Annual Reports Don’t Need To Be Boring

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Are you thinking about doing an annual report? Perhaps you’ve been putting it off because it takes so much time and most annual reports are long, boring booklets that put your donors to sleep, if they even bother to read it in the first place.

You don’t have to do an annual report, but you do have to share accomplishments with your donors.You might want to nix the annual report and send short progress reports a couple of times a year or monthly e-updates instead.

If you decide to do an annual report, I encourage you to move away from the traditional multi-page one. Aim for something no longer than four pages.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you create a better annual report that won’t bore your donors to tears.

Your annual report is for your donors

It’s not for your board and you don’t have to do it the same way you’ve always done it – no more massive, boring booklets. Keep your donors front and center and include information you know will interest them.

You may want to consider different types of annual reports for different donor groups. You could send an oversized postcard with photos and infographics or a two-page report to most of your donors. Your grant and corporate funders might want more detail, but not 20 pages. See if you can impress them with no more than four pages.

One way to shorten your annual report is to not include a donor list. The Annual Report Donor List is a Stupid Waste of Time If you think you must have one, put it in on your website.

Make it a gratitude report

Donors want to feel good about giving to your nonprofit. Think of this as a gratitude report. You may want to call it that instead of an annual report.

Focus on thanking your donors for their role in helping you make a difference. Get inspired by these examples that celebrate the donor.

Oregon Zoo Gratitude Report

What’s in my Mailbox | “Annual Report”…or “Gratitude Report?”

How are you making a difference?

The theme of many annual reports is look how great we are. Don’t Brag So Much

They also include a bunch of boring lists, such as the number of clients served. You need to share specific accomplishments that show how you’re making a difference.

Focus on the why and not the what. Something like this – Thanks to you, 85% of the students in our tutoring program have improved their math skills and now have a better chance of graduating from high school on time.

BTW – Phrases like Thanks to you and because of you should be predominant in your annual report.

Tell a story

Donors love to hear about the people they’re helping. You can tell a story with words, a photo, or a video. Share a success story.

For example – Megan, a sophomore at Brookfield High School, always hated math. “It’s just so hard. I don’t get it,” she said. Geometry was worse than Algebra, which was awful. Then Megan started meeting weekly with Sarah, one of our volunteer tutors. It was a struggle at first, but thanks to Sarah’s patience and encouragement, Megan gets it and is doing much better. Now math class isn’t so bad.

Make it visual

Your donors are busy and don’t have a lot of time to read your report. Engage them with some great photos, which can tell a story in an instant. Choose photos of people participating in an activity, such as Sarah helping Megan with her math.

Use colorful charts or infographics to highlight your financials. This is a great way to keep it simple and easy to understand. Sprinkle in quotes and short testimonials to help break up the text.

Be sure your report is easy to read. Use at least a 12-point font and black type on a white background. A colored background may be pretty, but it makes it hard to read. You can, however, add a splash of color with headings, charts, and infographics.

Write as if you’re having conversation with a friend

Keep out the jargon. Most of your donors don’t use words like underserved or at-risk, and neither should you. Use everyday language such as – Because of you, we found affordable housing for over 100 homeless families. Now they no longer have to live in a shelter, a motel, or their cars and have a place to call home.

Write in the second person and use a warm, friendly tone. Use you much more than we.

You can create an annual report that’s not boring. Read on for more information about creating a great annual report.

Nonprofit Annual Report Examples

7 Tips for Creating an Effective Nonprofit Annual Report

How to Write an Excellent Nonprofit Annual Report

 

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All You Need is #DonorLove

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I’ve written a couple of times recently about the lack of #DonorLove out there. This is a problem. Your donors want to feel appreciated and know their gift is helping you make a difference, and your lame, automatic thank you email doesn’t cut it. You need to do better.

Valentine’s Day is coming up and this is a perfect opportunity to thank your donors and show how much you appreciate their support.

