Why Your Nonprofit Needs to Invest in Monthly Giving

Monthly giving is continuing to gain momentum and that’s always good, especially in this time of financial uncertainty. Let’s keep this up! If your organization doesn’t have a monthly/recurring giving program or it’s fairly small, now is a great time to start or grow your monthly giving.

In this post, I’ll tell you why monthly giving is so important for your nonprofit, how to start or grow your program, and how to nurture it going forward. 

Monthly giving helps you raise more money

Monthly or recurring donations can help donors spread out their gifts and it’s easier on their bank accounts. They might be apprehensive about giving a one-time gift of $50 or $100. But if you offer them the option of giving $5 or $10 a month, that may sound more reasonable. 

It can also give you a consistent stream of revenue throughout the year instead of at certain times, such as when you do individual appeals and (virtual) events and when grants come in.

Monthly gifts are smaller, but you can raise a lot of money with lots of small donations. Political candidates do it all the time. Also, monthly gifts aren’t as small as you think. The average is over $20 a month.

It can also be a more feasible way to get larger gifts. A gift of $100 a month may be more appealing to a donor than giving a large sum all at once. Even if they start with a smaller donation, monthly donors are more likely to become major donors and legacy donors.

It raises your retention rate, too

The retention rate for monthly donors is an impressive 90%. That’s significantly higher than other retention rates. 

One reason is that monthly gifts are ongoing. But your donors have agreed to that, so this shows they’re committed to your organization. 

These are long-term donors and long-term donors should always be one of your priorities.

How to get started

If you don’t already have a monthly giving program, make this the year you start one. Remember, it will help you raise more money, which is even more important during these uncertain times.

A good way to start is to invite your current donors to become monthly donors. Your best bet for monthly donors are people who’ve given at least twice. These are donors who have shown a commitment to you.

That doesn’t mean you can’t ask first-time donors. This could be a good way to connect with donors from your most recent campaign. And if you haven’t officially welcomed your new year-end donors, do that now. 

Make monthly giving the go-to option

Put monthly giving front and center in all your campaigns. It should be an easy option on your donation page. Include it on your pledge form and make it a prominent part of your appeal letter, maybe as a PS.

I can speak from personal experience that once I started giving monthly, that’s the way I wanted to give to all organizations. Your donors would probably agree. Each year I’m happier to see that more organizations are jumping on the monthly giving bandwagon.

Organizations that don’t offer a monthly giving option are making a mistake. Some have a minimum donation, which I would also not recommend, if possible. If you do have a minimum, make it $5 a month instead of $10. 

If your reason to have a minimum donation amount is to save money on your expenses, is that happening if your minimum deters someone from giving at all? You often have to invest a little to raise more money. And you should raise more money with a monthly giving program.

Make your monthly donors feel special

You need to do a good job of thanking your monthly donors. Go the extra mile and segment your monthly donors into new monthly donors, current monthly donors, and current donors who become monthly donors.

This way you can personalize their thank you letters to make them feel special. Be sure to mail a thank you letter, or even better, send a handwritten note. An email acknowledgment is not enough.

Many organizations send a monthly acknowledgment email or letter, and most are just okay. Some are basically only receipts, and as I mentioned in a recent post, your thank yous need to be more than a receipt. Yes, it’s helpful to know the organization received your donation, but you’re not practicing good donor stewardship if that’s all you do.

You could spiff up these monthly acknowledgments, both by making them sound like they were written by a human and not a robot, and by providing some engaging updates.

One thing you should do is send your donors an annual summary of their monthly gifts. This is extremely helpful for people who itemize deductions. Make this letter more than just a receipt and use this opportunity to connect with your donors. Pour on the gratitude and let them know how their monthly donations are helping you make a difference.

Reach out at least once a month

Your monthly donors made a commitment to you by giving every month. Make the same commitment to them by reaching out at least once a month.

You could create a special newsletter for monthly donors or include a cover letter referencing monthly donors. If that’s too much, you could give a shout out to your monthly donors and include information on how to become a monthly donor in your newsletter.

A thank you video is always welcome. Consider personalizing it, if you can. You could also provide other video content, such as a virtual tour, for your monthly donors.

You could include a list of your monthly donors in a newsletter, annual report, or on your website. Donor lists are just one of many ways to show appreciation and not the only one, so do much more than just that. Of course, honor any donor’s wish to remain anonymous.

