Make This the Year You Segment 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?

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 a one-size-fits-all letter. 

Sometimes smaller organizations do a better job of personalization. Not that long ago, I received a generic, one-size-fits-all appeal from a large, national organization. I’m a monthly donor and they didn’t acknowledge that. In fact, the letter included a blurb encouraging people to become monthly donors. Um….

That organization missed an opportunity to do a better job of connecting with their donors. Unfortunately, they are one of many.

When you’re too big to succeed

If you’re not segmenting your donors, make this the year you start. And 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 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 database/CRM is worth the investment. Segmenting your donors will help you with retention, which costs more than trying to find new donors. Donor stewardship/engagement is usually easier and it’s more fun.

You also don’t need to create 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. You may want to include others. The more you can segment, the better. Remember, investing in a good CRM/database will help you with this.

Current single gift 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. Don’t blow it by ignoring this.

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, or volunteering.

Then a week or so later, send them a welcome package by mail or email. Personalization is crucial with new donors.

Are We Sure An Automated Email Welcome Series For New Donors Is A Good Idea?

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. 

Segmenting your donors makes a difference

In these 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 who just send generic, one-size-fits-all communications. People are also looking for a personal connection right now. 

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.

Here’s more information about segmenting your donors.

How to Segment Your Donors

Donor Segmentation: The Ultimate Guide for Nonprofits

4 Smart Donor Segmentation Strategies for Nonprofits

KEY DONOR SEGMENTS FOR A BETTER YEAR-END APPEAL

Making Connections With Your Monthly Donors

Monthly giving on the rise. If you haven’t capitalized on this, what are you waiting for? This post won’t focus too much on starting or growing a monthly/recurring giving program, although if you’re interested in that, here’s more information.

10 Quick Tips to Create a Great Monthly Giving Program

I want to focus on making connections with the monthly donors you already have.

We’re edging into summer, and while this is a slower fundraising season, it’s a good time to connect with your donors, whether they’re brand new or longtime supporters.

Make a plan

Create a plan for your monthly donor communication. Although I’m emphasizing summer, you need to communicate with your monthly donors (and all donors) throughout the year. I like to say because these donors support you every month, you should reciprocate by communicating with them at least once a month.

You can incorporate this into your communications calendar. Fill it with ways to show gratitude and share updates. You can use different channels. Here are some ideas to get started.

Send something by mail

How often do you get something personal in the mail? Not often, right? And when you do, it stands out.

Take some time this summer to create a postcard thank you and/or update or send a handwritten note. Your donors will really appreciate it.

Create a video

Videos are a great way to connect and they’re not that hard to create. If you can personalize it, all the better. Otherwise, you can create a general one that thanks your monthly donors.

5 Thank You Video Examples to Inspire Your Nonprofit

You can also create a video that gives a behind-the-scenes look at your organization or a virtual tour. 

Spruce up those automatic thank you emails

Those automatic thank you emails you may have set up don’t count as part of your monthly donor connection plan. It’s fine to create these, but you don’t have to. While these monthly acknowledgments are helpful, they’re usually uninspiring.

Spruce them up a little and change the content every few months. Use this as an opportunity to share some updates.

Here’s one that could use some work – Thank You for Your Recurring Donation. You have helped us continue our mission in a meaningful way. 

Talk about vague. A specific example of how a donor helped would improve this. Many of these acknowledgments are just receipts and a receipt is not a thank you.

Here’s a  better one. 

Thank you for donating to Malala Fund!

More than 130 million girls around the world are out of school today. Malala Fund believes that girls are the best investment in the future peace and prosperity of our world. Your gift supports our work to see every girl learn and lead without fear. 

Follow Malala Fund on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and blog for updates on our fight for girls’ education.

With gratitude, 

Malala Fund

Besides thanking their donors, they also offer other ways to engage.

Get noticed with an enticing subject line

Most likely you’ll communicate by email, which has its pros and cons. It’s easier and less expensive than a postal mailing, but since people get an enormous amount of email, they might miss your message.

One way to get noticed is to use an enticing subject line. Here’s one I like from Pet Partners – Your monthly gift in action 

It goes on to tell a story about a therapy dog who visits with soldiers before and after their deployments.

Here’s another good one, although it wasn’t specifically for monthly donors –  I found a baby bird! What should I do?

This definitely captures your attention and makes you want to read more. 

