Donor Retention Strategies: From CRMs to Annual Reports

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By Jay Love

Nonprofit professionals have a lot on their minds. You’re probably thinking about methods to keep your staff and constituents safe during the pandemic, effective work-from-home strategies to keep everyone productive, and how to maintain programming while adhering to social distancing guidelines. 

Whatever you do, don’t stop fundraising during these difficult times. While this fundraising may look different, it should never cease entirely. You need revenue to keep your organization alive amidst a shifting economy. 

Not only that, but it’s imperative that you analyze your fundraising strategy and consider additional strategies you can take to ensure that when all of this has subsided, your organization comes out on top.

This means one of your organization’s main priorities right now should be maintaining and improving your donor retention rate.

According to Bloomerang’s donor retention guide, the average donor retention rate has been sitting between 40% and 50% for the last fifteen years. The image below shows its progression.

Bloomerang_Ann Green Nonprofit_Donor Retention ExampleYour nonprofit should aim to be above average in your donor retention now so when the pandemic ends, you’ll have developed these relationships and have an even stronger base of support. 

A higher donor retention rate translates directly to higher revenue for a few reasons. First, retaining donors is substantially less expensive than acquiring new donors. Second, donor gifts tend to increase as they develop stronger connections with your mission. Finally, donor retention leads to a more predictable revenue stream, putting it in a good position to increase steadily. 

In order to increase your nonprofit’s donor retention rate and secure additional funding, even during difficult times, we recommend the following strategies: 

  1. Make donor retention a priority. 
  2. Create strong first impressions. 
  3. Focus on engagement. 
  4. Stay transparent with supporters. 

Here at Bloomerang, we’ve helped nonprofits just like yours increase their fundraising revenue by focusing their attention on donor retention. These strategies can help you too! Let’s get started. 

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1. Make donor retention a priority. 

In order to effectively improve your organization’s donor retention, you must make it a priority. You simply can’t wish that it will improve, barely adjust your approach, and then expect your rates to drastically increase. Rather, you should recognize that the work you put into developing your donor retention strategies is directly correlated to the results you’ll see in your fundraising revenue. 

One of the best ways to make sure you’re making donor retention a priority is to put donor retention information front-and-center for you and your staff to see. 

To do this, you may consider the following placements: 

  • On the fundraising dashboard in your CRM. The best option is to choose a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution that emphasizes donor retention and its importance for your organization. This will automatically track your retention rate for your team to see. Plus, effective engagement and donation tracking within donor profiles will help drive your retention rates up. This guide can help you choose a solution that prioritizes your donor retention rates. 

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  • In regular communication documents with your team. If your team hosts regular organization-wide check-in meetings, create a standing slide in your presentation tool to update them about the current progress and status of your donor retention rate. 
  • On your office’s wall. When your team is back in the office, consider tracking your progress with a “donor retention meter” posted in a common space. This meter should show your current donor retention rate, your goal rate, and the trend line that measures your progress so far. 

If your organization sets quarterly or annual goals, consider incorporating donor retention into these goals. This will make sure your whole team is on the same page and working toward improving these metrics. 

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2. Create strong first impressions. 

Donor retention is all about strengthening your relationships with supporters. The beginning of that relationship is crucial for achieving your retention goals. After all, the majority of donors donate once and then never again. 

According to reports from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the average new donor retention rate is very low (around 20%) while repeat donor retention rates jump drastically (to over 60%). This means if your nonprofit can convince people to donate a second time, chances are they’ll keep giving in the future. That’s why the second donation is often referred to as the golden donation

Bloomerang_Ann Green Nonprofit_new vs existing donor retention comparisonTo make sure your nonprofit begins relationships with supporters on the right foot, we recommend you consider the following strategies: 

  • Streamline the donation process. Donation abandonment occurs when you’re able to get people to your donation page, but they never hit “submit” on the donation itself. This can occur when your donation process is not optimized. We recommend strategically organizing your donation page so the process is quick and easy for supporters to complete. You can do this by only asking for the information you need, ensuring everything fits on one page, and including a clear “submit” button. 
  • Send immediate appreciation. In addition to including a confirmation page after the donation is submitted, be sure your organization is following up immediately after every donation by sending a thank-you note. This will further confirm that you received the donation and show your donor that you’re grateful for their contribution. Consider sending new supporters a welcome packet or other information to greet them after their initial gift.
  • Call your new supporters. Calling new supporters personally shows them your organization cares deeply and wants to start a relationship. It’s a more personal way to thank them. In fact, our own research shows that calling donors at least once within 90 days of their first donation increases first-time donor retention by over 20%

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As you can see, increasing the first-time donor retention rate is an effective first step to take in increasing your overall donor retention. You’re lucky to have such incredible supporters for your cause. Show them that gratitude and kick off your relationships right!

