – current donors, monthly donors, lapsed donors, event attendees, etc. This is so important! You should have more success if you can personalize your appeal letters.

Do you have enough letterhead, envelopes, and stamps?

Don’t wait until October to check your supply of letterhead and envelopes. Make sure you have enough. Perhaps you want to produce a special outer envelope. You may also want to create some thank you cards.

Even though many people donate online, you want to make it easy for donors who prefer to mail a check. Include a pledge envelope or a return envelope and a preprinted form with the donor’s contact information and the amount of their last gift.

Stamps are more personal so you might want to find some nice ones to use.

Is it easy to donate online?

Be sure your donation page is user-friendly and consistent with your other fundraising materials. Highlight your year-end appeal on your homepage and include a prominent Donate Now button.

Donation Page Best Practices For Nonprofits; Tips for Great Donation Pages

Examples Of Great Nonprofit Donation Pages

How does a donation help the people you serve?

Create a set of giving levels and let your donors know how their gift will help.

How To Create Donation Tiers That Drive Donations

Do you have an incentive to entice donors to give a larger gift?

Instead of offering premiums, see if you can find a major donor who will match any upgrades. I know of an organization that used this as an incentive to get new donors.

Boost Your Fundraising Results With a Match From a Major Donor

Do you offer a monthly or recurring giving option?

Monthly or recurring giving is another way to get a larger gift. I highly recommend a monthly giving program if you don’t already have one.

Some people might balk at donating $100 or more, but if you present it as $10 a month ($120 a year!), it sounds more feasible.

Incorporating Monthly Giving Into Your Fundraising

How will you thank your donors?

Spend as much time on your thank you letter/note as you do on your appeal letter and write them at the same time. You need to thank your donors, and thank them well, as soon as you receive their gifts so have a thank you letter/note ready to go.

Handwritten notes and phone calls are much better than a preprinted letter. Create or buy some thank you cards (see above) and start recruiting board members and volunteers to make thank you calls or write notes. Put together a thank you plan to help you with this.

How will you keep up with your donor communication?

Even though you’ll be busy with your appeal, you want to ramp up your donor communication this fall. Keep engaging your donors and other supporters (who may become donors) by sharing success stories and gratitude. Pour on the appreciation! You could create a thank you video or hold an informal open house. Just don’t disappear until appeal time.

What are you doing to get ready for your year-end appeal?

 

Show Some Donor Appreciation by Holding an Open House

46151444015_a1828a3de5_mMany nonprofits do a poor job of showing appreciation to their donors, but you don’t have to be one of them. 

There are many ways to show some donor appreciation. One idea is to have an open house at your organization. If you can’t hold one on-site, have it at a restaurant or other venue. You may be able to find someone to donate space.

Invite other supporters, too

You could just have an event for donors, but why not invite other supporters such as event attendees, email subscribers, and social media followers, as well? This could be a great way to convert these supporters into donors. Encourage your donors to bring a friend, too.

Coordinate it with your year-end appeal

Depending on your resources, you may only be able to hold one open house a year. If you can hold more, that’s great.

A good time to have your open house is before you launch your year-end appeal so you could hold one sometime between mid-September and early November.

Another option is spring if you have an appeal then, or you could make it a thank-you event.  

Winter is tricky unless you’re lucky enough to live someplace where it doesn’t snow. And summer’s not good since most people go away on vacation.

Whenever you decide to hold your open house, don’t ask for money at this event.

Keep it casual

No three-course dinners and speeches that go on and on. Hold a gathering where your supporters can drop in after work, and serve something to eat and drink. You may be able to get food and beverages donated or find a sponsor.

Have a brief program. You could show a video and/or let a client share his/her story. Your executive director or board chair should thank your guests and share some accomplishments and plans for the future. Remember to keep it brief. You don’t want anyone looking for the nearest escape route.

Create some photo displays and have literature available. You could also show a video on a laptop. Offer tours, if that makes sense.

Speaking of tours, you could offer them at other times, too. After I became a monthly donor, one organization invited me to arrange a tour. Even though I didn’t take them up on it, I thought it was a nice gesture.

7 Tips to Create an Amazing Donor Cultivation Tour

Get your board involved

You must have a good turnout from your board. Encourage board members to invite friends and other potential prospects.

Make everyone feel welcome

Don’t hide in the corner or spend all your time talking to your co-workers. Your staff and board need to mingle with your guests and make them feel welcome.

You may want to go over your organization’s talking points and brush up on your elevator pitches so everyone is prepared to talk about what you do and answer questions. And that doesn’t mean reciting your mission statement. Use language your attendees will understand.

