How You Can Write a Better Fundraising Appeal

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

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

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

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

Make your first impression a lasting impression

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

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

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

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

Create an inviting piece of mail.

Share a story

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

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

Include a photo

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

Here’s more information on creating stories and photos.

Tell the Stories Your Donors Want to Hear

Entice Your Donors With Visual Stories

Next comes the ask

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

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

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

Make donor-centered front and center

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

Share your success

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

Personalization is key

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make it easy for your donors

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

How To Create Donation Tiers That Drive Donations

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

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

Offer a monthly or recurring giving option

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

How to start a monthly giving program for your small nonprofit

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

Your letter must be easy to read (or scan)

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

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

Think of your letter as a conversation with a friend

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

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

Too many editors spoil the appeal

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

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

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

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

Keep that good impression going

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

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

Get your pens out

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

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

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

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

Six Ways to Punch Up Your Fundraising Appeals

Direct Mail Fundraising: 5 Strategies for Every Nonprofit

Write the Perfect Donation Letter (+ Examples & Template)

FUNDRAISING LETTER TEMPLATES

 

Advertisements

Nonprofit Fundraising: 5 Ways to Expand Community Engagement

Funds2Orgs_Ann Green Nonprofit_Nonprofit Fundraising 5 Ways to Expand Community Engagement_Feature

By Wayne Elsey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funds2Orgs_Ann Green Nonprofit_Nonprofit Fundraising 5 Ways to Expand Community Engagement_Header 1

1. Donor Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funds2Orgs_Ann Green Nonprofit_Nonprofit Fundraising 5 Ways to Expand Community Engagement_Header 2.jpg

2. Social Media Fundraising

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

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

Crowdfunding

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

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

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

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

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

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

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

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

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

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

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

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

Funds2Orgs_Ann Green Nonprofit_Nonprofit Fundraising 5 Ways to Expand Community Engagement_Header 3

3. Community Events

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

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

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

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

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

Funds2Orgs_Ann Green Nonprofit_Nonprofit Fundraising 5 Ways to Expand Community Engagement_Header 4

4. Community Drives

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

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

Try coordinating one of these drives into your next community fundraiser

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

Funds2Orgs_Ann Green Nonprofit_Nonprofit Fundraising 5 Areas to Expand Community Engagement_Header 5

5. Corporate Philanthropy

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

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

Corporate giving programs allow:

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

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

Matching Gifts

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

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

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

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

Volunteer Grants

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

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

_______________________________________________________________________________

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

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

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

How to Get Ready for Your Year-End Appeal

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

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

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

How much money do you need to raise?

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

Do you have a plan?

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

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

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

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

An Annual Appeal Fundraising Timeline You Can Use

13 End-of-Year Appeal Strategies

Do you have a good story and photo to share?

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

Tell the Stories Your Donors Want to Hear

Entice Your Donors With Visual Stories

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

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

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

Are your mailing lists in good shape?

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

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

Do you have enough letterhead, envelopes, and stamps?

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

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

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

Is it easy to donate online?

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

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

Examples Of Great Nonprofit Donation Pages

How does a donation help the people you serve?

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

How To Create Donation Tiers That Drive Donations

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

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

Boost Your Fundraising Results With a Match From a Major Donor

Do you offer a monthly or recurring giving option?

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

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

Incorporating Monthly Giving Into Your Fundraising

How will you thank your donors?

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

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

How will you keep up with your donor communication?

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

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

 

Tell the Stories Your Donors Want to Hear

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

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

Donors want to hear your stories

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

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

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

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

Create a culture of storytelling

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

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

When you put together a story, ask.

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

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

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

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

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

Give your stories the personal touch

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

 Fundraising with Names Have Been Changed Disclaimers

Your stories aren’t about your organization

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

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

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

The Storytelling Nonprofit

INFOGRAPHIC: A Nonprofit Storytelling How-To

The Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Storytelling (30+ Tips)

How To Create A Culture of Storytelling in Your Nonprofit

 

How to Stay on Track for the Rest of the Year

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACan you believe we’re already halfway through the year? I hope your fundraising and communications are going well so far. If not, you’re not alone. According to the 2019 Giving USA report, overall giving is down 1.7%.

5 Key Takeaways from the 2019 Giving USA Report

The mid-point of the year is always a good time to see if you’re meeting your fundraising and communications goals. If your fundraising is down, you’ll need to make some smart choices for the rest of the year. This often includes better donor communication.

If you never made a fundraising plan for 2019, stop right there and put one together now and use it for the remainder of the year.

