How to Plan an Open House

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Are you racking your brain trying to figure out ways to show appreciation to your donors? Maybe you’re not thinking about donor appreciation at all, but you should be. This is an important, but often neglected, area.

One idea is to have an open house at your organization. If you can’t hold one on site, have it at a restaurant or other venue. You may be able to find someone to donate space.

Invite other supporters, too

You could just have an event for donors, but why not invite other supporters such as event attendees, email subscribers, and social media followers, as well? This could be a great way to convert these supporters into donors. Encourage your donors to bring a friend, too.

Coordinate it with your year-end appeal

Depending on your resources, you may only be able to hold one open house a year. If you can hold more, that’s great.

A good time to have your open house is before you launch your year-end appeal so you could hold one sometime between mid-September and early November.

Another option is spring if you have an appeal then, or you could make it a thank you event.  

Winter is tricky unless you’re lucky enough to live someplace where it doesn’t snow. And summer’s not good since most people go away on vacation.

Whenever you decide to hold your open house, don’t ask for money at this event.

Keep it informal

No three-course dinners and speeches that go on forever. Hold a gathering where your supporters can drop in after work, and serve something to eat and drink. You may be able to get food and beverages donated or find a sponsor.

Have a brief program. You could show a video and/or let a client share his/her story. Your executive director or board chair should thank your guests and share some accomplishments and plans for the future. Again, keep it brief. You don’t want anyone looking for the nearest exit.

Create some photo displays and have literature available. You could also show a video on a laptop. Offer tours, if that makes sense.

Speaking of tours, you could offer them at other times, too. After I became a monthly donor, one organization invited me to arrange a tour.

7 Tips to Create an Amazing Donor Cultivation Tour

Get your board involved

You must have a good turnout from your board. Encourage board members to invite friends and other potential prospects.

Make everyone feel welcome

Don’t hide in the corner or spend all your time talking to your co-workers. Your staff and board need to mingle with your guests and make them feel welcome.

You may want to go over your organization’s talking points and brush up on your elevator pitches so everyone is prepared to talk about what you do and answer questions. And that doesn’t mean reciting your mission statement.

How to Nail Your Nonprofit’s Elevator Pitch

Don’t forget the follow-up

Anyone who has taken time out of her/his busy schedule to attend your open house needs a huge dose of gratitude. Nonprofits tend to do a poor job of following up after an event and miss out on a great opportunity to build relationships.

Collect names and addresses of people who attended and send a thank you note right away. This is a good project for your board. Don’t ask for money (that comes later).

Segment your open house attendees, so when you send your next appeal you can include a sentence that says, “It was great to see you at our open house.”

Not all your donors will attend your open house but will appreciate the invitation. Donors and other supporters who do come are showing you they’re interested in your organization. Keep them interested and keep showing appreciation and building relationships with them! This will help ensure they’ll continue to support you for a long time.

 

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Are You Doing Better in 2018?

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It’s hard to believe we’re more than halfway through 2018. It doesn’t seem like that long ago I wrote this post –  How to Do Better in 2018

I hope your fundraising and communications are going well so far this year. Are they going well? Are you even paying attention to how things are going?

Let’s revisit that post from the beginning of the year. If things are going well for you, great. If not, I have some suggestions on how to do better, and for everyone – how to gear up for year-end.

Evaluate and plan

Are you meeting your goals so far? If not, do you a have a plan in place to get there? If you never made a fundraising plan for 2018, stop right there and put one together now.

Do’s and Don’ts for Your Annual Fundraising Plan

If you’re falling short of your fundraising goals, you may need to ramp up your year-end campaign. Also, your event may not be worth the trouble or you’re seeking out the wrong grant funders.

Spend Time Actually PLANNING to Raise More Money for Your Cause

Figure out your retention rate

Donor retention rates tend to be low. Do you know yours? If you’re behind in your fundraising, you may be losing donors. Figure out your retention rate now.

Retention rates are not that hard to fix, but you need to work at it. Better communication is often the key. More on how you can do a better job communicating with your donors later in the post.

6 Tactics for Increasing Donor Retention

Get in touch with your lapsed donors

Did you ever get in touch with people who didn’t give to your year-end appeal? Before this year’s campaign, figure out who didn’t give a year ago, but has donated in the last two or three years. Send them a special targeted letter telling them you miss them and want them back.

