5 Fatal Donor Communication Mistakes Nonprofits Should Avoid

Donor communication can be the key to growing your nonprofit’s community and reaching your fundraising goals. Be wary of these 5 fatal communication mistakes!

By Steve Page

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When your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts are in full swing, it can be easy to get caught up in a numbers game of trying to reach your fundraising benchmarks.

However, if your team wants to raise as much money as possible for your cause, there’s one area of your fundraising strategy that you shouldn’t disregard: your donor communications.

Having an air-tight donor communication strategy in place is one of the fundamentals of perfecting your fundraising strategy. Without optimizing how your organization connects with donors, your nonprofit could be missing out on some of your most important supporters.

Not sure if your nonprofit is making the most of how you communicate with donors? Look out for these five fatal donor communication mistakes that could derail your fundraising efforts:

  1. You don’t have a donor communication strategy in place
  2. You’re failing to communicate through diverse channels
  3. You’re discounting traditional donor communication channels
  4. You’re not thinking through your social media strategy
  5. You’re not making the most out of your email communications

Ready to learn how to overcome these common donor communication missteps? Let’s dive right in!

Bonus! Is your nonprofit looking to strengthen all areas of your fundraising strategy? Check out MobileCause’s fundraising software buyer’s guide to learn about how investing in the right online tools can help your team fundraise better, as well as improve your donor communications.

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1. You don’t have a communication strategy in place

One of the biggest mistakes nonprofit organizations make is failing to identify where and how they want to see their communication strategy grow like they would for their fundraising strategy as a whole.

It’s important that your team takes the time to develop an overarching communication strategy to shape each individual strategy from its foundation. As your team makes changes to improve the way you connect with donors, consider some of the following tactics.

Identify your communications goals.

While the ultimate goal of your communication strategy should be to increase donations and achieve the goals of your fundraising strategy, you also need to identify tangible benchmarks to meet that are specific to donor communications, such as adding new supporters to your email list or increasing profile views on your social media pages.

Create a communications calendar.

When your team plans out a fundraising campaign, you likely create a fundraising calendar to structure how the campaign plays out. Similarly, your team should create a communications calendar that accounts for each channel of your communications with donors. This way, you can easily keep track of what each channel is responsible for and when you will communicate.

Keep your plan flexible and responsive.

Now that you’ve developed actionable goals for your overall communication strategy, periodically follow up on them throughout your fundraising calendar and see what’s working. If you’re not progressing as planned, make the necessary changes across all arms of your communication with donors.

Bonus! Thinking through your nonprofit’s communication strategy should be one of the central parts of developing your fundraising plan. Check out Aly Sterling Philanthropy’s guide to crafting your nonprofit’s fundraising plan for more tips to get ahead!

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2. You’re failing to communicate through diverse channels

When it comes to your nonprofit’s community of supporters, your team should know better than anyone that they have donors from many different walks of life.

To paint them with the same brush would be shortsighted, and your fundraising strategy likely already accounts for differences in giving capacity, age, gender, region, and more.

That being said, with supporters coming in all shapes and sizes, it’s doubly important that your donor communication strategy takes account of these differences by thoughtfully implementing multiple channels of donor communication.

Put simply, your team needs to have a targeted multichannel donor communication strategy in place if you want to effectively communicate with your supporters.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! Develop specific communication strategies for:

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Direct mail

Many of your donors will respond better to certain communication channels over others. Some may not even use a particular channel of communication and will be completely blind to any calls to action, invitations to upcoming fundraising events, or other information that might be primarily shared on that channel.

To avoid missing out on members of your donor community, you can assess the reach of campaigns on different communication channels by using A/B testing as a means of comparison.

Additionally, by carefully segmenting your lists of supporters, you can more accurately identify the demographics of your donors and volunteers. With this knowledge, you’ll have a better idea of which communication channels to prioritize and how to better approach communicating across all channels.

The next sections will show you how to communicate more effectively on specific channels.