How to Nail Your Nonprofit’s Elevator Pitch

Don’t forget the follow-up

Anyone who has taken time out of her/his busy schedule to attend your open house needs to be thanked. Follow up is crucial. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to build relationships.

Collect names and addresses of the people who attended and send a thank you note right away. This is a good project for your board. Don’t ask for money (that comes later).

Segment your open house attendees, so when you send your next appeal you can include a sentence that says, “It was great to see you at our open house.”

Not all your donors will attend your open house but will appreciate the invitation. Donors and other supporters who do come are showing you they’re interested in your organization. Keep them interested and keep showing appreciation and building relationships with them! This will help ensure they’ll continue to support you for a long time.

 

 

 

Improving Donor Communication: A Q&A Guide for Nonprofits

 

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By John Killoran

One of the most important assets of a nonprofit is its donors. Donors are crucial to the growth of your nonprofit, so it is key to both attract new donors while also keeping up relationships with previous donors. Nonprofits are constantly looking for new ways to raise money and having a wide network of donors and supporters can help create sustainable fundraising revenue.

In the end, nonprofits should have an effective and organized platform to attract new donors, and a qualified communications and research team to support relationships with existing donors. 

With this in mind, there are certain questions that nonprofits should ask themselves in order to strengthen relationships and improve communication with their donors:

  1. What kind of fundraising software should I choose?
  2. What kind of communication team do I need?
  3. How can I learn more about my donors?
  4. How can I create the perfect donation page?
  5. How can I keep up with donor communication?

Ready to improve your donor communication? Let’s dive into the answers to these top questions. 

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1. What kind of software should I choose?

In this day and age, it makes sense to assume that most of your donors are going to be coming from the same place—the internet. That is why it is extremely important for your nonprofit to have the most effective software tools at your disposal. The donor’s interaction with your online presence is crucial.

Having effective software for your nonprofit can make your interactions with donors more streamlined and efficient. It makes things both easier for the donor and yourself, leading the way to stronger communication and a more positive relationship. Having the perfect software should be one of the first things you find when you are starting your nonprofit organization. 

With the right communication software, your nonprofit can:

  • Organize your donors. Some software helps compile a database for your donors so you have an easy way to find the information you need. It can look for key traits like donor location, donor amount, and more! This can help you communicate with your donors.
  • Have an easy payment experience. Certain software can improve the donation process, for both the donor and the nonprofit. They can provide options like online donation pages to text-to-give tools. 
  • Improve fundraising planning. Planning for a fundraiser is always hard, but with the right software, you can easily plan a walkathon or a t-shirt drive for your nonprofit.

For more information, check out Snowball’s extensive list of the best nonprofit software.

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2. What kind of communication team do I need?

While having the right software in order to keep up your online presence is important, you shouldn’t be reluctant to do things like sending letters or meeting your donors in person.

Having the right communication strategy and team is important because different methods work with different types of people. Your grandpa probably wouldn’t respond to a text asking him to donate, but a millennial donor might.

It’s important to make your message stand out. The more effectively you communicate with your donors, the more likely they will donate. And then donate again.

Depending on your nonprofit’s goals, different strategies will work best. Make sure you focus on one main need in your message so you don’t bombard possible donors with too much information. No one wants to read about a fundraising event, volunteering, and donating all in one email.

The right medium will help. Often people will let unread emails pile up in their inbox, so it’s good to consider what kind of donor you are dealing with. Also, don’t forget about direct mail! You might think it outdated, but most people at least look at their physical mail as opposed to clearing unread email and phone notifications.

You can hire a nonprofit fundraising consultant. If you want some outside help or just a professional’s opinion, it makes sense to talk to a fundraising consultant. Make sure to look at consultants whose focus lines up with your nonprofit’s. For help picking the right consultant, Averill Fundraising Solutions has a guide of the top nonprofit fundraising consultants.

Having the right strategy will be a big help with your donor communication. The wrong type of communication can end even the strongest donor relationship. For more on common donor communication problems check out this list

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3. How can I learn more about my donors?

Having the right communications strategy all depends on how much we know our donors. Gaining a few pieces of information about them can help you improve our relationship with them. 

Why do they want to donate? This can vary from having a personal connection to just wanting to contribute to any good cause. Knowing why they want to donate can help you count on them for future donations. One way you can find this out is with surveys. Keep these short and to the point. Many people won’t fill these out if they take up more than 5 minutes of their time.

How do they donate? Knowing their preferred method of donation is helpful. This way you won’t pester donors by email if you know they like doing donations over text instead. Various nonprofit software can help you track this information.

How much do they donate? If your donor gives a huge amount, you will be more inclined to see if they want to give in the future. Look into your CRM to review their donor history. This way, you’ll pose the right asks to the right donors.

