Raising Awareness is Not a Goal

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When you’re putting together your marketing and communications plans, do you include raising awareness as one of your goals? If you do, that’s a problem because raising awareness is not a goal. Raising awareness isn’t necessarily bad. Instead of a goal, think of it as a first step.

Shouting in the wind

Nonprofit consultant Nell Eddington makes this important point “When you attempt to “raise awareness” without a specific and targeted strategy, you are just shouting in the wind.” What Nonprofits Don’t Get About Marketing

Why do you want to raise awareness?

Organizations will say they want people to find out about them or their cause, but why do you want that? Do you want people to donate, volunteer, or contact their legislators? Just knowing about your organization or your cause isn’t enough. You need a call to action.

Raising awareness is not an effective way to fundraise. In this Boston Globe Magazine article We’re all aware of autism; now let’s do something radical by Alysia Abbott, Abbott is trying to make a purchase at a store. While ringing up the sale, the cashier says, “April is Autism Awareness Month. Would you like to make a donation to Autism Speaks?” Not a compelling fundraising pitch. Besides, Abbott is well aware of autism, since her 8-year old son, who is with her at the store, is autistic. Her main concern is to make her purchase and get her “son out of here before he tears apart your store.”

Taking the next steps

Raising awareness doesn’t mean bombarding people with facts and statistics. I learned a lot from Abbott’s story. She offers suggestions of ways to help families who live with autism, ranging from giving encouragement to parents with autistic children to making a donation to an organization that provides service dogs for autistic children and volunteering to become autism buddy.

This what you need to do. Tell a story that will encourage people to take action.

The perils of an awareness month

In this Fundraising is Beautiful podcast The upsides and downsides of holiday-based fundraising, Jeff Brooks and Steven Screen also make the argument that awareness days/months don’t mean that much to donors. The same goes for most holidays, your organization’s anniversary, and that’s it’s your annual appeal.

Donors want you to show them how they can help you make a difference and you don’t need an awareness month to do that.

More doesn’t equal better

It’s tempting to say we want more people to find out about us, but not everyone will be interested in what you do. Your Audience Isn’t Everyone  Press coverage may not help you as much as you’d like. Reach out to people you know will be interested.

Awareness + Call to Action

Don’t get caught in the raising awareness trap. If there’s an awareness month related to your cause, yes, you can acknowledge that, but follow it up with a clear call to action.

 

I Know You’re Busy, But…..

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Having too much to do is the norm at most nonprofits, especially small ones. You may be busy, but what are you saying you don’t have time to do? Are you spending too much time on what’s urgent and not what’s important?

It’s possible to stay on top of things, even if you feel you’re so busy you want to set fire to the paperwork on your desk. One big key is planning.  

Here are a few areas that nonprofits need to make a priority and how you can do that.

Thanking your donors

Many organizations do a poor job of thanking their donors. When you’re working on a fundraising appeal or an event, spend just as much time figuring out how you’ll thank your donors. Sending a handwritten note or making a phone call will make a better impression on your donors than the usual boring, generic thank you letter.

Find board members, staff, and volunteers to help. Recruit them ahead of time so you’re ready to go after an appeal or event. It doesn’t take that much time to write a short note or make a phone call, but it makes a huge difference. Get your team together for a thank-a-thon.

Also, spend some time creating an engaging thank you landing page and thank you email message. But wait, you’re not off the hook. You need to keep thanking your donors throughout the year – at least once a month.  Say Thank You Like You Mean It

Staying in touch with your donors

Your donors want to hear how they’re helping you make a difference, and you need to be in touch with them at least once or twice a month.

A newsletter can be a great way to stay in touch. Setting up a template and using an email service provider can save time and will provide consistency. Perhaps each issue will include a story/profile and some updates. You can plan these ahead of time. Create a story bank and fill it throughout the year.

Make a donor communications plan that could include your newsletter, updates (by mail, email, and social media), thank yous (see above), advocacy alerts, and surveys. A communications calendar will help you with this.

Managing your donor data

Don’t wait until a week before you send an appeal to update your database. Take care of address changes, bounced emails, etc. regularly.

I know it’s tedious, but this is important. Your donors won’t be happy if you misspell their names or send them three pieces of mail because you haven’t bothered to check for duplicate addresses. Managing Your Donor Data: 6 Actionable Tips

Measuring your progress

Make time at least once a quarter to see how you’re doing. Are you meeting your fundraising goals?  Is your spring event worth doing?  Are people reading your e-newsletter?