Thank yous, newsletters, and updates are not a one-time time deal. Keep it up throughout the year. Many nonprofits start out communicating regularly with their monthly donors and then disappear after a couple of months. Always make a point to stay in touch with your donors.

Create a special section in your communications calendar specifically for monthly donors to help you with this.

Go all out for your monthly donors

I highly recommend a contact person for your monthly donors in case they need to update their credit card information or make a change to their gift, hopefully an upgrade. Include this information in their welcome letter or email. If you send a monthly acknowledgment email, be sure to include a link where your donor can make changes.

Another way to help out your monthly donors is to let them know when their credit cards are about to expire. Don’t rely on your donors to remember this, because most likely they won’t. You also don’t want to miss out on any revenue. Remember, small donations add up.

Set up a system where you can flag credit cards that will expire in the next month or two. Then send these donors a friendly reminder email/letter or give them a call. 

My monthly giving credit card expired last fall. Only a couple of organizations contacted me before the expiration date and one was quite adamant and even contacted me before I received my new card. Of course, a few slipped through the cracks and I didn’t hear from these organizations until after the donations didn’t go through. Remember to take the lead on this.

You could encourage donors to give via an electronic funds transfer from their bank account instead. Then neither you nor your donors need to worry about expiring credit cards.

Once a monthly donor, always a monthly donor

Once someone becomes a monthly donor, you must always recognize them as such. You most certainly should send fundraising appeals to monthly donors, but not the same ones you send to other donors.

You can ask your monthly donors for an additional gift during one of your fundraising campaigns, but you MUST recognize they’re monthly donors. For example – We really appreciate your gift of $10 a month. Could you help us out a little more right now with an additional gift? People in our community are having a hard time paying their heating bills because of rising fuel costs.

You can also ask your monthly donors to upgrade their gifts after a year or so. Be as specific as possible – We’re so happy you’re part of our family of monthly donors and are grateful for your gift of $5.00 a month. Many families are having trouble making ends meet and we’re serving triple the number of people at the Eastside Community Food Pantry right now. Could you help us out a little more with a gift of $7.00 or even $10.00 a month?

If you send the usual generic appeal, imagine your donor saying – “I already give you $10 a month and you don’t seem to know that.”

But if you let those committed monthly donors know you think they’re special, they’ll be more likely to upgrade or give an additional gift. Many monthly donors have stepped up and given additional donations over the last three years. That’s what you want. And, if they do give an additional donation, be sure to thank them for that. Here’s the opening from a great thank you card I received – “How generous of you to make a gift that goes above and beyond your monthly donations.“

Be sure to invest in this proven way to raise more money, boost donor retention rates, and provide an easier giving option for your donors. 

Building Relationships is Just as Important as Raising Money

Why does making a donation often feel like a transaction? Organizations get so caught up in the raising money part that they forget about building relationships with their donors.

Giving Tuesday is the worst example of this, with Year End close behind. Generally, it happens way too often.

Remember this – Building relationships is just as important as raising money. 

It’s hard to keep raising money if you don’t build a good relationship with your donors. The two go together. Every single interaction with your donors needs to focus on building relationships. That includes fundraising appeals. It’s possible to raise money and build relationships at the same time.

Follow this formula – ask, thank, update, repeat. Thanking and updating should naturally evolve into building relationships, although that doesn’t always happen.

You’ll have more success if you move away from transactional fundraising and focus on building relationships. Here are some ways to do that.

Stop using transactional language

First, the word transaction should not appear anywhere in your fundraising. Sometimes I see the words “Transaction complete” after I make an online donation. That’s not giving me a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling at all. I made a gift, not a transaction.

Even more prevalent is the word receipt, which is often used in lieu of thank you. After a donor makes a gift, they should feel appreciated. 

An email subject line is one of your first chances to connect with your donor. How would you feel if this is what you saw? 

“Your Recurring Donation Receipt” 

“Donation tax receipt”

This again is emphasizing the transaction. Payment information should not be the lead of any type of thank you. Where are the words thank you?

It’s not easy to find good thank you email subject lines. Here are some that are better.

“Thank you for your generous monthly gift”

“You are wonderful!”

“Thank you for investing in Peace!”