12 Ways to Send Your Donors Love With a Valentine

A simple email to send your donors on Valentine’s Day

Maybe you would prefer not to go for a Valentine’s Day theme, but you should still do something fun and creative to show appreciation this month (and every month for that matter). The holidays are over and Punxatawny Phil saw his shadow, so for those of us who live in Northern climates, you know what that means. We could all use a little mood booster right now.

This is also a good opportunity to stay in touch with the people who gave to your year-end appeal, especially first-time donors. If you haven’t shown any #DonorLove since your year-end appeal, then you must reach out now.

Here are a few ways you can show some #DonorLove.

Create a thank you photo

Make your donor’s day with a great photo, like one of these.

Image result for Nonprofit thank you photos

 

Image result for Nonprofit thank you photos

You can send thank you photos via email and social media, use one to create a card, and include one on your thank you landing page.

Make a video

Videos are becoming an increasingly popular way to connect. Here are some examples of thank you videos.

HRC Thank You Video

4 Smart Ways to Use Thank You Videos in Nonprofit Fundraising

Obviously, the purpose is to thank your donors. A simple video showing a bunch of people saying thank you will do the trick. You also want your video to be short, donor-centered, and show your organization’s work up close and personal.

Your thank you landing page is a perfect place to put a video (or a photo). This is your first opportunity to say thank you and most landing pages look like boring receipts. You can also put your thank you video on your website and share it by email and social media.

Send a card

A handwritten note will also brighten your donor’s day. If you don’t have the budget to send cards to everyone, send them to your most valuable donors. These may not be the ones who give you the most money. Do you have donors who have supported your organization for more than three years? How about more than five years? These are your valuable donors.

Another idea – Send a small number of thank you cards every month, ensuring that each donor gets at least one card a year. Spreading it out may be easier on your budget.

Share an update or success story

In addition to saying thank you, share a brief update or success story. Emphasize how you couldn’t have helped someone without your donor’s support. For example – Thanks to you, the Smith family now has a home of their own.

Phrases like Thanks to you or Because of you should dominate your newsletter and updates.

Thank you refresher course

Make this the year you do a better job of thanking your donors. Thank your donors right away and send a thank you note/letter or make a phone call. Electronic thank yous aren’t good enough.

Be personal and conversational when you thank your donors. Don’t use jargon or other language they won’t understand. Write from the heart, but be sincere. Give specific examples of how your donors are helping you make a difference.

Thanking your donors needs to be a priority

If your budget doesn’t allow you to mail handwritten cards, is there a way you can change that? You may be able to get a print shop to donate cards. You could also look for additional sources of unrestricted funding to cover cards and postage.

Maybe you need a change of culture, and this comes from the top. Hello, Executive Directors. Getting your board, all staff, and volunteers involved in thanking your donors will make a huge difference.

Keep thinking of ways to surprise and delight your donors! Get creative.

15 Creative Ways to Thank Donors

20 Unique Donor Thank You Ideas

Nail the Nonprofit Non-Ask with these 9 ideas

You can’t say thank you enough. Make a commitment to thank your donors at least once a month. Create a thank you plan to help you with this.

You don’t even need to wait for a holiday or special occasion. Just thank your donors because they’re amazing and you wouldn’t be able to make a difference without them.

5 Tips to Boost Your Mobile Donor Engagement Levels

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By John Killoran

Donor engagement success is the backbone of so many of your outreach, fundraising, and general strategies so it’s not surprising that it can make or break your mobile fundraising efforts, too.

Engaging your donors through mobile avenues can be a tricky feat so it needs to be thoughtfully considered and examined. You’ll need to know your donors and your organization through and through in order to boost your donor engagement.

Luckily, we’ve crafted 5 tips to take your mobile donor engagement to the next level! Check them out:

  1. Know your donors’ preferred mobile giving method.
  2. Determine the best times to connect with your supporters.
  3. Recognize mobile donation trends.
  4. Send out a survey on your mobile strategies.
  5. Keep your mobile strategies cause-oriented.