Then make a plan do the same thing in January for anyone who didn’t give. Here you could follow up with a phone call or email. This could help you raise additional revenue.

5 ways to win back your lapsed donors

Start or enhance your monthly giving program

A monthly or recurring giving program is a great way to raise more money. If you don’t have one, plan to promote monthly giving in your next campaign. To get more monthly donors, send a special targeted letter to current donors inviting them to become monthly donors.

Once someone has become a monthly donor, they should get their own appeal letter. One in which you thank them for being a monthly donor and politely ask them to increase their gift this year. Don’t send them a letter that asks for a one-time gift.

Other mistakes organizations make with their monthly giving program are not paying attention if a donor’s gift expires and doing a poor job of thanking their monthly donors.

You’ll notice I’ve made several recommendations to segment your appeal letters. This shows your donors you know who they are and should help you raise more money.

Do a better job of thanking your donors

Most organizations don’t do a good job of thanking their donors. Perhaps they send a nice letter after they receive a donation, although that’s wishful thinking. But the donor love usually comes to a screeching halt after that.

Thanking donors is something you need to do throughout the year. Create a thank you plan to help you with this.

A few things you should do before your year-end campaign. Take a look at your current thank you letter. If it’s not gushing with gratitude, write a new one. This goes for your thank you landing page and email acknowledgment, too. Make sure your letter is ready to go at the same time you launch your appeal. Don’t treat it as an afterthought and send something a month after you receive a donation. You’ll get gold stars if you can throw handwritten cards and/or phone calls into the mix, too. Finally, send a special thank you sometime early this fall. This could be a handwritten note or a postcard with an update. Something by mail is best, but if that’s impossible, you could send email.

Stay in touch throughout the year

This is another problem area. Many organizations go AWOL unless they’re asking for donations. It’s Kind of Quiet Out There Some send newsletters and updates, but these are often boring and focused too much on how great the organization is.

I know you’ll be busy, but you need to communicate more with your donors as you gear up for your year-end appeal. What’s In My Mailbox | How are you *warming up* your donors? You want to be on your donors’ good side come donation time.

Also, take a look at your newsletter and other donor communication. Are you leading with a story and focusing on how your donors are helping you make a difference?

You still have time to do better

If you’re falling short of your goals, you still have time to do better, but you have to work at it. Year-end is, of course, a great opportunity to raise money, as well as build relationships.

Be sure to keep evaluating your progress to help ensure a successful 2018.

 

The Importance of Having a Thank You Plan

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I’ve written about the importance of having a thank you plan before, but I think we need to revisit this because many nonprofits are not doing a good job of thanking their donors. You may have every intention to, but that’s not happening. Thanking donors often takes a back seat to fundraising when you should spend equal time doing both.

A thank you plan will help. You probably have a fundraising plan and maybe a donor relations plan, but a specific thank you plan is just as important. Donor retention rates are poor and one reason is donors don’t feel appreciated. Creating a thank you plan will help you stay focused on gratitude all year round.  

Here’s what you need to include in your thank you plan.

Plan to make a good first impression with your thank you landing page

Your landing page is your first chance to say thank you and it often is just a boring receipt rather than something lets me feel good about making a donation.

Open with Thank you, Jeff! 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. Put all the tax-deductible information after your message or in the automatically generated thank you email.

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.

How To Optimize Your Donation Thank You Page + Examples Of Nonprofits Who Do It Right

Plan to write a warm and personal automatic thank you email

Set up an automatic thank you email to go out after someone donates online. This email thank you is more of a reassurance to let your donor know you received her donation. You still need to thank her by mail or phone (see below).

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.

Give some thought to the email subject line, too. At the very least make sure it says Thank You and not something boring like Your Donation Receipt.

Thanking a Donor by Email: Best Practices and Examples

Plan to thank your donors by mail or phone

I’m a firm believer that every donor, no matter how much she’s given or whether she donated online, gets a thank you card or letter mailed to her or receives a phone call.

Try to thank your donors within 48 hours if you can. This shouldn’t be hard to do if you plan to carve out some time to thank your donors each day you get a donation. If you wait too long, you’re not making a good impression.