Using these methods you can improve communication with your donors as well as make your organization’s marketing more efficient and effective. Once you have the right information on your donors, you can segment them into different groups with their own marketing strategy. This personalization will definitely improve donor communication.

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4. How to create the perfect donation page?

Now is when you should start thinking about the page that donors are most often at⁠—your donation page. Your donation page is the beginning of your relationship with your donors. 

There are two things that your donation page should do, avoid incomplete donations and encourage future donations.

Avoid incomplete donations

Often, when potential donors attempt to start a transaction they give up. They don’t finish the donation, much like a trend among online shoppers called shopping cart abandonment. This could be for many reasons, but having the right donation page can help prevent it. Make sure that your page is: 

  • Customized to your cause. When a donation page looks and feels like a seamless part of your brand, donors are more likely to feel inspired to complete their gift.
  • Easy to use. Your donation page is navigable and not too complicated. The harder it is to donate the less likely someone will.
  • Make it fast. Don’t have a string of links for the donor to press. The longer the process takes the more time the donor has to change their mind.
  • It has to work. In the end, the most important thing about your donation page is that it actually works. If your page is broken or takes forever to load, it signals to your possible donors that this isn’t an established nonprofit. 

Encourage future donations

We all want that golden donation. Golden donations are the second donation that a donor can make. This is what your donor page should encourage. And when a donor gives twice, there is a 63% chance that they will do it again!

To help retain more donors and get that golden donation you can:

  • Have a recurring donations option. This makes it an easy option for your donor when they make that first contribution!
  • Establish a personalized relationship with the donor. Make your donor feel special, like their donation is essential. And their donation is essential! You just have to let them know that. More on this later on in the next section.

Having the perfect donation page is important because this is where your donor ultimately decides if contributing is worth their time. This can improve donor communication because it simplifies the process of donating and encourages future donations.

For more tips on creating a donation page, click here.

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5. How can I keep up with donor communication?

In the end, it seems that one of the most important, if not the most important, goals for your nonprofit is to retain your donors. You want to keep them! You want them to keep coming back to you! It makes sense that when you have an established relationship with a donor, it will take less time (and effort) to steward them for another contribution. 

So you have the right software, communications strategy, donation page, and vital information on your donors. How do we strive for that golden donation? 

It all comes back to your communication with your donors. You need to keep this relationship strong no matter what. If you don’t, your donor may think their contribution is not important and ultimately forget about you.

Don’t ignore your donors! Remember to keep up donor communication throughout the year with updates or newsletters. Tie in current events to make them feel connected. 

Remember to thank them! Give them some love. Whether it is with a simple card or a more elaborate gift for a larger donation. Show them how their past contribution made a difference. Make sure they know that their donation is appreciated. 

Relationship building should be a part of your fundraising campaign. Donors will be more likely to respond to a fundraising campaign if they have a personal connection to it. Ann Green has some great tips on how to build relationships with your donors. 

Building the right relationship with your donors is key to improving communication! We all have questions about how to go about this, but with this guide, your team should feel confident enough to move forward. Good luck!

John KilloranJohn 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.

 

Entice Your Donors With Visual Stories

46728822135_8c5d713f5b_mIn these days of information overload, it can be hard to get your donors’ attention. In my last post, I wrote about the importance of telling stories. Written stories are great, but since donors get so many messages from different sources they may not want to read another word. 

This is why you also need to use visual stories. Some people respond better to visual stimuli, anyway. Here are a few ways to tell visual stories.

Tell a story in an instant with a photo

You can capture your donors’ attention in an instant with a great photo. That doesn’t mean a one of your executive director receiving an award. Use photos of your programs in action.

Print newsletters and annual reports tend to be dominated by long-winded text. Most of your donors won’t have time to read the whole thing. But if you share some engaging photos, your donors can get a quick glance of the impact of their gift without having to muddle through a bunch of tedious text.

You may want to try a Postcard Annual Report instead of the usual boring booklet. Postcards with an engaging photo are also great for thank you cards and updates. I’m a big fan of postcards because they’re a quick, less expensive way to communicate by mail.

If you use social media, you need to communicate several times a week. As your donors scroll through an endless amount of Facebook and Twitter posts, an engaging photo can pop out and get their attention.

Use photos everywhere – appeal letters, thank you letters/cards, newsletters, annual reports, updates, your website, and social media. Create a photo bank to help you with this. It’s fine to use the same photos in different channels. It can help with your brand identity. Be sure to use high-quality pictures. Hire a professional photographer or find one to work pro bono.

Work with your program staff to get photos and videos (more on videos below). Confidentiality issues may come up and you’ll need to get permission to use pictures of kids.