If you’re ready to engage and retain your donors through your mobile fundraising and outreach, then let’s dive in!

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1. Know your donors’ preferred mobile giving method.

The better you know your donors, the better you can cater your outreach and fundraising strategies to them and see more instant success.

You can look at your data from previous mobile giving campaigns to know which mobile giving methods your donors like the best.

If you’ve stored this donor data in your donor management or CRM solution, it’ll be easy to find and use, making this an effortless step.

For example, if two of your donors loved donating through your text-to-give solution, you’ll know to send them a text and pique their interest in donating that way again.

On the other hand, if you have a donor who only likes giving through your online donation page, you’ll know to include that donor in your upcoming email campaign that links back to your donation form.

The bottom line: Knowing your donors’ preferences shows them that you value their support and their comfort levels. Be sure to connect supporters with their favorite mobile giving methods.

Bonus! Check out @Pay’s Text-to-Give Guide to learn everything you and your supporters need to know about text giving.

AP_AnnGreen_Determine-the-best-times-to-connect-with-your-supporters

2. Determine the best times to connect with your supporters.

You’ll also want to turn to your data to determine the best times to interact with your supporters through mobile methods.

You’ll notice most people check social media around noon every day during their lunch break and 6pm on weekdays when they get home from work. That being said, content posted at 12 PM is more likely to have a high amount of views than something posted at 10 AM would.

You’ll want to think about best times for checking social media and peak times for sending emails.

Your organization can also take a look at when your nonprofit website sees the most traffic. This will come in handy so you can coordinate when you send out emails that include a link to your online donation form.

If most people are viewing your site at 7 PM on weeknights, you might schedule your emails to deliver around the same time to encourage even more traffic to your website at the most convenient time for your donors.

The bottom line: You’ll want to interact with your constituents at the best times for them in order to strengthen donor relationships and encourage more donations.

AP_AnnGreen_Recognize-mobile-donation-trends

3. Recognize mobile donation trends.

Now that you know the best times for your organization to reach out to your supporters, you’ll want to figure out some other imperative details like the following:

  • How often they donate to your organization
  • The average amount they give
  • When they have previously donated
  • Which device they like to give from

You might even be able to estimate details about your donors from trends formed by their giving habits.

For example, if your donor gives $20 through text-to-give once a month, you may assume they’re a millennial because millennials are more likely to use text-giving than their parents are.

You won’t want to judge completely based off of their giving trends, however, so don’t forget to do your research on different donors.

You can also add other information fields to learn more about your donors, catering each field to what’s important to your specific nonprofit. For example, you can easily know donors’ ages by adding an optional birthdate information field on your online donation form, but you can also add more personal details like dietary preferences to help plan stewardship events.

With this information on your side, you may even be able to predict when your supporters will donate again because past giving is a great indicator of future giving. Take into consideration donations your supporters have made to other nonprofits, as well, to help find the pattern in their giving history.

The bottom line: Researching your constituents’ mobile donation trends can help you cater your fundraising asks and overall engagement to their liking. Remember that timing is everything and you’ll need to be strategic about when you reach out to donors so you don’t overwhelm them.

AP_AnnGreen_Send-out-a-survey-on-your-mobile-strategies

4. Send out a survey for your mobile strategies.

Take into consideration that your donors are crucial elements to your nonprofit’s fundraising, which directly supports your nonprofit’s projects to further your mission.

Your donors are the backbone of your financial support so they’re incredibly important and should be treated as such! Ask your guests for feedback by offering surveys regarding your mobile strategies.

Make sure this survey is short and sweet so it doesn’t take up too much of their time. With the data from these surveys, your organization can see where your mobile outreach and fundraising event methods fell short and where they excelled.

Learning your supporters’ opinions and preferences will help you reshape your mobile strategies to cater to them. This way, you’re optimizing your mobile methods for the most success, whether that be for online fundraising or for strengthening your donor relationships.