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3. You’re discounting traditional donor communication channels

These days, when nonprofits talk about donor communication the conversation usually circles back to one thing: social media. Having an effective social media communication strategy certainly is important and your team should take the time to hone how you communicate with donors within that important medium.

However, although donors are increasingly turning to digital means of accessing and engaging with nonprofits online, that doesn’t mean your organization should completely discount more traditional communication channels.

In particular, communicating with donors via the phone and through direct mail can both be useful ways to build relationships with supporters who might not respond well to email communication or who don’t spend much time on social media.

Even better? Just because these methods have been around for a long time, that doesn’t mean they can’t be brought into the 21st century! You can easily integrate online fundraising tools and tactics into your phone and direct mail donor communication strategies.

For example, your team could set up a phonathon run by staff or volunteers. They can call potential supporters and process their donations using your online donation forms in a matter of minutes. With this method, you can access potential donors who may need assistance in completing their online donation or those who simply need an extra reminder to give.

When it comes to direct mail, you could include a QR code or the URL of your online donation form in any mail communication you have with donors. Because this communication is on paper, these supporters can keep the letter up on their fridge or desk if they’re not immediately able to donate, which serves as a more permanent reminder of your ongoing campaign.

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4. You’re not thinking through your social media strategy

In much the same way that a nonprofit might lean too heavily on social media communications to connect with donors and end up neglecting more traditional communication methods, it’s just as easy for your team to fail to think through your social media strategy entirely.

Many nonprofits seem to see social media communication as a new frontier for connecting with donors. Because of this, some organizations think that any form of social media communication will be effective and that just having an active Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram page will help boost their fundraising efforts.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it appears! Effectively using social media to engage with donors should take time, research, and a strategic approach.

Your team can start this process by asking yourselves the following questions.

What are we posting about?

Your nonprofit’s social media profiles should be sharing a variety of relevant information with supporters, but not overwhelming them with a lot of white noise. Aim to consistently post 3-5 times each day, and vary the types of posts you share. You should share upcoming events, call supporters to action with donation requests, post impact videos, and even interact with supporters’ own posts.

Are we steering supporters toward donation tools?

Some of your supporters will only encounter your organization on social media and never venture onto your nonprofit’s main website. Because of this, it’s important to get your online donation form in front of these visitors while they’re on your social media pages. By sharing links to your forms or even embedding these forms in your Facebook page, these supporters are more likely to give.

How can we learn more about our community through social media?

What’s great about social media communication with donors is that it can tell you a lot about who you’re interacting with, their habits, and the types of engagement strategies that work with them. Track metrics such as post views, click through rates, and more by analyzing how your supporters respond to your social media strategy. Armed with this knowledge, you can tailor your approach to better serve your social media audience in the future.

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5. You’re not making the most out of your email communications

In much the same way that your team should take a dynamic approach to communicating with donors via social media, the same can apply to how your nonprofit uses email to connect with donors.

Right now, your organization may simply be using email to remind supporters about upcoming donation deadlines or the next big fundraising event. However, your email communication strategy can do so much more!

Consider some of the following ways your team can maximize email communications with your donors:

  • Enable giving through email. Just as you should enable giving through your social media pages, your team can make giving easier for supporters by directing them to your online donation form right from your email messages.
  • Pair email campaigns with text-to-donate messages. Strengthen your email campaigns with text-to-donate reminders. When you pair email calls to action with a text reminder to give, you can increase your nonprofit’s email open rate from an average of 14% to 90%!
  • Track campaigns with shortlinks and keywords. Be sure to create unique keywords and short links for each of your fundraising campaign’s donation pages. This way, by including these in your email communication with donors, you can track engagement.
  • Use email to thank your donors and send updates. Your donors need to feel appreciated and receive regular updates from you. Email is a great way to stay in touch.

Just like with social media communication, it’s important to not relegate your email strategy to simply performing one task. Make the most of your email communications by using them to both steer supporters toward donating and to learn more about your community.