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3. Focus on engagement. 

Nonprofits have a bad habit of treating their donors like ATMs. When you need funding for something, your donors are there to support you. Well, that’s not quite right. Your donors are happy to help support your organization when they feel engaged and connected to your cause. 

Therefore, it’s important that nonprofits focus their attention on enhancing the engagement of and experience given to your donors. After all, they’ve already given to your cause, signaling that they want to be involved. 

Focus on engaging your supporters by: 

  • Showing them they’re partners in your mission. Give your supporters an opportunity to provide input on your organization’s activities through feedback and potential (virtual) meetings. This is especially important for your major donors. It shows them they’re true partners. After all, without their generous contributions, your philanthropic activities wouldn’t be possible. 
  • Tracking supporter engagement activities. Keeping track of supporters’ engagement can help your organization see when donors are in danger of lapsing so you can prevent that from happening. It also shows the types of activities your supporters are interested in so you can personalize outreach for further involvement. For example, if a donor has attended all of your events throughout the last year, you might send a personalized invitation to your next one because you know they enjoy that type of activity. 
  • Communicating with them frequently. Frequent communication is the key to staying at the forefront of your donors’ minds. Make sure to strike the perfect balance between contacting them frequently and not overloading their inboxes. Every communication you send should include helpful information so you’re not just sending messages solely for the sake of staying in contact. 

If you’re not sure how to incorporate additional engagement activities into your fundraising strategy, a nonprofit consultant may be able to help you refine your strategy. To find a consultant who is a good fit with your nonprofit, check out listings of top firms from trusted organizations. For instance, you may reference Bloomerang’s consultant directory or Aly Sterling Philanthropy’s list of top consultants.

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4. Stay transparent with supporters. 

Your supporters appreciate transparency. Not only do they want to know your organization is using their contributions wisely, they also want to help truly further your mission about which you and your supporters are both passionate. 

This means you should be transparent with your supporters about the successful strategies you try as well as those that aren’t successful. When you run into troubles or setbacks, communicate these, but be sure to also provide context. For instance, if you have a negative return on a fundraising campaign, explain what went wrong and how you’ll remedy the situation going forward. 

You can use resources such as email, your tax forms, your website, and newsletters to communicate ongoing updates and campaigns with your supporters. Our favorite method for summarizing and synthesizing your financial and philanthropic information to supporters is through your annual report

Your annual report should be used to support a larger fundraising strategy while honestly communicating status and progress to supporters. 

Some of the important elements to include in your nonprofit annual report are: 

  • Financial data. Provide a graph or a visual that makes it easy for supporters to see how much of your funding went towards philanthropic initiatives, overhead expenses, and fundraising costs. 
  • Projects completed. Tell your supporters about your wins from last year. Show them the impact of their support by explaining the projects and programs you were able to implement together. 
  • Donor appreciation. Consider giving a shout-out to your top supporters in your annual report. This shows these individuals how much they mean to your cause and can drive others to give more in hopes of being featured next year. 

In addition to your annual report this year, you may consider sending a report to supporters about the impact the pandemic has had on your organization. What were the disruptions it caused? Then, be sure to explain how you’ll get back on track, as well as how supporters can help with this process. 

Transparency instills a sense of trust with your supporters. If they think you’re being dishonest in any way, they won’t trust you and will likely stop giving. Building trust through transparent communication is key to building more effective relationships with supporters. 

Donor retention stems from building strong relationships with your supporters. This is especially important during difficult times such as these. Focus your time now on building relationships and improving donor retention so when things go back to normal, your organization will come out on top. Good luck!

 Jay Love, Co-Founder and current Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang

Jay has served this sector for 33 years and is considered the most well-known senior statesman whose advice is sought constantly.

Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth.

He is a graduate of Butler University with a B.S. in Business Administration. Over the years, he has given more than 2,500 speeches around the world for the charity sector and is often the voice of new technology for fundraisers.

The 5 C”s of Good Communication

112660480_e48d18a191_wOne of the first posts I wrote when I started this blog was the 4 C’s of Good Content (clear, concise, conversational, and compelling). I decided to revisit that post and add a 5th C (connection). I gave it a new title, too.

Keep these 5 C’s in mind when you’re writing a fundraising appeal, thank you letter, update, or any type of donor communication.  

Is it Clear?

What is your intention? What message are you sending to your donors? Are you asking for a donation, thanking them, or sharing an update? 