Plus, asking your donors for their thoughts on your mobile strategies will prove that you value their opinions and look forward to incorporating their feedback, which is an act of donor stewardship in itself.

You can easily add links to your survey throughout your mobile strategies. For example, within emails, you can include a hyperlink that will redirect donors to your survey. You can do the same for text giving. It’s also important to include your survey on your website so it’s always accessible for donors who want to submit feedback.

The bottom line: Sending out a survey to give your donors a voice and input into your organization proves that you value their opinions and gives you easy ways to reshape your strategies to their liking.

AP_AnnGreen_Keep-your-mobile-strategies-cause-oriented

5. Keep your mobile strategies cause-oriented.

While it’s easy to get swept up in your multi-channeled fundraising or outreach hustle, it’s important to remember that it’s all about your cause.

Keep in mind that donors were originally drawn to your nonprofit organization because they support your cause, which is what you’re ultimately trying to further!

There are a few easy ways to keep your mobile strategies cause-oriented:

  • Focus on your mission statement. Supporters can easily identify your organization’s morals and values through your mission statement and it’s most likely one of the details that will be commonly known throughout your donor base.
  • Always tell donors where their donations are going. No matter what your project is, your organization should sit down and determine where raised funds will really be going. If you’re building a shelter, for example, a $25 donation might go toward nails and hammers whereas a $500 donation would go toward internal plumbing fixtures like a sink.
  • Give your supporters updates. Your supporters are investing in your projects and cause so they’ll want to know how everything is progressing. You can easily send them updates through email or even through text! When communicating through text, you’ll want to make sure to do so sparingly so you don’t overwhelm your donors. You might try sending them a text to sign up for your emails and then simply update them through that channel.

Keeping it cause-oriented reassures your donors that your organization’s heart is in the right place, strengthening your relationship, and perhaps even encouraging larger donations!

The bottom line: Your mobile strategies should always be cause-oriented. Remember to emphasize how much your supporters can help to further your cause and where their money will be put to good use!

Now that you have our top 5 tips to take your mobile donor engagement to the next level, there’s nothing holding you back from forming strong, reliable relationships with your supporters. All that’s left to do is revamp your mobile strategies and get to stewarding!

John Killoran is CEO of @Pay, an exciting new fundraising technology that makes it easy for people to donate in two clicks from text, email, web, and social media sites. John pioneered SMTP payments and has been a major innovator in the mobile payments space for the past 5 years. When he is not running a company, he is cooking food for his family and telling his dogs to stop barking. John Killoran

Monthly Giving Mistakes

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Monthly giving is a great way to raise additional revenue and boost your retention rate. If you don’t have a monthly giving program, start one now. How to Create a Monthly Giving Program for Your Nonprofit

Many organizations do have a monthly or recurring giving option, which is great. What’s not great are some of the mistakes I see nonprofits making with their monthly giving.

Here are few of those monthly giving mistakes and how you can avoid them.

Sending generic appeals to monthly donors

I’m a firm believer that once someone becomes a monthly donor, they get their own appeal. You should be segmenting your appeals anyway (by current donors, potential donors, etc) and that rarely happens.

Recognizing that you know your donors can help you raise more money. Some organizations have special names for their monthly donors. All donors are special, but monthly donors are extra special because they made a commitment to support you long-term.

Therefore, you’re not showing the love when they get a one-size-fits-all appeal that doesn’t recognize they’re monthly donors.

I mentioned before that monthly giving allows you to raise extra money. Another way to raise additional revenue is to ask for a larger gift. Most organizations don’t do this and that’s one of the perils of generic appeals.

Here’s a way to craft an appeal to ask monthly donors to upgrade their gifts.

Thank you so much for your donation of $5.00 a month. We really appreciate your support. You can help us out even more by increasing your gift to $7.00 or even $10.00 a month.

Be reasonable. One organization did ask me to increase from $5.00 to $7.00 a month. Another asked me to become a Sustainer at $25.00 a month, which is a bit of a jump.