Keeping in touch with donors can be daunting! Now that your nonprofit knows what missteps to look out for, it’s time to start perfecting the way you connect with your supporters.

Steve Page is a blogger, marketer, and webmaster for MobileCause, the world’s leading mobile and online fundraising platform. MobileCause helps organizations reach their goals with a full suite of mobile-friendly solutions that allow donors to connect and give to your cause from any device. When he’s not working at MobileCause, Steve can usually be found helping organizations with their websites, learning the latest marketing trends, or working on his golf game.

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How to Plan a Multichannel Fundraising Campaign

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Year-end fundraising season is upon us. This is the busiest time of the year for most organizations and you need to plan carefully.

If you just send one fundraising letter and then wait for the donations to pour in, you’re in for a rude awakening. Your donors are busy and may put your letter aside to handle later, and then never get to it.

You may be thinking of bypassing direct mail altogether because it’s too expensive, and only sending email appeals. That’s a mistake. Direct mail is still very much a viable way to communicate and worth the investment.

Of course, you can also send email appeals, but you will need to plan to send more than one appeal due to the immense volume of email people receive. Some donors will respond to the first appeal, but most are going to need a few reminders.

Your fundraising campaign will be more effective if you use a combination of mail, email, social media, and phone calls. Some donors may respond to your direct mail piece but donate online. Others will see your email message but prefer to send a check.

You’ll have a lot of competition since you’re not the only organization seeking year-end donations. Plus you’re competing with a deluge of email and social media posts from a variety of sources.

This is why you need a multichannel campaign with a series of asks.

BEFORE YOU START

Clean up your mailing lists

If you haven’t already done so, clean up and organize your mailing lists. Do you have both postal and email addresses for all your donors?

Make it easy to donate online

You must have a donation page that’s engaging and easy to use on all platforms, including mobile. Test all links in email messages and social media posts. The last thing you want is a donor contacting you about a broken link or have to hunt around on your website for a link to your donation page.

When you’re ready to launch your campaign, include a blurb on your homepage that your appeal is underway. Make sure your donate button is in a prominent place and stand out even more by including an engaging photo to draw people in.

Which channels do your donors use?

Don’t spend a lot of time on channels your donors aren’t using. Figure out in advance where you want to focus your efforts.

SAMPLE SCHEDULE AND STRATEGY

Come up with a schedule of when the appeals will go out. I’ve created a sample schedule below. Of course, you can adjust the timeframe as needed, and use this for campaigns at other times of the year. That said, I do recommend starting your year-end campaign sooner than later.

October 25

Give your supporters a heads up by email and social media. Let them know your year-end appeal is underway and they should receive a letter from you soon, provided you have their mailing address. Encourage them to donate online right now. This means your donation page needs to be in great shape.

Keep in mind that the fact your year-end appeal is going on will matter to some donors and not to others. Use an enticing subject line such as How You Can Help Kids Learn to Read.

Make sure it’s obvious your message is coming from your organization so you have a better chance of getting it opened. Get noticed on social media by using an engaging photo.

Week of October 30

Mail your appeal letters.

Week of November 6

Start sending follow-up reminders via email and social media. If possible, don’t send reminders to people who have already donated. Otherwise, be sure to thank your recent donors. You can even phrase your reminders as more of a thank you or an update.

Thanks so much to all of you who donated to our year-end appeal. We’re well on our way to our goal of serving more kids in our tutoring program. If you haven’t donated yet, please help us out today by visiting our website (include a link to your donation page) or sending us a check (provide address).

Week of November 13

Send another reminder. Your donors are busy and may need a gentle prompt. Keep it positive. Don’t make your donors feel bad because they haven’t donated yet.

If you’re doing most of your reminders by email, remember you want your message to stand out. Sending generic weekly reminders is not enough.

Don’t Be Part of the Noise – Make Your Email Messages Stand Out

Week of November 20

Send a Happy Thanksgiving message along with a friendly reminder. Share a success story in your appeal.