5 Killer Photography Tips for Nonprofit Brands

6 Steps to Establishing a Photo Policy that Boosts Giving & Shows Respect

5 Photo Tips For World-Changing Nonprofits

Highlight your work with a video

Create a video to show your programs in action, share an interview, give a behind the scenes look at your organization, or my favorite – thanking your donors. Make your videos short and high quality. If you’re interviewing someone, make sure that person is good on camera.

You can use videos on your website, in an email message, on social media, and at an event.

Nonprofits should Use Video Storytelling to Create Impact!

TIPS FOR CREATING A NONPROFIT VIDEO MARKETING STRATEGY

5 Steps to Successful Video Storytelling

Liven up your statistics by using infographics

A typical annual report is loaded with statistics. You want to share these, as well as your accomplishments, but you don’t want to overwhelm your donors with a lot of text.

Why not use an infographic instead of the usual laundry list of statistics and accomplishments?  

Here are some examples. A Great Nonprofit Annual Report in a Fabulous Infographic

Brochures are becoming a relic of the past, but what if you want an informational print piece to give to potential donors or volunteers?  An oversized infographic postcard should do the trick.

5 Must-Have Nonprofit Infographic Templates to Supercharge Your Campaigns

Infographics for Nonprofits: How to Create One and Why They’re Effective

10 Nonprofit Infographics That Inspire and Inform

Good visuals will enhance both your print and electronic communication. Keep your donors engaged with all types of stories.

Using Visual Storytelling in Your Nonprofit for Greater Impact

 

Tell the Stories Your Donors Want to Hear

7803683540_76d8f5f45d_zHow often do you use stories when you communicate with your donors? Most likely, not enough. That’s a mistake because people respond better to stories. 

Imagine your donors opening an appeal letter or newsletter and glossing over a bunch of mind-numbing statistics as opposed to being captivated by a story about how the Mason family moved out of a shelter and into a home of their own.

Donors want to hear your stories

You may be reluctant to use stories because it’s more work for your organization, but that shouldn’t stop you. Keep in mind that donors want to hear your stories. Stories bring the work you do to life by using everyday language to create a scene. Here’s an example.

The past several months have been tough for Janet and her three young kids. After losing her job and being evicted from her apartment, she moved between her sister’s house, motels, and shelters. It was taking a toll on her family. Everyone was stressed out and her kids were falling behind in school.

That was about to change because thanks to donors like you, Janet and her family will be moving into a home of their own.

Can you tell a story like that? If you’re making a difference, you can. Stories should show your donors how they’re helping you make a difference for the people/community you serve.

Create a culture of storytelling

If you create a storytelling culture in your organization, you can make storytelling the norm instead of the exception.

Work with your program staff to create stories that will help you connect with your donors. Everyone needs to understand how important this is. Share stories at staff meetings and/or set up regular meetings with program staff to gather stories.

When you put together a story, ask.

  • Why would your donors be interested in this story?
  • Why is this important?
  • Who are you helping?
  • Are you using clear, everyday language (no jargon) to make sure your donors understand your story?
  • How are your donors helping you make a difference or How can your donors help you make a difference?

Client or program recipient stories are best. You can also share profiles of volunteers, board members, and donors. Many organizations profile new board members in their newsletters. Instead of emphasizing their professional background, concentrate on what drew them to your organization. Perhaps she has a brother with autism or he knows what it’s like to arrive in the United States as an immigrant.

Another way to find stories is to put a Share Your Story page on your website. 

4 INSPIRATIONAL “SHARE YOUR STORY” PAGES THAT WILL KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF

Create a story bank to help you organize all your stories. Take advantage of slower times of the year to gather stories. You want to use stories often. Use them in your appeal letters, thank you letters, newsletters, annual reports, website, blog, and other types of social media. You can use the same stories in different channels.

Give your stories the personal touch

Use people’s names to make your stories more personal. I realize you might run into confidentiality issues, but you can change names to protect someone’s privacy. You could also do a composite story, but don’t make up anything.

 Fundraising with Names Have Been Changed Disclaimers

Your stories aren’t about your organization

Let your donors know how with their help, Brenda doesn’t have to choose between buying groceries and paying the heating bill. Your organization stays in the background. And remember, Your Mission Statement is NOT Your Story

Tell your donors the stories they want to hear. In my next post, I’ll write about sharing visual stories.

Here are some great resources to help you tell your stories.

The Storytelling Nonprofit

INFOGRAPHIC: A Nonprofit Storytelling How-To

The Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Storytelling (30+ Tips)

How To Create A Culture of Storytelling in Your Nonprofit