Keep your donors engaged with good content

Congratulations, your donor opened your email message. You want to keep them engaged. The email I mentioned above gave you information about what to do if you find a baby bird, along with a link to a “handy chart.”

Get personal

Be sure to address your donors by name. I would also recommend separate communication for new donors and longer-term donors. 

Welcome new monthly donors. You can go a step further with different messages for brand new donors and single gift donors who have upgraded to monthly. Be sure to give special attention to longer-term donors. The average donor retention rate for monthly donors is 90% and you don’t want that to go down.

You can give shout outs in your newsletter and social media, but those won’t be as personal. Some organizations include a cover letter or note for their monthly donors in their newsletters. You could also create separate newsletters for monthly donors.

The key is to stay in touch and keep making connections.  The post below will give you more ideas. Maybe you can think of others. And you don’t have to come with 12 different ones. It’s okay to repeat them every few months.

Practical, Creative Ideas to Thank Monthly Donors

Don’t ignore your valuable, monthly donors. Keep making those important connections.

Navigating the Current Climate One Year Later

We’ve just gone through a tough year. It’s around the one year anniversary of when everything started shutting down in the United States. I know it was earlier in other parts of the world. In addition to the pandemic, we’ve endured an economic downturn, racial reckoning, political turmoil, and climate disasters.

We’re still living through many of these challenges as life veers towards something more normal, but it won’t ever the same.

Your nonprofit organization has gone through a lot and is continuing to navigate this ever-changing climate. It’s important to not give up and persevere.

Nonprofit organizations are essential

We’ve heard a lot about all the people who are essential in our society. Nonprofit organizations are essential. Take a moment to congratulate yourself for making it through this year and continuing to provide essential services as best you could.

In an ideal society, the government is also essential, but in many ways, the U.S. government failed us and nonprofits (with support from essential donors) stepped in to help. For example, a major winter storm in Texas last month caused massive power outages that were made worse because the state chose to isolate its power grid from national grids, making it difficult to import electricity from other states. While some government officials fled the state, those without that luxury had to deal with hardships such as no power and water. And who stepped in to help right away?  A bunch of nonprofits ranging from national organizations to local aid groups.

Keep fundraising

I’ve been telling you for the last year to keep fundraising! Donors will give if they can. If you’re short on revenue, here are a couple of ways to raise more money.

Organizations with a strong monthly giving program have done well. Monthly giving makes sense on so many levels. Nonprofits receive a steady stream of revenue throughout the year, monthly giving makes it easier for donors to spread out their gifts, and the monthly donor retention rate is 90%. Monthly donors are also more likely to become major donors and legacy donors. What’s not to like?

Why Monthly Giving Makes Sense

Another way to pick up some extra revenue is to reach out to your lapsed donors. Donors stop giving for a variety of reasons. Maybe things were tough for them financially last year or they were just too overwhelmed to donate. 

Circumstances change. Reach out to donors who have given in the past, but didn’t donate in 2020. Send them personalized appeals. If you find out a donor can’t afford to give right now, respect that, but keep sending messages of gratitude and updates, unless they opt out.

The right way to win back lapsed donors

Don’t go silent

One reason donors stop giving is because they rarely hear from you or when they do, your messages are uninspiring. This is something you can control.

It’s important to keep up with your donor engagement. An underlying theme of many of my posts this year is better communication will help you raise more money. 

I know it may continue to be hard, but you can’t ignore your donors. You don’t need to take on too much. Aim for short, high-quality messages once or twice a month.

Do the Best that You Can

You can’t ignore the current climate

When I see communication that doesn’t reference the pandemic or other current situations, it makes me wonder if the organization is using a template that needs to be revised. It’s a good idea to refresh your messages at least once a year, but in this ever-changing world, you’ll need to do it more often.

I will say that since the start of the pandemic, most donor communication is more personal and less generic. Some specifically references COVID-19, while others mention a challenging year. You also have specific needs and an urgency. Organizations that made this clear raised more money.

Keep Up the Urgency

Your organization has faced challenges, everyone has, and you need to acknowledge that.

Looking to the future

This is an opportunity to revisit some of your practices. Were virtual events and donor meetings successful for you? We may be looking at a hybrid of in-person and virtual gatherings for a while. 

Donors are also going to expect honest communication about your need and want to hear about your success and challenges. 