Nonprofit Fundraising Plan: 6 Must-Do Steps For Success

No need to panic yet. There are ways you can stay on track and raise more money in the second half of the year. Here’s how.

Ask your donors for an upgrade

An obvious, but overlooked, way to raise more money is to ask your donors to upgrade their gifts. Even if you’re a smaller organization, it’s not too much to ask $25 donors to give $50, $50 donors to give $75, and so on.

Make a point to do this in your next fundraising campaign. If you don’t, you’re leaving money on the table.

How to Get Your Donors to Give More this Year than Last Year

Start or enhance your monthly giving program

I’m a big fan of monthly or recurring giving. It’s a great way to raise more money, as well as your donor retention rate. Retention rates for monthly donors are 90%, much much better than other retention rates.

If you don’t have a monthly giving program, plan to promote one in your next campaign. To get more monthly donors, send a special targeted letter to current donors inviting them to become monthly donors. This another good opportunity to upgrade smaller dollar donors, or any donors for that matter.

Also, do something special for your current monthly donors. Send them a thank you postcard or email. They’ve made a commitment to you, now make a commitment to them.

Get in touch with your lapsed donors

Reaching out to your lapsed donors could help you raise additional revenue. An organization I used to contribute to sent me a nice letter asking me to come back. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but I stopped donating to them mainly because my giving priorities changed. 

I was impressed that they made a special attempt to reach out, because most organizations don’t do that. Yes, you might get the usual generic letter.

In your next fundraising campaign, send targeted letters to your lapsed donors telling them you miss them and want them back. After your campaign is over, make an attempt to reach out to any additional lapsed donors.

Do a better job of thanking your donors

Last week’s post was all about doing a better job of thanking your donors by creating a thank you plan. 

Creating a Thank You Plan Will Help You Stay Focused on Gratitude All Year Round

Showing gratitude is just one part of the donor communication mix. Stay in touch throughout the year with donor-centered updates. Show your donors how they’re helping you make a difference.

You still have time to stay on track

If you’re falling short of your goals, you still have time to do better, but you have to make an effort.

Giving USA 2019 | How to fundraise smarter, not harder

Be sure to keep evaluating your progress for the rest of the year to help ensure a successful 2019.

3 Ways to Stay Ahead of Giving Trends

 

What Fundraising and Strength Training Have in Common

32004749403_9d5d6ffa41_mAbout a year and a half ago I started doing strength training with a personal trainer. My initial assessment was humbling, to say the least, and at the beginning, there were several times I wondered “Why am I doing this?”

But I’ve benefited so much. Not only am I stronger, but I’ve lost weight, I’m sleeping better, my mood is better, and I have a more robust immune system.

Strength training has a lot in common with fundraising and when I say fundraising, I’m including the stewardship and relationship building components, too.

It’s supposed to be hard, but doable

If I ever say one of my training exercises is hard, my trainer will respond, “It’s supposed to be hard.” That said, it also needs to be doable.

What a wonderful world we’d live in if people just donated money to nonprofit organizations without us have to do anything.

Fundraising is hard. It doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it, but you also need to be realistic. I’m not lifting 100-pound weights. That would be too much for me. Certain fundraising endeavors, such as events, may be too much for your organization to take on right now.

How to raise money: 3 steps to creating sustainable funding for your new, young, or small nonprofit

Starting small is often the way to go

I work out twice a week and do what’s known as a circuit –  seven or eight exercises each of the days, usually three sets of 10-12 reps each. People who are more advanced might do four or five sets of two different exercises with heavier weights.

This same formula can work for your organization when you concentrate on individual gifts. Many of these will be under $100 each, but you’ll be able to get a larger number of them.

Be patient and you’ll see results

It took about two or three months for me to see the results I mentioned above. Some of your fundraising will take even longer.

You can get smaller gifts fairly quickly. Securing major gifts and grants will take longer.  It can take up to a year to cultivate major gifts and it takes a lot of relationship building to get there. If you get approved for a grant, it can take several months to get the money and there are often restrictions.

But if you persevere, you should see results.

Take it to the next level

If I kept doing the same exercises I started with, I wouldn’t make much progress. The same is true with fundraising.

Most appeal letters are generic,one-size fits all. You’re missing an opportunity to grow when you don’t ask donors to upgrade their single gifts or invite them to become a monthly donor.

There are so many opportunities to take your fundraising to the next level. Smaller dollar donors can upgrade to mid-level donors, mid-level donors can become major donors, and major donors are potential legacy donors.

You need to stick with it

If I miss a week or two of training, it suffers. The same is true with your fundraising. If all you do is send appeals a few times a year, you won’t have much success.