If something isn’t going well, figure out how you can make improvements or don’t spend your valuable time doing it anymore.

Here’s a sample dashboard you can use to help you measure your progress and figure out if what you’re doing is working. Library of Sample Dashboard Indicators

What’s keeping you busy?

What’s keeping you from taking on these important tasks? Do you really need another meeting?  If so, could you make it shorter?  

Doing a few things well is much better than trying to do too much. When Things Don’t Go As Planned Make time to do what’s important.

Let Go and Freshen Up: Spring Cleaning for Your Nonprofit

The Great Clean-Up

One thing I’ve noticed now that it’s officially spring is the number of articles about spring cleaning and decluttering. For many of us, these types of projects can be overwhelming, especially if we’ve ignored that mutating pile of paperwork or our closets are overflowing with so much stuff we can barely open the door.

As much as I dislike cleaning and organizing, I’m happy once it gets done. Often getting started is the hardest part.

Your nonprofit organization should also do its own version of spring cleaning and decluttering. If you’re feeling reluctant about taking on these so-called cumbersome tasks, just think how happy you’ll be once they get done.

Let’s get started!

Clean up your mailing lists and database

Did you have an influx of address changes, returned mail, and bounced emails after you sent your year-end appeal? This is a good time to clean up and update both your direct mail and email mailing lists.

Don’t wait until right before your next mailing to clean up your donor data. Even though it’s tedious, have someone who’s familiar with your donors (your development director?) go through your mailing lists and database to see if you need to make any additions, changes, and deletions.

Be meticulous. No donor wants to see her name misspelled, be addressed as Mrs. when she prefers Ms., or receive three mailings because you have duplicate records.

Your donor database is an important tool and it needs to be up-to-date and filled with accurate information about your donors.

Letting go

As you clean up your donor database, pay particular attention to your lapsed donors. It may be time to take some of them out of your active donor file. Who are these people?  If they’ve donated in the past, is it likely they’ll donate again? For example, the mother of a former staff member who left five years ago is a good candidate for your inactive file.

Send one more targeted mailing to people who haven’t donated for at least four years. Let them know you miss them and want them back. If you don’t hear anything, let them go. 4 Tips: When to Remove a Lapsed Donor from Your Database

Do the same thing with your email list. It doesn’t make sense to send email to people who don’t respond to it. Give these people a chance to re-engage, and if they’re not even opening your emails, move them to an inactive file. Why Deleting People from Your Email List is a Good Thing

But wait you say, we want as many people in our database and email lists as possible, don’t we?  No, you want people who are still interested your organization. Quality wins over quantity.

You can save money by not mailing to people who aren’t going to support you and aren’t paying attention to you.

Freshen up your messages

Now that you’ve pared down your mailing lists to active donors and supporters, they deserve something good the next time you communicate with them. Will they get that?

Take a good look at your appeal letters, thank you letters, and other content. Have you been using the same stale, old templates for years?  Are your letters all about how great your organization is and filled with jargon?  Are your newsletter articles mind-numbingly boring?

Freshen them up with some donor-centered content. Can Your Organization Pass the Donor-Centered Test?

Don’t put it off too long

Your clutter and dust at home won’t disappear on their own. The longer you ignore it, the worse it gets. The same is true for your nonprofit.

Take on your cleaning and organization projects as soon as you can. You’ll be happy once they’re done.

Start the New Year on the Right Track

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Happy New Year! I hope you had a good holiday. I just returned from my family’s annual trip to Florida. It’s quite a contrast from dreary Boston, but at least there’s no snow (yet).

I also hope 2016 was a good year for your organization, and 2017 will be successful, too. You can help ensure that by starting the New Year on the right track. Here’s how.

Evaluate and plan

Take a look back at 2016 to see what worked and what didn’t in your fundraising and communications. Incorporate what you’ve learned into your 2017 plans.

If you haven’t made fundraising and communications plans yet, do that now! Don’t go too far into the New Year without plans in place. Also, make sure you evaluate your progress at least once a quarter.

Nonprofit Fundraising Plan: 6 Must-Do Steps For Success

COMMUNICATION PLAN TEMPLATE

Rev Up Your Data with Dashboards

Figure out your retention rate

As you’re doing your year-end evaluation, figure out your donor retention rate. A Guide to Donor Retention

If it’s low, it’s something you can fix, usually with better communication. Most of the reasons your donors leave are your own fault

Get in touch with your lapsed donors

Get in touch with donors who have given in the last two years, but not this year. Call them or send a personalized note. Let them know you miss them and want them back.