Whatever it is, make sure your message is clear. If you have a call to action, that needs to be clear as well. You want your message to produce results. Plain and simple, your fundraising appeal should entice someone to donate. Your thank you letter should thank your donors (no bragging or explaining what your organization does) and make them feel good about donating.

Use language your donors will understand (no jargon). Keep out terms like food insecurity and underserved communities. Just because something is clear to you, doesn’t mean it will be clear to others. 

Is it Concise?

Can you say more with less?  Eliminate any unnecessary adverbs, adjectives, and filler. Get to the point right away. Concise writing doesn’t mean you need to be terse or all your print communication has to be one page. Sometimes it will need to be longer, but the same rules apply. 

Keep in mind that many donors won’t read something if it looks like it will be too long. That’s especially true now when we’re dealing with more information than we can take in.

Also, most people skim, so use short paragraphs and lots of white space, especially for electronic communication.

Make all your words count.

Is it Conversational?

Write as if you’re having a conversation with a friend and be personable. Use the second person – where you refer to your donors as you and your organization as we. Remember to use you much more than we. 

Avoid using jargon, cliches, multi-syllable words, and the dreaded passive voice. Is that the way you talk to your friends?

You may think you’re impressing your donors by using jargon and big words, but most likely you’re confusing them or even worse, alienating them. 

HOW TO MAKE YOUR NONPROFIT WRITING MORE CONVERSATIONAL

Is it Compelling?

Is whatever you’re writing going to capture someone’s attention right away and keep them interested? Start with a good opening sentence. Leading with a question is often good. Stories are also great. 

Put a human face on your stories and keep statistics to a minimum. Start a fundraising appeal with a story that leads to a call to action.

9 Powerful Examples of Nonprofit Storytelling

Are you establishing a connection?

Donors are drawn to your organization because they feel a connection to your cause. You also need to establish a connection with them. You can start by segmenting your donors by different types, such as new donors, current donors, and monthly donors. 

The Importance of Segmenting Your Donors

Get to know your donors better and give them content you know they’ll be interested in. Hint – it’s not bragging about your organization. They want to know how they’re helping you make a difference for the people/community you serve. They also want to feel appreciated.

Keep these 5 C’s in mind to help ensure good communication with your donors.

In Praise of Postcards

15190799333_66b26279cc_wIf you’ve been fundraising and communicating with your donors the last couple of months, you’ve probably been doing most of it electronically. 

Electronic communication is good, but communicating by mail is better. Start thinking about communicating by mail again. If not now, sometime soon. Especially if donors contributed since the COVID-19 outbreak. They deserve to receive something nice in the mail.

Now you might say – “But mail is too expensive. So is printing something. We have a small staff. We’re just now going back to the office.” I understand all that. I know direct mail can be expensive and putting together a mailing takes more time, but it’s an investment that can help you raise more money.

One way to mail that shouldn’t cost too much is using postcards. First, you can probably do them in house. Also, if you do it well, it’s a quick, easy way to capture your donor’s attention right away. Creating a postcard will be less expensive than creating a four-page newsletter. In the best of times, donors don’t want to be overwhelmed with a lot of information.

People never get nearly as much mail as they do email. Direct mail is a proven way to communicate and engage. I’m starting to see more mail now, even from nonprofits.

Donors are more likely to see something that comes in the mail. Mail is more personal and people need connection right now.

If landscaping and roofing companies can send postcards, so can you. Here are a couple of ways you can use postcards.

Thank your donors

A few months ago when I was encouraging you to keep fundraising, which you should be doing, I gave you a pass on thanking your donors by mail. 

If and when it’s feasible for you to mail, you can send your donors a thank you postcard. Find an engaging photo and pour on the gratitude. If you ran an emergency campaign, thank your donors for contributing to that. Show how your donors’ gifts are helping you make a difference for the people/community you serve right now. 

You could also send your donors a thank you postcard because they’re great and you couldn’t do your work without them.

Add a handwritten personal note, too. Of course, you can also send handwritten thank you cards, but a postcard may be a little easier right now. I would opt for a thank you postcard over the usual boring form letter.

The world doesn’t feel like a very nice place right now. Use this as an opportunity to show kindness, and keep doing that as much as possible.

Share an update

A postcard can be a good way to share an update with your donors. You could make an infographic to give them a quick glance at some of your progress. Some organizations use oversize postcards for their annual report. I’m not suggesting you do your 2019 annual report this way if you haven’t done one yet. Right now, I would send something that’s relevant to what you’ve been doing over the last couple of months.

6 Types of Nonprofit Infographics to Boost Your Campaigns

10 Nonprofit Infographics That Inspire and Inform

Other ways to use postcards

You can also use a postcard for fundraising. While not as effective as a direct mail package (letter, reply envelope,etc.), it can be used as a heads up for a campaign or a reminder. If you’re worried about mailing costs, I would use a direct mail package for fundraising. And if you haven’t sent a fundraising appeal by mail in the last few months, you could be missing out.

