It’s spring here in the Northern Hemisphere, although in the Boston area spring doesn’t fully kick in until May.
A lot of people use this time of the year to do some spring cleaning. I know, groan. I envy the people who do that because usually I’m not one of them.
I know I should do more. As much as I dislike cleaning and organizing, I’m happy once it gets done. Often getting started is the hardest part.
Your nonprofit organization may be putting off some version of your own spring cleaning and decluttering. Make some time to tackle these so-called cumbersome tasks. Just think how happy you’ll be when you’re done. You’ll also make some much-needed improvements to your infrastructure and donor communication.
Here are a few suggestions to help you get started.
Clean up your mailing lists and CRM/database
Has it been a while since you updated your mailing lists? Did you have an influx of address changes, returned mail, and bounced emails after you sent your year-end appeal? This is a good time to clean up and update both your direct mail and email mailing lists.
Don’t wait until right before your next mailing to clean up your donor data. If it’s been a while since you’ve done this, then you really need to do what is known as data hygiene.
Even though it’s tedious, have someone who’s familiar with your donors (your development director?) go through your mailing lists and CRM/database to see if you need to make any additions, changes, and deletions.
Be meticulous. No donor wants to see her name misspelled, be addressed as Mrs. when she prefers Ms., or receive three mailings because you have duplicate records.
Your donor database is an essential tool and it needs to be up-to-date and filled with accurate information about your donors.
Run your donor list through the National Change of Address database. It may cost some money to do this, but it’s worth it if you come out with squeaky-clean data. Do this at least once a year.
Also, if you haven’t already done this, segment your donors into different groups – new donors, returning donors, monthly donors, etc. You may need to make some changes. For example, if a single gift donor starts giving monthly.
You might also want to move some lapsed donors who haven’t donated for several years into an inactive file. Don’t do this until you’ve sent targeted, personalized appeals asking them to donate again. And if you’ve never gotten in touch with any lapsed donors from 2022, you could reach out to them now.
Do the same thing with your email list. It doesn’t make sense to send email to people who don’t respond to it. Give these people a chance to re-engage, and if they’re not even opening your emails, move them to an inactive file. Don’t worry if people unsubscribe. You’re better off with an email list of engaged subscribers.
Freshen up your messages
Now that you’ve cleaned up your mailing lists and segmented your donors, it’s time to freshen up your messages, if you haven’t done that for a while. Ideally, you should do this at least once a year. I mentioned this in a recent post, emphasizing that your donor communication needs to be clear, conversational, and specific. Stay away from generic language and jargon.
There’s a good chance your thank you letters need a refresh. Your thank you letters need to actually thank your donors, not brag about your organization. Also, make sure your automatically generated thank you emails and landing pages don’t look like boring receipts. Create separate templates for new donors, current donors, and monthly donors.
Weed and grow
People who have gardens spend a lot of time getting rid of weeds to ensure a beautiful garden. I’m no gardener. I live in a townhouse and don’t have a yard, but even I know I need to cut off the dead leaves on my houseplants to help them grow.
What are your weeds? Perhaps it’s events or grants. These can take a lot of time and don’t always bring in that much money.
If that’s the case for you, a better option is to grow your individual giving program. Start with monthly giving. You can think of this as a houseplant approach, relatively easy to take on and maintain. Then move on to major and legacy giving. These will take more time, just like a seedling that with care and attention will grow into a tree.
As you work on your weeding, this article on simplicity might be helpful. It suggests you do an audit of various aspects of your life and ask – Is it necessary and is it creating energy? If you answer “Yes” to both, keep it. If you answer “No” to both, remove it. If you answer “Yes” to one, think about it.
For your nonprofit, the energy question can be turned around and you can ask if something is depleting your energy. You could also ask, is it producing results?
It can be hard to let go. Maybe you’ve held a particular event for years. But like weeds in a garden, it might be prohibiting your growth. Let go of this event (or whatever doesn’t serve you) and find ways to raise money that will help you grow.
Don’t wait too long
I know you have a lot going on, but you need to take on these initiatives sooner rather than later. Just like the clutter and dust in your home, along with the weeds in your garden, they won’t disappear on their own. The longer you ignore it, the worse it gets.
Get started on these spring cleaning projects as soon as you can. You’ll be happy once they’re done. Your donors will be happy if they don’t get duplicate mailings and a fundraising letter laced with jargon, but do receive a personalized appeal and a stellar thank you letter. Your organization will also benefit by taking on initiatives that help you grow.