The future still holds uncertainty, but things are going to get better. If you’ve communicated more with your donors over the last year, keep that up. If you’ve been hesitant, you need to do more. Don’t be afraid to ask for donations. Keep up the better communication. 

Keep up your essential work!

What Will a Post-COVID Nonprofit Economy Reveal?

A glimpse of the fundraising picture in 2020 reveals some important truths

Some Lessons for Nonprofits After Doing my Taxes

I just finished tallying our 2020 donations for our taxes. Always a fun task. Going through all the donation letters and emails triggered a few insights I’d like to share.

Sending a yearly donation summary is very helpful

Most of the gifts I make are monthly donations, and organizations that sent a summary of all those gifts made it so much easier for me. I made some additional contributions when the pandemic started and those were also included.

You may not need to send a summary if someone just made one gift. Your thank you letter can include the important tax information, but there’s no guarantee your donor will keep that.

My suggestion is to send all donors a yearly summary of their gifts the following January. Send it by mail, if you can. This is also an opportunity to reach out. Make it more than just a receipt. Thank your donors and let them know how their gift helped your clients/community during the past year. Some organizations send two pages – one is a thank you letter and the other is a list of all the donations.

Did you forget about me?

I make a spreadsheet of all our donations. I’ll copy the one from the previous year and make changes as needed.

While I was doing this, I discovered I never gave to an organization that I had the previous two years. I forgot about them, but they also forgot about me.

My speculation is they never sent me an appeal. If they sent one by mail, I would have noticed it and made a point to donate again. If it came by email, who knows since I get so much of it.

I also don’t remember this organization communicating in other ways, such as showing gratitude and sharing updates.

I’ve now set up a monthly donation for this organization, so I won’t have to do anything until the credit card expires.

If you don’t even bother to send an appeal letter (and you should send at least one by mail for each campaign), you can’t expect your donors to always remember to give. Running a multichannel campaign with scheduled reminders will help. But you do need to ask, as well as communicate in other ways. 

Don’t let your donors forget about you.

No monthly donor hiccups last year

In past years, I noticed my monthly donations sometimes stopped getting charged to my credit card. Most likely it was because the organization changed their donation platform.

I’m happy to report that this year none of them mysteriously stopped charging. A few organizations did change their donation platforms, but contacted me ahead of time so I could switch to the new system.

If you’re planning to change your donation platform, be sure to give your donors a heads up so you don’t lose any donations. And, be sure to flag expiring credit cards, as well.

Pay attention to what’s going on with your monthly donors. These are some of your most valuable donors.

Donor communication is a mixed bag

It’s not surprising that some organizations do a better job of communicating with their donors than others. A few knock it out of the park, but most range from okay to nonexistent.

If you use PayPal for your monthly donations, they send a receipt each month. In some cases, that’s the only time I hear about that gift. Are you letting PayPal do your work for you?

Other organizations do send their own automated monthly gift receipts and that’s about it. I’ve mentioned before that these can be helpful, but don’t count as a legitimate thank you or any type of donor communication.

Besides monthly donations, I gave some additional donations last year to emergency campaigns when the pandemic started. Some organizations noticed, some didn’t – typical. One organization thanked me by sending a personalized video. Others sent handwritten thank you cards, as well as some pre-printed ones, but they were cards I received in the mail! 

It’s often the same few organizations that go the extra mile, so the rest of you need to step up.

Always remember that better donor communication will help you raise more money. 

Photo via www.audio-luci-store.it

Why Monthly Giving Makes Sense

A bit of good news from the fundraising world – monthly giving is on the rise! 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 makes sense (or cents) on so many levels, 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 may 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 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 gifts. 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

This post highlights Charity Water’s successful monthly donor program. The key to their success – they moved from a short-term approach to a long-term focus.

I know Charity Water is a large organization, but that doesn’t mean your smaller organization can’t take the same focus. 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. It will help you raise more money in what’s expected to be another tough fundraising year.

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. 

Quick Tips to Create a Great Monthly Giving Program

How To Start A Monthly Giving Program (In 6 Simple Steps)

Make monthly giving the go-to option

Make 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.

A handful of organizations don’t offer a monthly giving option, which is 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 expenses, is that happening if your minimum deters someone from giving at all? You often have to invest a little to raise more money.

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.

Segmenting Your Donors is More Important Than Ever

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 spruce up these monthly acknowledgments, both by not making them sound like they were written by 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. Thank your donors and let them know how their monthly donations are helping you make a difference.