Christmas In Your Mailbox

You can use a postcard for a Save the Date for an event. It’s likely you won’t be holding in-person events for a while, but a Save the Date postcard could draw more people to your virtual event.

What to keep in mind

Your postcard needs to capture your donor’s attention right away. It needs to be visual and not include a lot of text. The text you do include needs to be engaging, conversational, and donor-centered. Examples could include Thank You, Because of you, or Look what you helped us do.

Yes, communicating by mail costs more, but it can pay off if you create something more personal that your donors will see. Whether you’re saying thank you, sharing an update, or a combination of both, connect with your donors by sending them a postcard.

What to Use When: Letters, Postcards, Catalogs, Folded Newsletters

Fundraising Postcard Ideas

Crafting the Perfect Donation Form: 6 Key Features

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By John Killoran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1. Organization background

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

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

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

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

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2. Donor information

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

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

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

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

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3. Fundraising thermometer

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

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

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

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

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4. Suggested gift amount

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

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

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

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

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5. Payment information

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

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

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

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

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

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6. Recurring gift option

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

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

Recurring gifts are a win-win because:

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

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

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

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

John Killoran

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

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

The Value of Keeping Things Simple

8942956212_3c06d69a16_mOver the years I’ve come to find the value of keeping things simple. In a way, the COVID-19 outbreak has forced us to keep things simple since we’re limited in what we can do, especially outside the house. Instead of running back and forth from place to place, we’re staying put, although we’re spending more time online.

I realize the pandemic has also complicated our lives and brought with it a lot of stress and uncertainty. But during this time, we can find pleasure in simple things such as taking a walk, reading a novel, or baking bread (which is not keeping it simple for me since I don’t bake anything that involves yeast or rolling dough). 

Keeping it simple doesn’t have to mean a bare-bones existence. There’s a Swedish term called lagom meaning everything in moderation or not too much, not too little. Right now, this can apply to how much we read about COVID-19 – enough to know what’s going on, but not too much so it’s overwhelming. 

Keeping things simple is also important for your nonprofit organization. You’re going through a lot. You’ve had to make changes in the way you do your work. That may be providing limited contact or remote services or not be being open at all. Some of you may still be working from home, which can make your work more complicated. 

You need to raise money and communicate with your donors fairly regularly, while not taking on too much. Donors are also going through a lot, but they want to help if they can and they want to hear from you. What they don’t want is a lot of complex content.

Here are a few ways to simplify your communication without making it too difficult for you.

Keep it simple by planning ahead

If communicating regularly with your donors sounds too overwhelming, plan ahead by using a communications calendar. You should be in touch every one to two weeks right now. Fill your calendar with different ways to do that. Think ask, thank, update/engage, repeat. And as I mention below, shorter communication is the way to go.

Keep it simple by sticking to one call to action

Your communication needs to be clear. Before you send an email message or letter, ask what is your intention? Is it to ask for a donation, say thank you, or send an update.

Stick to one call to action. If you pack too much information into your message, it’s likely your donors won’t respond to any of your requests.

In your fundraising appeals, don’t bury your ask. Make it relevant to the current situation. You can start with a story, followed by a clear, polite ask. Recognize your reader. Thank previous donors and invite potential donors to be a part of your family of donors.

Your thank you email or letter should thank the donor. Simple, right? Make them feel good about giving to your organization. Welcome new donors and welcome back returning donors. You don’t need a lot of wordy text explaining what your organization does.

Keep your messages simple, yet sincere, and include a clear call to action.

5 Nonprofit Email Call-to-Actions That Inspire Action

Keep it simple with shorter, easy to read messages

If your communication is too long, most people won’t read it. This is crucial now. People are getting so much information it’s hard to take it all in.

Limit print communication, such as newsletters and annual reports, to four pages or less. Your email messages should be just a few paragraphs. On the other hand, you don’t want to be terse or say too little.

Be sure your communication is easy to read and scan. Use short paragraphs, especially for electronic communication, and include lots of white space. Don’t clutter up the page.

Keep it simple by using conversational language

I find it annoying to read an appeal letter or newsletter article that sounds like a Ph.D. thesis. Write at a sixth to eighth-grade level. That’s what most major newspapers do. This is not dumbing down. You’re being smart by ensuring your donors will understand you.

Keep out the jargon and other confusing language. Instead of saying something like We’re helping underserved communities who are experiencing food insecurity, say  – Thanks to donors like you, we can serve more families at the Eastside Community Food Bank. 