You need to engage with your donors regularly – at least once or twice a month. That includes showing gratitude and sharing updates.

Build Relationships With Your Donors Every Step of the Way

You need a plan

When I started strength training, my trainer designed a plan for me that we can build on and modify as needed. You need to do the same thing with your fundraising.

You shouldn’t be raising revenue without a plan in place. You also need a donor communication and stewardship plan.

Nonprofit  Fundraising Plan: 6 Must-Do Steps For Success

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

My workout consists of exercises for the upper body, lower body, and core. Your fundraising will also consist of different endeavors – individual giving, major gifts, grants, events, etc.

And as I mentioned before, and I’ll mention again since many organizations ignore this, your fundraising also needs a gratitude and relationship building component.

Fundraising takes a lot of hard work, but if you keep building and stick with it, you should see results.

Photo via https://thoroughlyreviewed.com/

Three Wise Investments That Can Help You Raise More Money

32943656503_65029c172f_mIf you have a July 1 fiscal year start date, you’re most likely working on your budget for next year (at least you should be). Those of you who use the calendar year as your fiscal year will be working on yours later in the year.

Whatever the case may be, putting together a budget can be a pain, especially if you’re a small nonprofit with limited resources. It may be tempting to create a bare-bones budget with the mindset “we can’t afford this.”

Use caution before you nix something you think you can’t afford. It may be something you should be investing in.

This doesn’t mean going wild with your budget. You need to make wise investments. Here are three areas you should be investing more money in. The good news is, if you do it right, these investments will help you raise more money.

Invest in a good database

Plain and simple, a good database can help you raise more money. You can segment your donors by amount and politely ask them to give a little more in your next appeal – $35 or $50 instead of $25.

A good database can help you with retention, which will save you money since it costs less to keep donors than to acquire new ones. You can personalize your letters and email messages. Make sure to invest in a good email service provider, too.

Personalized letters and messages mean you can address your donors by name and not Dear Friend. You can welcome new donors and thank current donors for their previous support. You can send targeted mailings to lapsed donors to try to woo them back. You can send special mailings to your monthly donors. You can record any personal information, such as conversations you had with a donor and their areas of interest.

Invest in the best donor database you can afford, and Excel is not a database.

Nonprofit Software

Invest in direct mail

If you never or rarely use direct mail, you’re missing out on an effective and more personal way to communicate with your donors. Think of the enormous amount of email and social media posts you receive as opposed to postal mail. Your donors will be more likely to see your messages if you send them by mail.

Yes, direct mail is more expensive, but you don’t have to mail that often. Quality is more important than quantity but aim for three or four times a year.

Give some thought to what you send. Some ideas, besides appeal letters, include thank you cards; Thanksgiving, holiday, or Valentine’s Day cards; infographic postcards; two to four-page newsletters; and annual/progress reports. Whatever you choose, be sure to keep it donor-centered. You could put a donation envelope in your newsletter to raise some additional revenue, but do not put one in a thank you or holiday card.

Shorter is better. Lengthy communication will cost more and your donors are less likely to read it.

A few ways you can use direct mail without breaking your budget are to clean up your mailing lists to avoid costly duplicate mailings, spread thank you mailings throughout the year – perhaps sending something to a small number of donors each month, and look into special nonprofit mailing rates. You may also be able to get print materials done pro bono or do them in-house, as long as they look professional.

Of course, you can use email and social media, but your primary reason for communicating that way shouldn’t be because it’s cheaper. It should be because that’s what your donors use. If your donors prefer you to communicate by mail, then that’s what you should do.

Turbocharge Your Direct Mail and Digital

Invest in donor communications

I like this quote from Tom Ahern – If you do better donor communications, you’ll have more money. Makes a lot of sense doesn’t it? Yet many nonprofits don’t practice this. Better donor communications means thanking your donors and keeping in touch with them throughout the year.

Don’t skimp on your communications budget. Creating thank you cards and infographic postcards are a wise investment and a necessity, not a luxury. Thank you cards are a much better investment than mailing labels and other useless swag.

Hiring at least one communications staff member is another wise investment. Maybe you need to reallocate your budget to cover some of these expenses. You could also look into additional sources of unrestricted funding.

Remember, you can also use email and social media to communicate with donors. This reiterates the need for a good email service provider that has professional looking templates you can use for your e-newsletter and other updates.

Build Relationships With Your Donors Every Step of the Way

Don’t limit yourself by saying you can’t afford certain expenses. If you invest in a good database, direct mail, and donor communications, you should be able to raise more money.

Image via  www.gotcredit.com