Week of November 27

Start making reminder calls, along with your electronic messages. If time is an issue, you could just call people who have donated before. That’s probably most effective.

Also, November 28 is #GivingTuesday so you could tie that into a reminder message.

December and beyond

Keep sending reminders throughout December. It’s tricky because you want to get your message across without being annoying. Be sure to keep sending your newsletter and other updates. You don’t want the only messages your donors receive to be fundraising appeals. December is also a great time to show some #donorlove.

The end of December is the busiest time of the fundraising season. Network for Good recommends sending an email reminder on December 23, 29 or 30, and 31. This is especially relevant if your fiscal year ends on December 31 or your donor wants to give before the end of the calendar year.

Even though you’re trying to secure donations, don’t forget about building relationships, too.

Look to see who hasn’t contributed yet. Concentrate on people who are most likely to donate, such as past donors. You may need to send another letter or a reminder postcard to donors who don’t use electronic communication.

Your fundraising campaign will be more successful with multiple asks and by using multiple channels. Good luck!

More on multichannel fundraising.

How to Make a Multichannel Fundraising Ask: the Basics

Channeling Real Human Beings in Multichannel Fundraising

 

 

Making the Most of Monthly Giving

 

Image via Bloomerang

Monthly or recurring giving is a great way to raise more money and give you a constant stream of revenue throughout the year. More nonprofits are taking advantage of this. According to CauseVox, 54% of donors give through a sustainer (recurring) program, with 82% giving monthly.

Plus, monthly giving will raise your retention rate. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the retention rate for monthly donors is 90%. These donors are committed to your organization!

How to get started

If you don’t already have a monthly/recurring giving program, get one set one up before your next big appeal and let your donors know about it. While this post will focus on monthly giving, you should certainly give your donors other options for recurring giving, such as quarterly.

Setting up a monthly giving program will take a little work upfront, but will pay off in the end.  Mention it in your appeal letters and make it a prominent option on your donation page. How to Create a Monthly Giving Program for Your Nonprofit

Get donors on board

One way to get monthly donors is to ask your current donors to switch to monthly giving. Send targeted appeals to donors who have given at least twice. These donors have already shown you their commitment.

Let them know how much you appreciate their support and invite them to join your family of monthly donors. Show them how their $50 or $100 gift is helping you make a difference and how they can help even more with gifts of $5 or $10 a month. The 7 Steps to Launching a Monthly Giving Program at Your Non-Profit

Monthly donors get their own special appeal

If you already have monthly donors, send a special appeal just for them. Don’t send them a generic appeal that doesn’t recognize that they’re monthly donors. You should be personalizing and segmenting all your appeal letters, anyway.

Thank them for being a monthly donor and let them know you couldn’t do your work without their continued support. Politely ask monthly donors who’ve supported you for at least six months if they can upgrade their gift.

Keep in touch throughout the year

I donate monthly to a number of organizations and wrote about my experience earlier this year. Raise More Money With Monthly Gifts

Some organizations do a better job of communicating with their monthly donors than others. Be one that shows these donors how much you appreciate them.

Since your donors have committed to donating every month, show them the same courtesy by communicating with them at least once a month. You could send an e-mail update and at least a couple of updates by mail. Show your donors how they’re helping you make difference in your updates. Share a story or give specific examples.

A few ways I’ve seen organizations recognize their monthly donors are by giving them a special shout out in their newsletter, thanking them in their annual report, and inviting them to take a tour of the organization. Other ideas could include an open house, a thank you video, a thank you postcard, or a handwritten note. Whatever you do, keep in touch throughout the year and make your monthly donors feel special.

Take advantage of this opportunity to raise more money and boost your retention rate by starting or enhancing your monthly giving program.

More monthly giving resources.