We’re seeing real people being affected by real problems in real time. Don’t diminish this with jargon and other vague language.

Use the active voice and there’s no need to get fancy by using a lot of SAT vocabulary words. Again, you want your donors to understand you.

How Jargon Destroys Nonprofit Fundraising & Marketing

Make it easier for your nonprofit and your donors by keeping things simple.

Photo by One Way Stock

 

Let Your Monthly Donors Know They Matter

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

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

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

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

Check in with your monthly donors

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

Make a request for an additional gift or upgrade

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

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

Do a great job of thanking your monthly donors

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

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

Promote monthly giving

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

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

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

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

Stay in touch with your monthly donors

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

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

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

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

What happens if monthly donors stop giving

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

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

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

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

Good News About Monthly Donors…

Pay attention to expiring credit cards

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

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

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

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

 

How Nonprofits Can Benefit from Remote Work

49833571136_54d28261f7_wThe nonprofit sector is experiencing an urgent need to conduct business from a remote location. The perks of this arrangement include preventing workers and volunteers from contracting illnesses, spending less money on overhead, having people across the world become involved in your organization, and more. However, it does take work to make your organization function in a digital world.

Communication is key

Just about everyone knows that communication is crucial to running a successful organization. However, a remote work environment can make this more challenging. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to be proactive and communicate with your team.

No matter the size of your organization, reaching out to all staff on a regular basis to check in is important. Setting up meetings with tools such as Zoom or Google Hangouts allows you to visually check in with staff and make sure they have what they need to complete their tasks, as well as holding them accountable for their work. This is also a great time to address triumphs and challenges in their day-to-day lives.

Encouraging employees to have casual conversations is also important in building an organizational culture. Instant messaging apps such as Slack or Discord provide a great outlet for employees to talk to one another in a more casual setting. These applications are also great for quick questions and a way for teams to talk throughout the day.

Follow Cybersecurity Best Practices

As a nonprofit, donors and those you serve depend on you to keep their personal information secure. Cybersecurity starts with your employees. It’s important to train everyone affiliated with your organization on cybersecurity best practices. This includes things such as how to identify a phishing email, the importance of using strong passwords, and what to do if they suspect a cyberattack.

It’s also very important to use the proper software. Provide organizational laptops, if you are able to, and require that employees only work on these devices. If this isn’t feasible, stress the importance of staff installing an antivirus program on whichever device they use. In addition, stress the importance of using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if employees are working from a public Wi-Fi network, such as those at libraries and coffee shops if those are open.

If you are the victim of a cyberattack, it’s important to be upfront and honest with donors and the public. Having data backed up in another location will help you put everything back together quicker. However, when it comes to cybersecurity, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Work smarter, not harder

Creating an efficient workflow is important for every organization, but even more so for nonprofits. Technology like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can streamline many day-to-day tasks for your organization. A few examples would be emailing potential donors, donation processing, website chatbots, and tracking for tax and payroll purposes. These automated “bots” can be programmed from any location to perform any task for your organization, and can even make basic decisions on their own.

Automating tasks can help save you money on payroll and overhead, as well as making your organization active 24/7/365. This also frees up your workforce for tasks that require a human touch, such as connecting with donors and the public, creating strategy, and creating content for your nonprofit. In today’s world, this is technology that can be used by organizations of any size.

Be visible

In 2020, having a digital presence is more important than ever. This means having an easy-to-use and up-to-date website; being active on social media platforms; and reaching out to donors, other organizations, and the general public.

One great way to take advantage of online communication is communicating via video chat. Studies have shown that communicating visually is far more effective than audio-only communication. Reaching out to potential donors and volunteers via video is a great way to boost fundraising efforts. Thanking donors with a personalized video call is an excellent substitute for letting someone know you appreciate them if you can’t communicate in person.

Finally, in a sluggish economy, it’s especially important to communicate with the general public about what you’re doing and that you’re still active in the community. You can do this with frequent posting by email and on social media platforms, as well as encouraging staff to share updates on their own personal accounts.

In today’s unprecedented times, nonprofit organizations are some of the first to struggle. However, this does not mean that work needs to come to a standstill. Remote work and e-commerce are critically important today, and this trend will only continue in the future. Working to create a strong remote workplace will benefit your organization now, and in years to come. 

Make #GivingTuesdayNow a True Day of Giving

givtuesnow_logo_stacked Blue FINALwebYou may have heard that May 5th is #GivingTuesdayNow. It’s being billed as a day of giving and unity. 

I hope that’s the case because the year-end #GivingTuesday is more about asking and sometimes even begging. Just like everything else now, we need to change the ways we do things. This needs to be a true day of giving. Don’t make it the usual money grab. 