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

Thank your donors

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

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

And, make a resolution to do a better job of thanking your donors this year. Say Thank You Like You Mean It

Don’t brag so much

Your donors wouldn’t have given to your organization if they didn’t think highly of you. You may be planning to create an annual report and continue to share accomplishments in your newsletter and other updates. When you do this, remember to focus on how your donors are helping you make a difference for the people/community you serve.

I just received a year-end update from an organization that included some extreme bragging. Only at the very end did they thank their donors. They should have done that in the first sentence.  

Give specific examples of how you are helping people, and dial back on the bragging. Are You Bragging Too Much?

More stories – less jargon

On the other hand, I received a short report from a different organization which opened with a compelling story about a man named Michael who is worried about where he and his young son, Eli, will find their next meal.

Okay, they did throw in the dreaded words food insecurity, but that jargon is countered with real stories about real people.

Spend time this year collecting stories and use language your donors will understand. Write as if you’re having a conversation with a friend. Don’t get bogged down with a lot of explanation.

Be sure to tell visual stories, too. You can capture your donors’ attention in an instant with an engaging photo or short video.

3 AMAZING EXAMPLES OF NON-PROFIT STORYTELLING

Stay in touch throughout the year

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

It will be a whole lot easier to stay in touch with your donors if you use a communications (aka editorial) calendar.  Why You Need a Communications Calendar

Here’s wishing you a successful 2017!

Why You Need a Communications Calendar

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I hope your year-end fundraising campaign is going well. Fundraising is a year-round effort and after you’ve thanked your donors, you need to make a plan to communicate with them at least once or twice a month throughout the year.

If you’re getting stressed out wondering how you’re going to pull this off, then you need a communications calendar (also known as an editorial calendar).

I like the term communications calendar because it emphasizes the importance of communicating with your donors and other supporters all-year-round.

This is not just a job for your marketing department. All departments need to work together. Figure out what information you need to share and when to share it. You want a consistent stream of information – not three emails in one day and nothing for three weeks.

As you put together your communications calendar, think about how you will use different channels and which audience(s) should receive your messages. You may only send direct mail a few times a year, but send an e-newsletter once a month and communicate by social media several times a week. You’ll often use a number of different channels when you send a fundraising appeal or promote an event.

Start big by looking at the entire year and then break it down by months and weeks. You’ll keep adding to your communications calendar throughout the year.

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

Events

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

Legislation

Advocacy alerts are a wonderful way to engage with your supporters. Be on the lookout for any federal or state legislation that’s relevant to your organization. Encourage people to contact their legislators about an issue or a bill. Then report back to them with any updates, and thank them for getting involved.

Time of year

Is there something going on during a particular month that’s pertinent to your organization? Perhaps it’s homelessness awareness month.

Thanksgiving, the holidays, and winter can be a difficult time for some people. How can you weave that into a good story to share with your supporters?  In addition, think of creative ways to connect on Valentine’s Day, spring, and back-to-school time.

News stories

You won’t be able to predict news stories in advance. However, if there’s a hot item in the news right now that’s relevant to the work you do, that could be something to share.

Fundraising and recruitment

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

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

Thank your donors

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

Ongoing content

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

Create a story bank to help you with this.

Keep it up

As you hear about other relevant information, add it to your calendar so you can stay connected with your supporters throughout the year.

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

Evergreen Editorial Calendar

2017 Nonprofit Editorial Calendar Template

Editorial Calendars – Resources for You

Why Editorial Calendars Help Nonprofits

Your Appeal is Just The Beginning

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Many of you are immersed in your year-end appeal, but if you think you can rest easy once the letters have gone out, think again. Your work has just begun.

In fact, what comes next is even more important, especially if you want to to keep your donors for a long time.

Do a good job of thanking your donors

I write a lot about the importance of thanking your donors, but I think this bears repeating. Your first step after you receive a donation is to thank your donors within 48 hours, preferably with a handwritten note or phone call. Don’t send the same old boring, generic thank you letter. Take time to create an awesome thank you. Say Thank You Like You Mean It

Create a welcome plan for your new donors

Approximately 70% of first-time donors don’t make a second gift. This is unacceptable. We have to do better.