[ASK AN EXPERT] How Often Should We Thank Monthly Donors, and How?

Practical, Creative Ideas to Thank Monthly Donors

Best Practices For Recognizing, Thanking And Retaining Monthly Donors

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. Considering personalizing it, if you can. You could also offer a video tour or Zoom discussions for monthly donors.

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. You need to stay in touch with your donors right now.

Create a special section in your communications calendar specifically for monthly donors to help 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. I wanted to upgrade one of my monthly donations recently and the organization made it really easy by including a link in their monthly acknowledgment email. Yes, these emails can be useful.

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, especially now. 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. 

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 credit cards expiring.

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.

I think the best way to raise additional money from monthly donors is to ask them to upgrade their monthly gift. Be as specific as possible. For example – We’re so happy you’re part of our family of monthly donors and are grateful for your gift of $5.00 a month. We’re serving triple the number of people at the community food bank right now. Could you help us out a little more with a gift of $7.00 or even $10.00 a month?

You can also ask monthly donors for an additional gift during one of your fundraising campaigns, but you MUST recognize they’re monthly donors – We really appreciate your gift of $10 a month. Could you help us out a little more right now with an additional gift? We need to run our tutoring program virtually for the time being and we want to continue serving as many students as we can.

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 during the pandemic. That’s what you want.

Don’t miss out on this proven way to raise more money, boost donor retention rates, and provide an easier giving option for your donors. 

Segmenting Your Donors is More Important Than Ever

A few weeks ago I mentioned one of the themes for your fundraising and communications this year should be this is more important than ever. I don’t need to remind you we’re not living in normal times.

I know you have a lot going on and it may be tempting to send all your donors the same appeal and thank you letter. Don’t do that. 

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 a one-size-fits-all letter. 

This is why you need to segment your donors. If you don’t segment your donors and send different letters to different types of donors, you’re telling them you don’t recognize them for who they are.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to create 100 different types of letters. Four or five should be sufficient. Your appeal and thank you letter will stand out if it’s not the same old, same old.

Here are a few different types of donor groups. Feel free to add more if that’s relevant. The more you can segment, the better. Investing in a good database will help you with this.

Current single gift 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. Don’t blow it by ignoring this.

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. Even in a pandemic and economic downturn, it’s okay to ask donors to give a little more. They will if they can.

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, 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 terrible. 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, or volunteering.

Then a week or so later, send them a welcome packet by mail or email. Personalization is crucial with new donors.

Are We Sure An Automated Email Welcome Series For New Donors Is A Good Idea?

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 year-end gift. 

When your donors renew or upgrade their monthly gifts, they, of course, get a super fabulous 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 communication targeted to monthly donors. 

Segmenting your donors can pay off

In this down economy, 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 who just send generic, one-size-fits-all communications.

You need your donors. Spending extra time segmenting your donors and personalizing your communications will be worth it if you can raise additional revenue and boost your retention rate.

4 Smart Donor Segmentation Strategies for Nonprofits

11 Ways To Segment Your Donors To Improve Your Fundraising

How to Effectively Segment Your Donors and Audiences 

Making Smart Investments is More Important than Ever

10688617385_ce1214d44d_w (1)Nonprofit organizations will be facing some tough times ahead. During an economic downturn, the need for nonprofit services grows while some donors won’t be able to give as much, if at all.

Your first inclination may be to make cuts or continue working with a bare-bones budget with the mindset “we can’t afford this.” 

I understand you want to be cautious. But you also want to use caution before you eliminate something you think you can’t afford. It may be something you should be investing in.

This is why you need to make smart investments. It may seem counterintuitive to spend money when you have so little, but if you make the right decisions, these investments can help you raise more money.

Invest in a good CRM/database

A good CRM (Customer Relationship Management)/database is a must for a number of reasons. First, it can help you raise more money. You can segment your donors by gift amount and politely ask them to give a little more in your next appeal – $35 or $50 instead of $25.

A good database can also 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. Some CRM’s also have an email component. Otherwise, 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.

You also want a CRM that everyone on your staff can access remotely. When the pandemic hit earlier this year and most everyone was forced to work from home, organizations that could access their CRM and still communicate with their donors had a clear advantage.