You may or may not be planning to participate. Don’t feel as if you need to, although you should be raising money now. If you’re not, you’ll be in trouble. Please don’t stop fundraising.

Many donors are being very generous right now. That may take a dip soon.

3 Phases of the Coronavirus Crisis and How Your Fundraising will Improve and be Stronger as You Move into the Third Phase

The post below spells out five reasons you should be fundraising now. The first one being – You won’t raise any money if you don’t ask.

5 Great Examples of Electronic Donation Solicitations During Covid-19

Perhaps you’ve participated in giving days in the past and they’ve been successful, or maybe they weren’t. Perhaps you’re planning to participate in one for the first time. Maybe you’re wondering if it’s best to just skip it, which doesn’t mean skipping out on fundraising altogether.

Should My Nonprofit Start a #GivingTuesdayNow Campaign on May 5?

#GivingTuesdayNow: The Pros and Cons of Participating

A successful giving campaign is about more than just raising a lot of money. You also want to build relationships and make your donors feel good about supporting your organization. This is often where it falls short.

Given the current situation, it’s vital that you concentrate on the gratitude and relationship building components. Don’t just blast a bunch of generic appeals.

I have a few suggestions to help make #GivingTuesdayNow more successful if you decide to participate in it and other alternatives if you don’t.

Address what’s happening now

Your fundraising appeals must address how the COVID-19 situation is affecting your organization and specifically detail how your donors can help the people/community you serve. 

Again, don’t send vague, generic appeals. The fact that it’s #GivingTuesdayNow probably won’t mean much to your donors. They need a compelling reason to donate to your organization.

Segment your donors

Segmentation is more important than ever. If donors have given in the last month or so, don’t ask them again right now. You can ask your year-end donors, but be sure to thank them for that gift.

The Importance of Segmenting Your Donors

Also, if you’re sending an appeal to your monthly donors who haven’t given an additional gift recently, recognize them as monthly donors. They can either upgrade or give an additional gift. They get their own thank you, too. 

Should You Thank Monthly Donors Who Make an Extra Gift?

Serve extra helpings of #donorlove

Your donors should be feeling the love right after they make their donation.

Make sure you have an engaging thank you landing page and thank you email for your online donors. You could even create ones especially for #GivingTuesdayNow, but don’t feel like you have to. Just make it special. Then you need to follow that with a more personalized thank you.

Give Your Donors the Best Thank You Possible

Here’s where segmentation comes into play again. Send a welcome email to new donors. Acknowledge your current donors and let them know how important their support is, especially if they’re giving additional donations.

In the past, giving days have had a transactional feel to them. That can’t happen right now. Go the extra mile and do a good job of thanking these donors – both right after they’ve made their donation and throughout the year. 

Remember to stay in touch and build relationships.

Other alternatives

If you don’t want to launch a full #GivingTuesdayNow campaign (understandable), you can use it to follow up with people who haven’t donated to your emergency or spring appeal. 

Maybe you’ll decide to bypass it altogether. Keep in mind other organizations will be participating. I don’t know how many, but your messages could be competing with a lot of appeals. 

You have an opportunity to stand out here by keeping your fundraising campaign focused on gratitude and relationship building. You want to ramp up your donor communication so people don’t think you’re only asking them for money.

I think you’ll find your #GivingTuesdayNow campaign, or any fundraising campaign, will be more successful if you focus on making it a true day of giving, which means giving back to your donors.

Giving comes in many shapes and sizes. Give back to your community, if you can. You can also give to yourself. What you need now? Maybe it’s a Zoom gathering with friends or some solitude. Keep staying safe and be well.

How to do a Better Job of Donor Engagement

1411805770_c4776a4e8a_wDonor engagement is always important, and it’s especially important right now. Your inclination may be to do less when you actually should be doing more.

Donor Communications: Now is the time for MORE communications, not less

I’d put your more formal newsletter on hold right now and send short updates instead. This will help you stay in touch more often. Aim for once a week, if you can, or every other week. I’ve been advocating for shorter, more frequent updates for a while and now is a good time to start doing this.

In the best of times, nonprofit organizations don’t do a very good job with their donor engagement. Both by not communicating enough and/or sending something that’s uninspiring.

The fact that you have a donor newsletter doesn’t mean you’re engaging with people. Most newsletters are boring and organization-centered. Often they contain articles that don’t interest your donors. That needs to change.

Here are a few ways to do a better job with your donor engagement – both now and in the future.

Relevance rules

Your updates must be relevant to the current COVID-19 situation. Otherwise, it’s beyond clueless. Try to send updates in which you aren’t asking for donations. You can still do fundraising in separate messages. In fact, you should still be fundraising. Share success stories if you can.