“Your monthly gift in action” 

That last subject line leads into an email that emphasizes how the donor is helping that organization make a difference, which is a good example of building relationships.

When organizations lead their fundraising appeals by saying “It’s our year-end appeal” or “It’s GivingTuesday,” they’re not connecting with their donors by concentrating on why donors give. 

Many donors don’t care that it’s your year-end appeal. They care about your work and want to help. Instead, say something like – How you can help families put food on the table. 

Make relationship building part of your fundraising campaigns

You need to build relationships before, during, and after each of your fundraising campaigns. Keep this in mind – Your Fundraising IS Your Relationship.

Before your next appeal, send your donors an update to let them know how they’re helping you make a difference. This is especially important if you do more than one fundraising campaign a year. You don’t want your donors to think the only time they hear from you is when you’re asking for money.

Segment your donors

One way to help ensure you’re focusing on relationships is to segment your donors and personalize your appeal letters and other types of donor communication. 

Don’t send the same appeal to everyone on your mailing list. What is your relationship with these individuals? Maybe they’ve given once or many times. Perhaps they’re event attendees, volunteers, e-newsletter subscribers, or friends of board members. Mention your relationship in your appeal letter. For example, thank a long-time donor for supporting you these past five years.

Monthly donors get their own appeal letter. This doesn’t happen enough and it’s one of my biggest pet peeves. Build relationships with these committed donors. Recognize they’re monthly donors and either invite them to upgrade their gift or give an additional donation.

Create an attitude of gratitude

Your focus on building relationships continues when you thank your donors. Many organizations do a poor job with this. Send a handwritten note or make a phone call, if you can.

Welcome your new donors. Let them know how much you appreciate this new relationship. If you don’t, it’s likely to be a short relationship.

Be sure to also shower your current donors with appreciation so you can keep your relationship going. Do something special for donors who have supported you for several years.

Make sure your donors get a heartfelt thank you, not something that resembles a receipt.

Thanking donors is something you can do at any time of the year. I think one of the best ways to connect is by sending a handwritten note. I just received a handwritten thank you note acknowledging my two-year anniversary as a donor. It always warms my heart when an organization connects in this way.

Holiday cards are a nice way to reach out, but don’t put a donation envelope in one. You have other opportunities to make appeals. Make it 100% about showing appreciation.

You can also send thank you cards at other times of the year. If money is tight, spread out your mailings over the year so each donor gets at least one card.

Don’t miss out on opportunities to build relationships

There are many ways you can build relationships with your donors throughout the year. 

You can give donors other opportunities to connect, such as volunteering, participating in advocacy alerts, signing up for your email mailing list, and following you on social media. You could also offer virtual or in-person (if it’s safe) tours.

Newsletters and annual reports that focus too much on the organization are the equivalent of being at a party where someone just talks about himself and you may as well not even be there. Done well, a newsletter, annual report, or another form of an update can be a good relationship-building tool.

I’m amazed that after I attend an event, support someone in a walkathon, or give a memorial gift, most organizations don’t do a good job of building a relationship. I could be a potential long-time donor. Personally, I would never give a memorial gift or support someone in a charity walk if I didn’t believe in that organization’s cause. Don’t miss out on a potential opportunity to build longer-term relationships.

You’ll have a better chance of building relationships if you can tap into your donors’ passions and interests.

Hold a relationship-building day

My main objection to giving days, such as GivingTuesday, is they focus so much on asking. What if we put all the time and energy we focus on giving days into a relationship-building day?

I’m not saying you can’t participate in giving days, but instead of the relentless begging, follow the formula above and build relationships before, during, and after your appeal.

Of course, you could choose not to participate in a giving day and have an all-out relationship-building day instead.

Build relationships all year round

It’s easier to stay focused on donors when you’re sending an appeal or thank you, but this is just the beginning. Many organizations go on communication hiatus at certain times of the year and that’s a huge mistake. Ideally, you should keep in touch with your donors every one to two weeks, once a month at the most.

Always stay focused on relationships. Good relationships with your donors will help you raise more money and keep your donors for a long time. 

Steps You Can Take to Ensure a Successful 2023

Happy New Year! I hope you had a nice holiday and weren’t affected by severe weather and flight cancellations. My family rented a house on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland that wasn’t well suited for temperatures in the teens, but fortunately our return flight on Southwest took place after they were “back to normal.”