Thank You 101

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Many of you may be working on your year-end appeal, which is great, but have you given any thought to how you’ll thank your donors? Thanking your donors after an appeal (and throughout the year) is equally important, yet many organizations leave this as a last minute to-do item and it shows.

You can stand out by taking the time to give your donors a great thank you experience. In my last post, I wrote about Appeal Letter Writing 101. Now let’s continue to get back to basics with Thank You 101.

Start planning now

There are many ways to thank your donors after an appeal – by mail, phone, email, on your website, or a combination of those. Figure out what you’ll be able to do. I highly recommend a handwritten note or phone call. Can you do that for all your donors? If not, maybe you’ll break it down by new donors, long-time donors, or donors who have given a certain amount.

At the very least, your donors should get a letter, even if they’ve donated online. Whatever you decide, get started on the content now.

Make your donor’s day with a handwritten thank you note

I’m a big fan of handwritten thank you notes. They will stand out in your donor’s mailbox. How often do you get a handwritten card?  

Handwritten notes are great in many ways, but one advantage is you don’t have to write that much and it shouldn’t take too long. How to Write 3 Minute Thank You Notes

You could make thank you cards with an engaging photo or buy some nice thank you cards. Get together a team of board members, staff, and volunteers right after your appeal goes out and have a thank you party. Your donors will love it. Here’s a sample note.

Dear Lisa,

Thank you so much for upgrading your gift to $50. This will help us serve more students in our afterschool program. We’re so happy you’ve been a donor these past three years.

Phone calls make a difference, too

Another more personal way to thank your donors is with a phone call. Calling first-time donors is known to improve retention rates. But you could also call long-term donors to make them feel special.

Again, you want to get a team together for a thankathon. This is a great thing for your board to do. You may need to do a short training first. 6 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors Here’s a sample phone script.

Hi Steve, this Jennifer Collins and I’m a board member at Helping Hand. Thank you so much for your donation of $50 and welcome to our donor family. Your gift will help us purchase winter coats for homeless children.

Write an awesome letter

If it’s impossible to send handwritten notes or make phone calls, you can still impress your donors with an awesome thank you letter. Many thank you letters are mediocre at best, so you’ll have an advantage if you take some time to create a great, donor-centered letter.

This sounds obvious, but thank you letters are about thanking the donor. Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization. If you’re sending it on your letterhead, it should be apparent it’s coming from your organization. Instead, start your letter with Thank you or You just did something amazing.

You also don’t need to explain what your organization does. This is usually done in a braggy way by saying something like As you know, X organization has been doing great work in the community for 20 years. Someone who’s donated to your organization should already be familiar with what you do.

And my biggest pet peeve – Don’t ask for another gift in your thank you letter. You did that in your appeal letter. Nothing diminishes that feel good moment by being asked to give more money again so soon. Remember, you’re supposed to be thanking your donors.

You’ll notice the examples I gave above were personalized – welcoming new donors and recognizing previous gifts and upgrades. You need to do that, too. Send different letters to new donors, renewing donors, donors who’ve upgraded their gifts, and monthly donors. And you must address your donors by name – not Dear Friend.

Let your donors know how their gift is helping you make a difference. Include a brief story or example.

As with all writing, make your letter personal and conversational. Write to the donor using you much more than we, and leave out jargon and any other language your donors won’t understand.

A few other ways to make your letter stand out is to use a colored envelope or include a teaser that says Thank You!  If you can hand address the envelopes and include a handwritten note inside, that will help make it more personal.  You could also include an engaging photo in the letter.

Yes, you do need to include the tax-deductible information, but do that at the end after you wow your donors with your letter. It’s easiest to include this with the thank you letter or email. Then you don’t have to send it again unless your donor requests it.

How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

5 Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

Make a good impression with your thank you landing page

Many people donate online. Make this a good experience for your donors.

Your landing page is your first chance to say thank you and it’s usually about as exciting as a Home Depot receipt.

Open with Thank you, Kevin! or You’re amazing!  Include an engaging photo or video and a short, easy to understand description of how the donation will help the people you serve.