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

Nonprofit Software

Nonprofit CRM | Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Solution

Invest in monthly giving

Monthly donations are more important than ever now. If you already have monthly donors, or any type of recurring donor, you’ve been receiving a steady stream of revenue throughout the pandemic and economic downtown.

If you don’t have a monthly giving program or you want to grow the one you have, it’s not hard to do. Plus it’s a win-win for your organization since you can raise more money and raise your retention rate as well. The retention rate for monthly donors 90%. That’s significantly higher than other retention rates. 

It’s also easier for your donors if they’re worried about their financial situation, but still want to help. They can make small donations of $5.00 or $10.00 a month instead of giving the entire amount at once. 

Monthly giving is an investment you must make.

Invest in donor communications and that includes direct mail

Years ago, I was working at a nonprofit and our executive director said we shouldn’t do an e-newsletter anymore because we needed to concentrate on raising money.

I wish I knew then what I know now. Fundraising isn’t just about sending appeals. And to quote Tom Ahern – If you do better donor communications, you’ll have more money. 

Yet many nonprofits have a similar view. They don’t want to spend much time thanking their donors and sending newsletters and other updates, even though those types of donor communications can help you raise more money, provided you do it well. 

You don’t want to skimp on your communications budget and that includes 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, if you can.

Creating thank you cards and infographic postcards are a smart investment and a necessity, not a luxury. Thank you cards are a much better investment than mailing labels and other useless swag.

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.

Shorter is better. Lengthy communication (goodbye long annual reports) will cost more and your donors are less likely to read it.

Of course, you can use email and social media, but your primary reason for communicating those ways 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 you should honor their request.

You want to communicate with your donors at least once or twice a month. Use a communications calendar to help you with this.

5 Rules for a Successful Donor Communications Program

9 Best Practices for Communications That Stand Out

Nonprofit Fundraising: The Case for Direct Mail

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

Image by Thomas Lapperre  www.bloeise.nl.

Crafting the Perfect Donation Form: 6 Key Features

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By John Killoran

In the wake of COVID-19, nonprofits everywhere are rapidly adopting virtual fundraising strategies if they hadn’t already shifted to an online platform. In addition to mastering the most effective online fundraising practices, organizations should turn their focus to optimizing their donation forms to break through the clutter.

Here at Snowball Fundraising, we know the best campaigns start with a solid foundation of fundraising software. And of that software foundation, your donation form is the cornerstone

That’s why it’s the perfect time to make sure your donation form has everything you need for effective virtual fundraising! You want your donation forms to be engaging and relevant, whether it’s for a brand-new donor interacting with your organization for the first time or for a long-time, dedicated supporter.

If your nonprofit is looking to create or update a high-quality donation form to boost your fundraising efforts, be sure to include these 6 key features:

  1. Organization background
  2. Donor contact information
  3. Fundraising thermometer
  4. Suggested gift amount
  5. Payment information
  6. Recurring gift option

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As we walk through each characteristic of a perfect donation form, we’ll explain the significance of each and its purpose in the donation process. Ready to jump in? Let’s get started!

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1. Organization background

Be sure to include basic information about your organization on every donation form. Not only does this remind your donors where their money is going, but it can help boost your donor engagement levels as well. After all, engagement is all about communicating with donors and demonstrating your relevance!

Here are three background elements that should be featured in every donation page:

  • The name of the campaign: First and foremost, it’s important to include the name of your organization as well as a specific campaign title so donors know what their donation is funding. This should be big, clear, and easy to see.
  • Your nonprofit branding: Elements like your logo, color scheme, type font, and slogan can really help to bring your donation page together and make it feel like an integrated part of your website (rather than a third-party vendor).
  • A brief summary of your mission: Remind your donors what you stand for and how your organization is making a difference. By making a contribution to your cause, they’re becoming an integral partner in your mission, so it’s important to be clear about the purpose behind your nonprofit.

When donors can easily see the impact they’re making and the type of work your organization is doing, your donation page can continue to boost engagement while preventing donation form abandonment.

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2. Donor information

One of the first sections of your donation form should ask your donor for basic information about themselves. After a supporter gives, this information should be stored and organized in a nonprofit CRM (constituent relationship management) system to look back on and build donor relationships. 