Instead of sending a generic, boring thank you letter, mail a handwritten card or call your donors. Calling your donors to thank them is something your board can do. It’s often a welcome surprise and can raise retention rates among first-time donors.

Find board members, staff, and volunteers to make phone calls or write thank you notes. Come up with sample scripts. You may also want to conduct a short training. Make sure to get your team together well before your next fundraising campaign so you’re ready to go when the donations come in.

Here’s a sample phone script, which you can modify for a thank you note.

Hi, this is Jennifer Douglas and I’m a board member at the Lakeside Community Food Bank. I’m calling to thank you for your generous donation of $50. Thanks to you, we can provide a family with a week’s worth of groceries. This is great. We’re seeing more people coming in right now because of cuts to food stamp programs. We really appreciate your support.

If you can’t send handwritten cards or call all your donors, send them a personal and heartfelt letter. Don’t start your letter with “On behalf of X organization we thank you for your donation of….” Open the letter with “You’re incredible” or “Because of you, Jacob won’t go to bed hungry tonight.”  Create separate letters for new donors, renewing donors, and monthly donors.

Add a personal handwritten note to the letter, preferably something that pertains to that particular donor. For example, if the donor has given before or attended one of your recent events, mention that. Make sure all letters are hand signed.

Let your donors know how much you appreciate them and highlight what your organization is doing with their donations.

In addition, write your thank you letter at the same time you write your appeal letter. Make sure they’re ready to go as soon as the donations come in. Don’t wait three weeks.

INFOGRAPHIC: The ULTIMATE Thank You for Nonprofits

5 Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

Plan to keep thanking your donors all year round

This is where having a thank you plan makes a difference because organizations usually send some kind of thank you letter after they receive a donation and then donor communication starts to wane after that. Thanking donors is something you must do all year round.

Use your communications calendar to incorporate ways to thank your donors. Try to say thank you at least once a month. Here are some ways to do that.

  • Send cards or email messages at Thanksgiving, during the holidays, Valentine’s Day, or mix it up a little and send a note of gratitude in June or September when your donors won’t be expecting it. Try to send at least one or two gratitude messages a year by mail, since your donors will be more likely to see those.
  • Invite your donors to connect with you via email and social media. Keep them updated with accomplishments and success stories. Making all your communications donor-centered will help convey an attitude of gratitude. Be sure to keep thanking your donors in your newsletter and social media updates. Emphasize that you wouldn’t be able to do the work you do without your donors’ support.
  • Create a thank you video and share it on your thank you landing page, by email, and on social media.
  • Hold an open house at your organization or offer tours so your donors can see your nonprofit up close and personal.
  • Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors.

Creating a thank you plan will make it easier to keep showing appreciation to your donors all year round. If you treat them well, maybe they’ll treat you well the next time you send a fundraising appeal.

How to Do Better in 2018

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

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

Evaluate and plan

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

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

Nonprofit Fundraising Plan: 6 Must-Do Steps For Success

COMMUNICATION PLAN TEMPLATE

How to Integrate Your Nonprofit Fundraising Plan With Your Marketing Plan

5 FUNDRAISING SUCCESS METRICS TO START TRACKING

Figure out your retention rate

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

A Guide to Donor Retention

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

Why you should care about donor retention

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

Get in touch with your lapsed donors

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

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

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

Start or enhance your monthly giving program

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

Making the Most of Monthly Giving

Do a better job of thanking your donors

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

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

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

Thank You 101

Stay in touch throughout the year

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

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

Stay in Touch Throughout the Year by Using a Communications Calendar

Here’s wishing you a successful 2018!

Stay in Touch Throughout the Year by Using a Communications Calendar

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

You must communicate with your donors at least once or twice a month throughout the year. If you’re getting stressed out wondering how you’re going to pull this off, then you need a communications calendar (also known as an editorial calendar).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Events

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

Legislation

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

Time of year

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

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

News stories

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

Fundraising and recruitment

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

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

Thank your donors

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

Ongoing content

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

Create a story bank to help you with this.

Keep it up

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

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

How to Create a Nonprofit Editorial Calendar

The Power of a Donor Communications Calendar

Evergreen Editorial Calendar

Editorial Calendars – Resources for You

 

 

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.

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