If you use a third-party giving site, you might be able to customize the landing page. If not, follow up with a personal thank you email message within 48 hours.

5 Thank You Page Best Practices for Any Nonprofit

The thank you email needs to impress your donors, too

Start off by putting Thank You! or You Just Did Something Incredible! in the subject line. This will make your message stand out in your donor’s ever-growing inbox.

Follow the examples above and make it all about gratitude. Just because your thank you email is automatically generated, doesn’t mean it needs to sound like it was written by a robot. Write something warm and personal.

Thanking a Donor by Email: Best Practices and Examples

Thank your donors as soon as possible

Show your donors how much you appreciate their gift by thanking them as soon as possible, within 48 hours if you can. You can do this if you have your thank letters/scripts and team ready to go before your appeal goes out. Then each day you get a donation, send out notes/letters or make phone calls. The highest volume will be right after your appeal goes out. Be ready!

I highly recommend putting together a thank you plan, which covers some of the things mentioned in this post as well as the equally important thanking your donors all year round.

It’s Time to Start Planning for Your Year-End Appeal

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August is here. People are already starting to talk about fall and back to school sales are underway, like it or not.

Even though you may still be in summer mode, September will be here in a flash. Fall is a busy time, especially if you’re doing a year-end appeal.

Many nonprofits rely on their year-end appeal for a good portion of their revenue. Get a jump start on your appeal and start planning it now. Use this checklist to help you get started. Of course, you can use this for fundraising campaigns at any time of the year.

How much money do you need to raise?

You may have already set a goal in your 2017 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 will use. Make it as detailed as possible.

When do you want to send your appeal? At the beginning of November? 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 send your appeal at the beginning of November, make your goal the end of October.

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

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.

Connect With Your Donors by Telling Stories

Get Noticed in an Instant with a Visual Story

How did 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, 80% of the students in your program are now reading at or above their grade level. Next year you’d like to expand to four more schools.

Focus on the people you serve and show how your donors are helping you make a difference.

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, segment your lists – current donors, monthly donors, lapsed donors, event attendees, etc. A personalized appeal letter will make a huge difference.

Do you have enough letterhead, envelopes, and stamps?

Don’t wait until the end of 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 last year’s 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.

8 Best Practices for Building an Online Donation Page

The Top 10 Most Effective Donation Form Optimizations You Can Make

While you are at it, check your website for out-of-date information and broken links.

Is Your Nonprofit Website in Good Shape?

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.

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

Instead of 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. 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.

How will you thank your donors?

Don’t treat this as an afterthought. 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. Create a thank you plan to help you with this.

Are you showing the love?

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 and create a thank you video or hold an informal open house.

How are you getting ready for your year-end appeal?

Get Noticed in an Instant with a Visual Story

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We’re bombarded with information by the bucket loads these days. It’s easy for your messages to get lost in the endless sea of stuff.

One great way to connect is by sharing visual stories. Some people respond better to visual stimuli, anyway. Here are a few ways to tell visual stories.

Tell a story in an instant with a photo

Your donors are busy and may not have time read a story, but you can capture their attention in an instant with a great photo. That doesn’t mean a photo of your executive director receiving an award. Use photos of your programs in action.

Print newsletters and annual reports tend to be too long and text-centric. Most of your donors won’t have time read the whole thing. But if you share some engaging photos, your donors can get a quick glance of the impact of their gift without having to slog through a bunch of tedious text.

You may want to try a Postcard Annual Report instead of the usual boring booklet.

If you use social media, you need to communicate several times a week. As your donors scroll through endless amounts of posts on Facebook and Twitter, an engaging photo can pop out and get their attention.

Use photos everywhere – appeal letters, thank you letters/cards, newsletters, annual reports, your website, and social media. Create a photo bank to help you with this. It’s fine to use the same photos in different channels. It can help with your brand identity. Be sure to use high-quality pictures. Hire a professional photographer or find one to work pro bono.