Not paying attention and letting monthly gifts expire

A little over a year ago, I started making monthly donations. Some organizations let you choose how many months you want to donate, although most don’t have that option. When given an option to choose, I picked 12 months. I didn’t keep track of which organizations had “expiration dates.” Neither did these organizations.

It wasn’t until I went through my credit card statements at the beginning of January, that I discovered three of my monthly donations had stopped charging. I did renew these donations and now I’m keeping track of which donations will expire in a year.

But how much of this is my responsibility? Donors are busy, especially at the end of the year. Help them out a little. These organizations missed two months of donations because they weren’t paying attention. I wonder how many other monthly donations they missed as well.

You can avoid this by keeping track of when monthly donations are set to expire. A month ahead of time, send donors a friendly reminder letting them know it’s time to renew their monthly donation. You can use the example above to thank donors and ask for an upgrade as well.

Monthly donors are not the same as single gift donors. I did receive generic appeals from some of these organizations but ignored them because I figured my monthly gift would continue.

Your thank you acknowledgments are boring  

Given that some organizations don’t bother to thank their donors at all, I should be happy that I get thank you acknowledgments each month for my monthly gifts. But many of these organizations send exactly the same thank you letter (most by email, a few by mail) every time. Sometimes it’s sporadic – thank yous one month, nothing another.

Here’s the text of one thank you I get every month.

Thank you very much for your ongoing support and your sustainer donation of $5.00 to X

Your next donation is scheduled for 1/31/18.

If you need to change your credit card or billing information, please visit the Gift Service Center or contact our Member Services team at …….

Your ongoing commitment will make a real difference, and we are deeply grateful for your support. It’s good to know you’re with us.

At the bottom, there’s a Donation Transaction Summary. Oh, that dreaded word transaction.

Kind of boring, isn’t it? Monthly giving expert, Erica Waasdorp recommends sending one thank you letter for the tax year and not sending monthly thank you letters. Is Your Monthly Donor Tax-Letter Ready? This way you can send one super-fabulous thank you letter instead of 12 boring ones.

However, it is possible to create 12 interesting updates. If you want to send a thank you each month, then give a specific example of how a donor’s gift is helping you make a difference. Or take Erica’s advice and nix the monthly thank you. Instead you could create a newsletter or send updates specifically for monthly donors.

Either way, be sure to stay in touch with your monthly donors at least once a month. They’ve made a commitment to support you once a month. You can do the same for them by pouring on the gratitude and showing these donors how they’re helping you make a difference.

A monthly/recurring giving program can be a great opportunity for your organization. Don’t blow it by making these mistakes.

I Expected More

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I didn’t feel a lot of donor love after I made my year-end gifts at the end of November. I thought maybe it’s coming later. Okay, now it’s later – the middle of January. Let’s see how things are going.

How long do I have to wait for a thank you letter?

The Whiny Donor (@thewhinydonor) always shares spot on fundraising tweets, and one of her best is “Seriously. How long are you going to make me wait for that thank you letter?” I’ve been thinking the same thing over the last several weeks.

It’s recommended that organizations thank their donors within 48 hours. I made all my donations online, so technically most of these organizations did that, even though their automatically generated thank you emails weren’t laced with donor love. This is an easy fix. There’s no reason why you can’t create a warm and personal thank you email.

But you’re not off the hook. Even if someone donates online, she should get a thank you by mail or phone.

Only three organizations sent me thank you letters, and two of them came in mid-January. One was from a new organization, that due to recent events, I felt compelled to give to last year. I had been disappointed that the only thing I received from them were PayPal receipts for my monthly donation. Therefore, I was quite pleased that they welcomed me as a monthly donor and let me know that “none of our work would be possible without caring donors like you.”

The phrase better late than never applies here, but don’t wait too long. If you haven’t sent a thank you by mail do that now!  And in the future, be ready to send thank you letters/handwritten notes or make phone calls right after you receive a donation.