Research by fundraising expert Penelope Burk states that first-time donors who receive a thank you call are more likely to donate again and give at a higher level the next year. Get a group of board members and other enthusiastic volunteers to call your new donors, or send them a handwritten thank you card.

*Make sure these are actually new donors. A good database will help you avoid any embarrassment.*

A week or two after the initial thank you, send a welcome package. You can do this by mail, email, or a combination of both.

Welcome your new donors. Thank them again and show them other ways they can connect with you. Invite them to subscribe to your newsletter and join you on social media.

Your welcome package can include a warm introductory message and a brochure or fact sheet. Get to know your new donors better. Pop in a short survey to find out how they heard about you and if they prefer print or electronic communication. You could also direct people to your website for more information about your organization.

Be careful about how much information you send. Donors want to feel welcome not overwhelmed.

I don’t recommend sending unsolicited swag. You could offer your new donors a gift and they can let you know if they want to receive it, but it’s not necessary.

What donors really want from you is to know how they’re helping you make a difference.

New Donor Welcome Kits | Your Next Gift Strategy

How to Welcome New Donors and Keep Them Engaged

Make your current donors feel special, too

You may think your most valuable donors are the ones who give the most money, but what about the people who have supported your organization for three, five, or even ten years? These are your valuable donors, considering repeat donor retention rates are about 65%.

Imagine how you would feel if you gave to an organization for over five years and they never acknowledge your long-time support.

This is why segmenting your donors and personalizing their correspondence is crucial, so is a good database to help you with this. Let’s Stop Putting Donors Into A Bucket Your donors are individuals and not a collective bunch.

Don’t skimp on donor communication

I know you’re swamped with your year-end appeal right now, but this is not the time to scale back on your donor communication. Continue to send your newsletter and other updates. Keep them donor-centered.

Send your donors Thanksgiving and holiday greetings, either by mail or email. Intersperse your fundraising appeals with messages in which you’re not asking for donations.

Keep spreading the love

Your first New Year’s resolution can be to communicate with your donors more. Keep reaching out to them  – at least once or twice a month. Show appreciation and update them on your success.

Think of other ways to do something special for your donors, such as offering tours of your facility or holding an open house.

You want to keep your donors for a long time and making them feel good about supporting your organization will help with this.

It’s #Giving Tuesday Not Asking Tuesday

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By now you’ve heard about #GIvingTuesday.This year it’s on November 29 and it’s billed as a global day to give back. Some people think it’s a great way to raise more revenue and find new donors. Others find it a complete waste of time.

Personally, I like the idea of a giving day and make most of my year-end donations on #GivingTuesday. On the other hand, it feels more like Asking Tuesday with a relentless stream of email messages and social media posts begging you to donate now. It forces you to spend too much time focusing on one day. Fundraising and donor relations are a year-round effort

As Fundraising Coach Mark Pittman points out, #GivingTuesday is to going to happen anyway. Is #GivingTuesday worth it?  You can choose to ignore it, but if you do decide to participate, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Focus on relationship building

Never miss an opportunity to build relationships, whether you’re reaching out to new donors or following up with current ones. Keep your appeal donor-centered. Thank current donors and find a way to make a connection with potential donors.

I realize the purpose of a fundraising appeal is to ask for donations, but don’t forget to build relationships, too. Why Does Giving to Your Organization Feel Like a Transaction and Not a Relationship?

Use #GivingTuesday as a way to follow up with your donors

If you don’t want to launch a full #Giving Tuesday campaign (understandable), it can be a great opportunity to follow up with people who haven’t donated to your year-end appeal. You should be doing regular reminders, anyway.

Send email and social media messages before and on #Giving Tuesday encouraging people to donate. You can use the #Giving Tuesday logos, etc. Obviously, you’ll want to keep following up with anyone who didn’t donate on #GivingTuesday.

Show some #donorlove

Be sure to give equal weight to thanking your donors, including sending welcome packets to new donors. You don’t want this to be a one-time thing. And, Say Thank You Like You Mean It

Another idea is to scrap #GivingTuesday all together and make it Giving Thanks Tuesday instead.  Try this fresh twist on Giving Tuesday We ask a lot of our donors, especially at year-end.  Why not take the time to give back to them?

Of course, you could also participate in #GivingTuesday, followed by Giving Thanks Wednesday.

How did you do?  

Be sure to make a plan to measure your results, whether you do a full campaign, a follow-up, or a thank you fest. Was it worth the time and effort?

I think you’ll find that any fundraising campaign will be more successful if you focus on building relationships.