Now that the New Year is here do you wonder what’s ahead for us? The last three years have brought about so much change and uncertainty. Sometimes it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen next. 

I’m sure your nonprofit continues to face challenges, but since the pandemic started many organizations were able to confront these challenges and make changes to the way they ran their programs and implemented their fundraising and communications. Some were successful and some weren’t.

If 2022 was not a successful year for your organization, you can work to make 2023 a better year. 

Here are some ways to ensure a more successful year.

Have a plan in place

You must have fundraising and communications/marketing plans. If you haven’t put together these plans yet, do that now! 

You know from past experience that you may need to make changes to your plans. In 2020, organizations that were able to make changes to a plan already in place were most successful.

Take a look back at 2022 to see what worked and what didn’t in your fundraising and communications/marketing. Incorporate what you’ve learned into your 2023 plans. 

Be sure your fundraising plan includes a diverse stream of revenue. Individual giving has proven to be successful. A lot of small donations can add up! Start or grow your monthly giving program (more on that below). Also, look into major and legacy giving. 

You can apply for grants and hold events, but those sometimes require more effort than its worth. Invest in strategies that make sense for your organization.

Revisit your fundraising and communications/marketing plans regularly and make changes as needed. Do this at least every two to three months.

Make sure that donor relations and donor retention are part of your fundraising plan. Those are key to your success.

Pay attention to your donor retention

Many donors have stepped up over the past three years to support nonprofit organizations. You don’t want to lose these valuable donors.

Donor retention should be a priority. You’ll have more success if you work to keep the donors you already have instead of focusing on getting new ones.

First, if you don’t already know it, figure out your retention rate. Do this after every fundraising campaign.

If it’s low, it’s something you can fix, usually with better communication. Donor retention is a huge problem for nonprofits. Your goal should be to have donors who support you for a long time.

It’s easier and less expensive to keep your current donors than to find new ones, so, once again, make donor retention a priority.

That said, you may have some new donors who saw a need and felt a connection to your cause. Don’t let these donors slip away either.

Ramp up your monthly giving program

Speaking of retention, the retention rate for monthly donors is 90%. These donors are dedicated to your nonprofit. 

I’m a huge fan of monthly giving. It’s always made sense, but it’s been especially crucial over the last three years. Organizations that had monthly giving programs saw a steady stream of revenue throughout the year. Donors who opt for monthly giving find it’s easier on their finances. Dedicated monthly donors have also stepped up and have given additional donations.

Work on starting or growing your monthly giving program so you can have a bunch of highly committed donors. A good way to start is to invite your current donors to become monthly donors.

Monthly donors are also potential major and legacy donors. Remember the importance of individual giving

Do a better job of communicating with your donors 

It’s time to say goodbye to boring, generic communication. Over the past three years, donors have seen real people with real problems in real time. They turned on the news and saw long lines at food pantries. They’ve witnessed a much-needed awareness of systemic racism in our society. They’re hearing stories about how families can barely make ends meet in the current economy.

It makes a difference if you can put things in human terms. Organizations that do this did a better job of connecting with their donors.

Don’t use jargon, such as at-risk and underserved. These terms are demeaning to your clients, especially if they’re people of color. Tell more stories and go easy on the statistics. If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell.

Better communication also means more frequent communication. Donors want to hear from you and they want to feel appreciated, too. Better, more frequent communication will help you raise more money. A communications calendar will help you with this. 

Keep relationships front and center

You may think the most important component of fundraising is raising money. While that’s important, so is building relationships with your donors

It’s hard to raise money year after year if you don’t build a good relationship with your donors. Every single interaction with your donors needs to focus on building relationships. That includes fundraising appeals. It’s possible to raise money and build relationships at the same time.

Good relationships with your donors will help you with retention.

Don’t forget about gratitude

A big part of building relationships is showing gratitude to your donors. Many nonprofits do a poor job with this. 

You need to start by sending a heartfelt thank you immediately after you receive a donation and then find ways to thank your donors throughout the year. Put together a thank you plan to help you with this.

Start the New Year off by making fundraising and communications/marketing plans, if you haven’t already done so. Prioritize donor retention, monthly giving, showing gratitude, and building relationships with your donors. This will help bring you more success in 2023.

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 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.