Be sure to include these four basic fields, plus whichever details are most relevant to your organization:

  • Name: You’ll likely need your donor’s full name for legal purposes, but it’s also important to include an optional field so donors can specify a preferred name by which they’d like to be addressed. That way you can personalize your relationship going forward.
  • Birthdate: This is great information to have as you continue building donor relationships. Be sure to send out a “happy birthday” message whenever it’s a donor’s special day! This shouldn’t be a required field in case donors would prefer not to provide that information.
  • Address: By obtaining a donor’s physical address, you now have the ability to keep in touch via direct mail. Consider sending a handwritten thank-you note, personalized event invitations, and even some branded swag.
  • Contact: Try to collect multiple methods to contact each donor, such as a cell phone number and an email address. For best practice, ask donors to specify with which method they’d prefer to be contacted and then honor it.

It’s important to find the perfect balance between gathering significant information and overwhelming your donor. On the one hand, the more information you collect, the better you can segment your audience for marketing and communications purposes. On the other hand, too many required fields often leads to donation form abandonment and a missed opportunity for funding.

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3. Fundraising thermometer

Fundraising thermometers are a tried-and-true fundraising tool that are used to encourage donors and boost revenue. Traditional fundraising thermometers may have been hand-crafted and displayed in a prominent physical location. However, digital fundraising tools can be quickly and easily embedded in your donation form for better results.

Snowball’s guide to fundraising thermometers explains that this fundraising tool can boost any campaign by providing:

  • Instant gratification: While donating to a good cause does have a positive effect on the world, sometimes it can take some time to get results. When a donor submits their gift and sees the thermometer’s “temperature” rise, the individual gets the benefit of instant gratification, even if just a little!
  • Social proof: One big motivating factor in any charitable giving is social proof. When a donor sees that others have already given to your fundraiser, they’re more likely to contribute themselves. And thanks to your fundraising thermometer, prospective donors can easily visualize the number of donors who have already taken part.
  • Goal and progress tracking: Setting an aspirational, yet achievable, goal is an important prerequisite for fundraising. Then, throughout the campaign, a fundraising thermometer is a concrete illustration of your progress. When an individual sees that you’re so close to your goal, they might be more inclined to help out.

Not only do fundraising thermometers motivate your donors, but they can have similar effects on your fundraising team too. Whether that’s nonprofit staff, volunteers, or a combination of both, the dedicated leaders behind your fundraising efforts should feel motivated by the progress shown on a thermometer. Seeing how close you are to your goal and how far you’ve come as a team is a great encouragement for all involved.

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4. Suggested gift amount

Including suggested donation amounts allows donors to simply select a preset donation value and move forward in the donation process. It takes a lot of the stress off your donor by giving them one less item to worry about.

Consider these best practices when it comes to setting suggested gifts:

  • Adjust based on your target audience. This is where knowing your audience really comes in handy. If you tend to reach an affluent donor base, you can consider increasing your suggested asks, while more typical suggestions may be between $15 and $500.
  • Include several choices. Only offering one or two options can seem limiting, which is not what you want. Including a range of 4-6 suggested amounts can give your donor a nice baseline for an average donation, but still provide the freedom to choose.
  • Allow for “other” amounts too. And for those donors who don’t want to make a preselected donation, it’s important to leave an option for a write-in too. This way, donors can go smaller or larger than your suggestions, or choose a number in between.

Studies show that preset donation buttons can actually lead to an increase in the average gift size. If it’s easier on your donor and leads to boosted revenue, it’s a must-have for your donation page!

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5. Payment information

One of the biggest perks of online donations is the flexibility with which donors can pay. No longer do they have to make a cash withdrawal or sign and mail a check! Instead, you can accept online payments in a variety of ways.

Listed below are the two most common types of online payments. It’s a good idea to ask first for a preferred method of payment, and then follow up with the required fields based on the user’s response.

Here are the details you’ll need for each type of payment:

  • Credit/debit cards: For payments made by a debit or credit card, your donor will need to input their credit card number, CVV or security code, and expiration date.
  • ACH payments: For ACH payments, or Automated Clearing House, you’ll need your donor to input the type of bank account the money will be withdrawn from as well as the routing and account numbers.

The best donation tools work with a dedicated payment processor that then uses the information submitted to transfer funds from your donor’s bank account to your organization’s bank account. Learn more about nonprofit payment processing here.

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6. Recurring gift option

Recurring gifts are a nonprofit’s best friend. That’s what happens when a donor chooses to give to your organization on a regular, automatic schedule. 