Naughty and nice

Thank you letters are just the beginning. You need to stay in touch throughout the year. Some organizations sent me holiday and New Year’s greetings by email. One of the holiday emails included the subject line “Celebrating Ann this season.” Several included year-end updates, one with the subject line“Here’s how we put your gift to work.” These organizations are on the nice list.

I also received a couple of holiday cards in the mail. Unfortunately, these organizations are going straight to the naughty list since they included donation envelopes with their cards. A couple of holiday emails included a donate button at the bottom of the message, but that wasn’t as obvious.

I get that you’re trying to raise money, but there are times when you should just show gratitude. Also, I had recently donated to one of the organizations that sent me a “thask”

But I just donated

Speaking of raising money, most of the communication I received from nonprofits in December were fundraising requests. I was barraged with generic fundraising appeals, even though I already gave in November or give a recurring monthly donation.

Sometimes it seems these organizations don’t know me as a donor. Do you expect me to give another gift in December even though I just gave a month earlier? If so, acknowledge my previous donation and let me know why I should give again. If I give monthly, why am I getting a request for a one-time gift? If there’s a specific need, let me know.

Again, I get that you’re trying to capitalize on year-end giving. But try not to send appeals to people who have just donated. If you can’t do that, then include a thanks to people who’ve already donated. One organization ended their appeal with “P.S. — If you’ve already made your gift, THANK YOU. We’ve had an outpouring of support and are busy processing donations.”

Monthly donors should get separate appeals recognizing that they’re monthly donors. Only a couple of organizations acknowledged me as a monthly donor.

Fundraising is more than just raising money. It’s also about building relationships. This means framing your appeal to sound less like you’re begging for money and more like you recognize your donors for who they are.

Focus on what’s important to your donors

I mentioned before the importance of staying in touch with your donors throughout the year. I do hear from some organizations through their newsletters, updates, and advocacy alerts. All the organizations I support should be staying in touch and that’s not happening. I tend to hear from the same handful of organizations.

Just sending a newsletter or an update is not enough. You need to focus on how your donors are helping you make a difference and not on your organization. I like PetPartners and what they do, and they generally create a good newsletter. But in a recent e-newsletter, they fell into the look at how great we are trap by including this organization-centered subject line – “Pet Partners Chosen As 2017 Best Animal Therapy Nonprofit!”

Looking at other articles in the newsletter, I would have used “Meet Swoosh, a cancer therapy dog” as the email subject line to help draw me in. To their credit, three out of the four articles were about therapy dogs. I’m much more interested in hearing stories about how therapy animals are helping people. That’s what drew me to the organization in the first place.

When choosing articles for your newsletter or sharing an update, think about why someone donates to your organization. It’s usually because they care about your cause and not because you’re number one in something.

Don’t leave your donors with the feeling they should be expecting more. Let your donors know how much you appreciate them and share information that shows them how they’re helping you make a difference.

 

 

How to Do Better in 2018

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Happy New Year! I hope you had a good holiday. I just returned from my family’s annual trip to Florida. It’s quite a contrast from the frigid, wintery weather we’re having in Boston.

I also hope 2017 was a good year for your organization, and 2018 will be even better. If things didn’t go so well last year, here are a few ways to help you do better.

Evaluate and plan

Take a look back at 2017 to see what worked and what didn’t in your fundraising and communications. Incorporate what you’ve learned into your 2018 plans.

If you haven’t made fundraising and communications plans yet, do that now! Don’t go too far into the New Year without plans in place. Be sure to include donor engagement and donor retention in your fundraising plan (see the first link below for more information). Also, make sure you evaluate your progress at least once a quarter.

Nonprofit Fundraising Plan: 6 Must-Do Steps For Success

COMMUNICATION PLAN TEMPLATE

How to Integrate Your Nonprofit Fundraising Plan With Your Marketing Plan

5 FUNDRAISING SUCCESS METRICS TO START TRACKING

Figure out your retention rate

As you’re doing your year-end evaluation, figure out your donor retention rate.