HOW TO BE RELEVANT NOW (AND WHAT NOT TO SAY)

Some organizations are sharing their 2019 annual reports. Doing this now emphasizes how quickly an annual report becomes out of date. If you had sent it in January or February, it would have been more relevant. 

Perhaps your annual report was already in the works, so if you feel you must share it now, you have to reference the current situation.

Should we send our scheduled appeal/newsletter/annual report in the midst of COVID-19?

Remember that an annual report is for your donors, and do you think your donors are that interested in what you did last year?

Your donors are interested in what you’re doing NOW. 

Being donor-centered is key

After all, it’s donor engagement, not organizational engagement. Think about what your donors want to hear. Most likely it’s how you’re making difference for the people/community you serve during this time of crisis. Let your donors know how they’re helping you with this.

I realize nonprofits have gone to great lengths to change the way they do things. That’s great, but don’t brag about your organization. Maybe you run a community dinner every Thursday and now you have to serve boxed to-go meals. Instead of patting yourself on the back explaining how you were able to pull this off, say something like – Thanks to donors like you, we are able to continue providing much-needed healthy dinners to people in the community.

Focus on your mission

Why you’re doing something is more important than how or what. If your homeless shelter has to take on extra measures to keep it clean, emphasize the importance of the health and safety of your clients, many of whom are at greater risk of getting COVID-19. You want to continue to provide them with a safe place where they will be treated with dignity and respect.

If you decide to do your usual monthly e-newsletter, don’t give it the subject line April Newsletter. A better subject line would be – Find out how you’re helping families continue to put food on the table.

All stories/articles should pertain to the current situation. You can thank your major funders, in fact, you should thank all your donors, but bring your focus back to your mission. 

Find ways to stay in touch

It shouldn’t be that hard to find something to share. Remember, shorter is better. Maybe just one subject consisting of a few paragraphs. Your donors don’t want something that’s going to require too much attention. You could also go the visual route by including a photo or video.

An organization that works with immigrants and refugees had a group of people make masks for health care workers and posted a picture of the colorful masks they made.

Museums are offering virtual tours. Some theatres are showing videos of performances. If you’re an environmental organization, you could share nature photos or videos. If you work with animals, pictures of our furry friends are always welcome.

You could send an advocacy alert. These are a great way to engage without asking for a donation. One organization is asking people to contact their federal legislators to make it easier for people to get food stamps, which would reduce the burden on food banks.

Maybe you could use some volunteer help. In my last post, I mentioned getting volunteers to help with thank you calls or personalized emails. Perhaps you have other projects for virtual volunteers. Give a shout-out to any volunteers who are helping you right now.

This is a good time to revise your communications calendar to help you plan ways to stay in touch during this time.

HEARTBEATS AND REMARKABLES OF NONPROFIT COMMUNICATIONS

Use the right channels

Most likely you’ll communicate by email and social media. Monitor what channels your donors are using. If only a handful of people are on Instagram, don’t use it much. Pay attention to their engagement and track open rates, click-throughs, likes, comments, etc. Of course, people may miss your electronic messages, which is one of the reasons you should communicate regularly.

Send something by mail if you can. You could also use the phone if you’ve established a connection with people that way. Maybe they gave a donation to help you get laptops for your tutoring programs. You can let them know that the kids and their tutors are meeting via Zoom so they can continue their weekly reading time.

Be sure to keep your website up to date, too. It needs to address the current situation on your home page, donation page, and other sections that include updates.

Pay attention to your donor retention 

Good donor engagement often leads to good donor retention. As the economy worsens, it will be harder for some people to give this year, but hopefully, they’ll give again when they can.

They may give less or cut back on organizations they donate to. Don’t let yours be one of them. They might decide between the organization that sends handwritten notes or the one that just blasts generic fundraising appeals.

The need for nonprofits will grow for a while. You’ll need your donors and keeping them engaged will help you get through the tough times ahead.

Donor Preservation in the Pandemic

Stay safe, wear a mask when you’re out in public, be well, and practice random or not so random acts of kindness as much as possible.

Give Your Donors the Best Thank You Possible

44eb5-5386099858_4fe6c8bf1bI hope both you and your nonprofit organization are doing okay right now.

You may have seen an increase in giving over the last few weeks. In times of crisis, people want to do something. They want to help if they can.

I’ve seen an upswing of kindness lately. Now you need to extend that same kindness back to your donors. Give them the best thank you possible. Donors are going through a lot, but some of them took the time to give you a donation.

Thanking donors is often treated as a last-minute to-do item instead of an equally important component of fundraising. Just as you shouldn’t stop fundraising, you shouldn’t stop thanking your donors. I know it’s harder now, but you can do it.