Fundraising professionals know that it’s much more cost-effective to retain a donor than to be constantly securing new ones. Even better is when the donation is automatically transferred to your bank account every so often without any extra effort on your part or theirs.

Recurring gifts are a win-win because:

  • They’re convenient for your donor. Although you’re working to create an easy-to-use, streamlined donation form that donors will love, the act of filling out a form takes time. If a donor wants to continue supporting your nonprofit without having to enter their financial information again (until their credit cards expire), recurring gifts are the way to go.
  • They bring consistent funding to your organization. Charities often see a rise in giving around the holidays, with lower overall revenue at other times. But with recurring gifts, your organization can count on a steady stream of revenue throughout the year.

Be sure to offer various payment schedules, including a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis. If you make the option readily available and super simple, you might be surprised how many donors choose to enable a recurring gift schedule.

Because your donation page is the foundation of all your online fundraising efforts, it’s important to invest the time and effort into making it perfect. By incorporating each of these six features into your online donation form, you’ll be off to a great start.

For more inspiration, check out Morweb’s list of top donation pages to see some of these best practices in action. Learn from other successful organizations and campaigns to find out how you can improve your own! 

John Killoran

John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the Chairman of Clover Leaf Solutions, a national lab services company. He currently leads Clover Leaf’s investment in Snowball Fundraising, an online fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations. 

Snowball was one of John’s first public innovations; it’s a fundraising platform that offers text-to-give, online giving, events, and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofits. By making giving simple, Snowball increases the donations that these organizations can raise online. The Snowball effect is real! John founded Snowball in 2011. Now, it serves over 7,000 nonprofits and is the #1 nonprofit fundraising platform.

Let Your Monthly Donors Know They Matter

49721980232_404e8b4a08_wI write about monthly donors a lot because it’s an important part of nonprofit fundraising.

Monthly donations are more important than ever now. If you already have monthly donors, or any type of recurring donor, you’ve been receiving a steady stream of revenue as we continue to navigate through this economic downtown.

You may have had events planned this spring that won’t bring in the money you had hoped for. But your monthly donations should keep coming in. If you’ve been fundraising during the COVID-19 outbreak, which you should be, you may be seeing some additional revenue. Keep it up.

Of course, your monthly donors, and all donors, are so much more than the money they give. They matter and they need to know that.

Check in with your monthly donors

If you’ve been silent the last couple of months, your first communication with your monthly donors needs to be a check-in. Ask how they’re doing. Let them know how much you appreciate their support and give specific examples of how their continued support is helping the people/community you serve right now.

Make a request for an additional gift or upgrade

Don’t send your monthly donors a generic fundraising appeal. Recognize them as monthly donors and thank them for that. Ask for an additional gift or upgrade. An additional one-time gift may be more feasible, but it never hurts to ask for an upgrade. 

Keep in mind your appeal needs to be clear, specific, and relevant to the current situation.

Do a great job of thanking your monthly donors

Once you receive a donation, your monthly donors get an extra special thank you. Thank them specifically for their additional gift or upgrade. If they’re new donors or current single gift donors who have become monthly donors, welcome them to your family of monthly donors.

If you’re one of the organizations that send thank you emails to your monthly donors each month, could you please make them less generic by addressing how your donors’ gifts are helping right now?

Promote monthly giving

When you’re fundraising, which you know you should be doing, put monthly giving front and center. Mention it in your appeal and make it a prominent part of your donation page.

If donors are worried about their financial situation right now, giving $5.00 or $10.00 a month may be more doable.

It will help you as well. On average, monthly donors give more. Besides being able to raise more money and have a steady stream of revenue, the retention rate for monthly donors is an impressive 90%. That’s significantly higher than other retention rates.

Monthly giving is a win-win for your nonprofit organization. 

Stay in touch with your monthly donors

Send updates to your monthly donors letting them know how their gifts are helping right now. I received an email from an organization with the subject line – Ann, look what you’ve done!  

The message opened with  – The stories below showcase how your invaluable monthly support is being put to action, responding to hunger on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. Each story included the ever so important, because of your monthly donations or because of your monthly support.

Try to stay in touch with your donors every week or two. It can and should be something relatively short. I’ve been recommending shorter, more frequent communication over the past few weeks.

You can do this! Keeping it short will make it easier.