A Guide to Donor Retention

If it’s low, it’s something you can fix, usually with better communication. It’s easier and less expensive to keep your current donors than to find new ones, so make retention a priority.

Why you should care about donor retention

One Thing Most Nonprofits Stink at (Donor Retention) and How You Can Change It

Get in touch with your lapsed donors

If you fell short of your year-end fundraising goal, one way to raise extra revenue is to get in touch with donors who have given in the last two years, but not this past year. Call them or send a personalized note. Let them know you miss them and want them back.

They may not have given to your year-end campaign for a variety of reasons including being too busy or not wanting to spend too much in December. The New Year could be the perfect time to reach out.

We Want You Back! A Simple Strategy for Reactivating Lapsed Donors

Start or enhance your monthly giving program

Monthly or recurring giving is also an excellent way to raise more money and boost your retention rate as well. If you don’t have a monthly giving program, start one this year. If you have one, but people aren’t taking advantage of it, work on promoting it more. Invite current donors to become monthly donors and make it a prominent option on your donation page and pledge form.

Making the Most of Monthly Giving

Do a better job of thanking your donors

I hope you thanked your donors after your year-end appeal and I hope you didn’t send one of those boring, generic letters. If you never sent a thank you letter, do that now!

Either way, the New Year is a great time to thank your donors. You want to show gratitude at least once a month. Wish your donors a Happy New Year, thank them again, and share a success story. You can do this by email or social media.

I haven’t been impressed with the thank yous I received after I made my year-end donations. You can stand out if you make a resolution to do a better job of thanking your donors this year.

Thank You 101

Stay in touch throughout the year

Your donors want to hear how they’re helping you make a difference. Don’t let them down.

It will be a whole lot easier to stay in touch with your donors if you use a communications (aka editorial) calendar. When you do communicate, remember to be donor-centered and focus on building relationships.

Stay in Touch Throughout the Year by Using a Communications Calendar

Here’s wishing you a successful 2018!

Stay in Touch Throughout the Year by Using a Communications Calendar

37251899914_2155c24033_mDonor retention continues to be a problem and one of the reasons is poor communication. Nonprofits don’t communicate with their donors enough. Sometimes the only time we hear from organizations is when they’re asking for donations.

You must communicate with your donors at least once or twice a month throughout the year. If you’re getting stressed out wondering how you’re going to pull this off, then you need 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.

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 to share it. You want a consistent stream of information – not three emails 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, but send an e-newsletter once a month and communicate by social media several times a week. You’ll often use a number of 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.

While this post is primarily about setting up a communications calendar, you also have to share content your donors will be interested in. I’ll write more about that in future posts.

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

Events

Does your organization hold any events? Besides your events, are there other events in your community that would be of interest to your supporters? This is a great thing to share on social media.

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 a good story to share with your supporters?  In addition, think of creative ways to connect at other times of the year such as Valentine’s Day, spring, and back-to-school time.

News stories

There’s a lot going on in the news these days. You won’t be able to predict news stories in advance. However, if there’s a hot item in the news that’s relevant to the work you do, that could be something to share or use as an example of how you’re helping to make a difference for the people/community you serve.

Fundraising and recruitment

Be sure to add your fundraising appeals to your communications calendar. You want to highlight these and not inundate your donors with a lot of other information at that time.

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

Thank your donors

This is crucial! Find different ways to let your donors know how much you appreciate them. Do this at least once a month.

Ongoing content

If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell. Share a story at least once a month. Client success stories (either in the first or third person) are best. You could also profile a board member, volunteer, donor, or staff member. Be sure to highlight what drew them to your organization.

Create a story bank to help you with this.

Keep it up

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 is more information to help you create a communications/editorial calendar, along with a couple of templates.

How to Create a Nonprofit Editorial Calendar

The Power of a Donor Communications Calendar

Evergreen Editorial Calendar

Editorial Calendars – Resources for You