Quality counts

Don’t worry so much about the 48-hour rule right now. Concentrate on quality. That goes for every aspect of the thank you experience – the landing page, the automatic thank you email, the additional note/letter or phone call. Don’t give your donors the same old, boring stuff.

Create an engaging thank you landing page

Just like your fundraising material, your thank you communication needs to address the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Create a landing page that addresses the current situation. Perhaps you’re conducting an emergency campaign. Even if you’re not, a huge dose of gratitude needs to pop up on your landing page. Open it with Thank you, Diane! or You’re amazing!

Your landing page is a great place for a short thank you video from your Executive Director or Board Chair. She should specifically explain how your gift is helping the people/community you serve. For example – Thank you so much for your generous gift to the Eastside Community Food Bank. We’re seeing a huge number of people coming in right now. Your gift will help us continue to provide healthy meals for neighborhood residents.

If it’s too hard to create a video, you could include similar text with a photo of volunteers handing out food.

Here’s an example of a message I saw on a nonprofit’s landing page.

We greatly appreciate your gift to our COVID-19 Emergency Services Fund and are glad to count on the ongoing support of friends like you to help us provide vital services to men and women on their journey out of homelessness.

Make that automatically generated email sound like it’s coming from a human

The advantage of the automatically generated thank you email is you can get a message out right away. The disadvantage is it often sounds like it was written by a robot.

There’s absolutely no reason this email can’t sound warm and personal. Again, get specific such as the examples above. It’s hard to personalize these too much, but this is the initial thank you. You’ll send a more personal one later. 

You may be able to distinguish between single and monthly gifts. Speaking of monthly gifts, I often get acknowledgments every month for my monthly gifts. It’s time to stop sending the usual generic thank you email and specifically address how the current situation is affecting your organization, because I know it is.

Taking your thank yous to the next level

I like to recommend a thank you by mail, preferably a handwritten note. Communicating by mail may not be feasible if your staff is working from home. Also, I know some people are skittish about dealing with mail during the outbreak.

If you can mail handwritten notes, that’s great. If you don’t have organizational thank you cards, you could get some generic ones.

Other alternatives are thanking by phone, personalized email, and/or personalized video. This is contingent on what type of contact information you have for your donors.

Now you want to rally a team of board members, staff, and other volunteers to help with this. Most people are home right now, so they should be able to devote a few hours a week to thanking donors.

Send them phone numbers and email addresses, along with a sample script. You want to try to personalize it as much as possible. This will be more work, but it pays off in the end.

Here are a couple of sample scripts/notes.

Hi Jeff,

This is Bonnie Peterson and I’m a board member at the Eastside Community Food Bank. Thank you so much for your generous gift of $50 to our emergency fund. We’re seeing a huge number of people coming in right now. Your gift will help us continue to provide healthy meals for neighborhood residents. We really appreciate your support at this time.

If you get someone on the line, be prepared to have a conversation if they ask any questions. It’s also fine to leave a voice mail message.

Dear Laura,

Thank you so much for your generous gift of $50 in addition to your already generous monthly gifts. We really appreciate donors like you who are helping keep our food pantry stocked and operating during this difficult time for our clients.

Thank you again. We are so grateful for your support.

Sincerely,

Amy Stevens
Executive Director

Keep in mind that your donors may not notice your email message because they’re getting so many right now. It will help if you include an enticing subject line such as Thanks from Meg at Reach Out And Read!

The subject line above is from an email message I received that included a personalized video.

This is something you could do. I was pleasantly surprised to receive such a nice thank you message.

If your donors don’t notice or open your email, you’ll have another opportunity to say thank you by mail as soon as it’s possible for you to do that. 

No donation is too small

Every donor, whether she gives $5.00 or $500,000, gets an amazing thank you. People want to give, but some people can’t afford to give much right now, if at all.

Keep sending thank you messages to all your donors, whether or not they’ve given recently. You can’t say thank you enough. 

Thanking donors in the future

In the future, let’s plan to go beyond transactional receipts. Remove those words from your landing pages and thank you letters. Create thank you templates that ooze with gratitude.

Create a gratitude practice

Cultivating a gratitude practice, both at your organization and in your personal life, will help you create an attitude of gratitude.

I used to work at an organization where we began each staff meeting saying what we were thankful for, trying to ensure everyone got thanked. This is something you could do now if you’re having virtual staff meetings.

In your personal life, find a time each day to think of a few things you’re thankful for. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. Maybe you notice the azaleas blooming as you take a walk, practicing social distancing of course. Maybe it’s your family and friends. Maybe it’s chocolate.

Be well.