What happens if monthly donors stop giving

There’s been some talk lately of donors discontinuing their monthly gifts. If that happens, reach out to them by phone or email and ask why. If they’re concerned about their financial situation, let them know you understand and hope they’ll be able to support you again in the future. Thank them for supporting you in the past and stay in touch with engaging updates.

4 Tips for Avoiding Monthly Donor Churn During COVID-19 (and Beyond)

If you find out donors stopped supporting you because of poor communication or they don’t feel you’re making enough of an impact, that’s something you can change.

While some monthly donors might be discontinuing their gifts, others are stepping up and giving additional donations. It will be different for every organization so pay attention to what going on with your monthly donors.

Good News About Monthly Donors…

Pay attention to expiring credit cards

Something else you want to monitor is expiring credit cards. If you haven’t already done this, set up a system where you can flag any credit cards that are going to expire in the next month or two. Don’t rely on your donors to keep track of this, especially now.

Email or call any donors whose credit cards are in danger of expiring. Of course, thank them for being a monthly donor, and include a donation link and/or give a phone number where they can update their credit card information. You could also encourage donors to give via an electronic funds transfer from their bank account instead. Then neither you nor your donors need to worry about credit cards expiring.

Your nonprofit may struggle for a while so you don’t want to miss out on these donations.

Your monthly donors made a commitment to you with their continuous support. Make the same commitment to them by letting them know they matter.

 

How Monthly Giving is a Win-Win for Your Nonprofit

48257299076_b34347f77e_wA few weeks ago I wrote about ways to help you become more successful in 2020. One of those was to emphasize monthly giving. I’d like to elaborate on that some more in this post.

Monthly giving is a win-win for your nonprofit. You can raise more money and boost your retention rate. Also, once donors opt into monthly giving, it’s an easier way for them to support your organization.

You can raise more money

Monthly or recurring donations can help donors spread out their gifts. They may 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’s easier on their bank accounts. It can also give you a consistent stream of revenue throughout the year instead of certain times, such as when you do individual appeals and events and when grants come in.

Monthly gifts are smaller, but you can raise a lot of money with lots of small gifts. Political candidates do it all the time. Also, monthly gifts aren’t as small as you think. The average monthly gift is $24 a month.

Check out this retention rate

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. 

Getting started

If you don’t already have a monthly giving program, make this the year you start one. It’s not as hard as you think.

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. 

Are you missing this key fundraising “system?”

Make monthly giving the go-to option

Make 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, 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.

A handful of organizations don’t offer a monthly giving option, which is 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, is that happening if your minimum deters someone from giving at all? You often have to invest a little to raise more money.

Show some #donorlove

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, which I explain more in the post below. 

The Importance of Segmenting Your 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 while it’s helpful to know the organization received your donation, you’re not practicing good stewardship if that’s all you do.

You could spruce up these monthly acknowledgments, both by not making them sound like they were written by a robot and by providing some donor-centered 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. Thank your donors and let them know how their monthly donations are helping you make a difference.

Reach out at least once a month

Besides showing #donorlove, here are some other ways to reach out to your monthly donors.

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.

Hold an open house for monthly donors. Even if they don’t attend, they’ll appreciate the invitation. You could also offer tours, either at a specific time or on request.

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.  

The Holy Grail of Fundraising

These donors made a commitment to you by giving every month. Make the same commitment to them by reaching out at least once a month. Create a special section in your communications calendar specifically for monthly donors to help with this.

Be accommodating

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.

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.

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 or letter. This will help you, as well, so you can keep receiving a steady stream of donations.

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 credit cards expiring.

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.

I think the best way to raise additional money from monthly donors is to ask them to upgrade their monthly gift. Be as specific as possible. For example – We’re so happy you’re part of our family of monthly donors and are grateful for your gift of $5.00 a month. Could you help us out a little more this time with a gift of $7.00 or even $10.00 a month?

You can also ask monthly donors for an additional gift during one of your fundraising campaigns, but you MUST recognize they’re monthly donors – We really appreciate your gift of $10 a month. Could you help us out a little more right now with an additional gift? We want to expand our tutoring program to three more high schools.

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.

Don’t miss out on this proven way to raise more money, boost donor retention rates, and provide an easier giving option for your donors. Read on for more about monthly giving.

Planning Your Monthly Giving Strategy For The Year: A Step-By-Step Guide

Quick Tips to Create a Great Monthly Giving Program

How to start a monthly giving program for your small nonprofit

Vector Art by Epic Top 10