Work with your program staff to get photos. Confidentiality issues may come up and you’ll need to get permission to take pictures of kids. It’s okay to use stock photos. Just be sure to give proper credit.

5 Killer Photography Tips for Nonprofit Brands

5 Image Mistakes Your Nonprofit May Be Making…and How You Can Fix Them!

Highlight your work with a video

Create a video to show your programs in action, share an interview, give a behind the scenes look at your organization, or my favorite – thanking your donors. Make your videos short and high quality. If you’re interviewing someone, be sure that person is good on camera.

You can use videos on your website, in an email message, on social media, and at an event.

11 Nonprofit Videos That Inform and Inspire

How to Make a Fantastic Nonprofit Video

10 Mistakes Nonprofits Make with Video

Make your statistics sing with infographics

A typical annual report is chock full of statistics. You want to share these, as well as your accomplishments, but you know very few donors are going to read a lot of text.

Why not use an infographic instead of the usual laundry list of statistics and accomplishments?  Here are some examples. A Great Nonprofit Annual Report in a Fabulous Infographic

Brochures are becoming a relic of the past, but what if you want an informational print piece to give to potential donors or volunteers?  An oversized infographic postcard could be the way to go.

How to Create an Effective Nonprofit Infographic

5 Infographic Best Practices You Should Follow

10 free tools for creating infographics

Good visuals will enhance both your print and electronic communication. Keep your donors engaged with all types of stories.

Don’t Slow Down Too Much This Summer

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It’s summer, yea! Those of us who live in colder climates relish these few months of warmer weather, a slower pace, and a vacation to someplace fun.

While I hope you get a chance to slow down and take a vacation this summer, that doesn’t mean everything in your organization has to come to a screeching halt. In fact, summer is a great time to tackle a few projects and get ready for a busy fall.

Here are a few things you can take on this summer.

Clean up your mailing lists

If you haven’t touched your database since your year-end appeal, now is a good time to clean up your mailing lists (both mail and email).Take care of those address changes, returned mail, and bounced emails.

Be meticulous. Go through your mailing lists and check for typos and duplicate addresses. Then please, please segment the people in your database by current donors, lapsed donors, volunteers, event attendees, etc.

Don’t pass this off to a volunteer. Have someone who knows your donors take this on. Tedious, yes, but it will pay off if your donor gets a personalized letter with her name spelled right.

The-Ultimate-Guide-to-Nonprofit-Donor-Data-Management

Freshen up your appeal letters and thank you letters

If you’ve been using the same appeal letter and thank you letter templates for awhile, it’s time to stop. Freshen them up with some donor-centered content.  

Gather some engaging stories and photos

You know what else will make your appeal letters and thank you letters shine – engaging stories and photos. Take some time to gather stories and photos this summer. You can also use them in your newsletter, other updates, and on your website.

INFOGRAPHIC: A Nonprofit Storytelling How-To

10 TIPS FOR BETTER NONPROFIT PHOTOS

Create an attitude of gratitude

Make this the year you do a better job of thanking your donors. Handwritten thank you notes will make your donors’ day. One thing you can do is create a thank you photo and use it to make cards. If cost is an issue, see if a print shop will make them for you pro bono.

In addition, think about making a short thank you video. You can put this on your thank you landing page and share it by email and social media.

Update your website

Has it been awhile since you’ve updated your website? People still use the internet as a primary source of information and potential donors could go there to find out more about your organization.

It doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul, but make sure it’s up-to-date and easy to navigate on all devices.

12 Essential Nonprofit Web Design Best Practices

Don’t take a vacation from your communication

Stay in touch with your donors throughout the summer. In fact, send them something special. Maybe the thank you video you made or a postcard update.

Be sure to plan for communication staff vacations, too. Keep those email and social media updates coming.

You may be working at a slower pace this summer, but don’t let things come to a screeching halt. Use this time to make some improvements and get ready for the fall.