The Importance of Building Relationships

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One of the most important things nonprofit organizations need to do is build relationships with their donors. Building relationships should be front and center in everything you do. Here are some ways you can incorporate building relationships in every aspect of your work.

Appeal letters aren’t just about raising money

You may think the primary purpose of an appeal letter is to raise money, but building relationships is just as important.

Before your next fundraising appeal, send your donors an update to let them know how they’re helping you make a difference. This is especially important if you do more than one fundraising campaign a year. You don’t want your donors to think the only time they hear from you is when you’re asking for money.

Don’t send the same appeal to everyone on your mailing list. It’s crucial that you segment your donors and personalize your appeal letters. What is your relationship with these people? Maybe they’ve given once or many times. Perhaps they’re event attendees, volunteers, e-newsletter subscribers, or friends of board members. Mention your relationship in your appeal letter. For example, thank a long-term donor for supporting you these past five years.

Let your donors know how much you appreciate them

Your focus on building relationships continues when you thank your donors. Send a handwritten note or make a phone call if you can.

Send welcome packets to your new donors. Let them know how much you appreciate this new relationship. If you don’t, it’s likely to be a short-term relationship.

Be sure to also shower your current donors with love to keep your relationship going.

Don’t miss out on opportunities to build relationships with your event attendees

I’m amazed how many organizations fail to establish a relationship when they hold an event. First, give your attendees an opportunity to sign up for your mailing list. Next, call or send thank you notes afterwards.

Besides thanking people for attending your event, let them know how much money you raised, and share specific ways their support is helping you make a difference. Then invite these supporters to connect in other ways such as signing up to receive your newsletter or volunteering.

The same thing applies if you hold a charity run or walkathon. These events often generate new donors. Someone might donate to your 10K because her friend is running in it. Thank everyone who donated and invite them to be a part of your community.

Turn a giving day into a relationship building day

My main objection to giving days, such as GivingTuesday, is they focus so much on asking. Instead of being part of the relentless begging, send a donor-centered appeal followed by a heartfelt thank you, new donor welcome packets, and an invitation to connect with you in other ways.

Relationship building is a year-round effort

It’s easier to stay focused on donors when you’re sending an appeal or thank you, but this is just the beginning. Many organizations seem to go on communication hiatus at certain times of the year, and you don’t want to do that.

Ideally, you should keep in touch with your donors every one to two weeks. You can do this with newsletters, updates, thank you messages, advocacy alerts, and surveys. You’ll have a better chance of building relationships if you keep your messages donor-centered and use channels your donors prefer.

Staying focused on building relationships will help you with your donor retention because you want donors who will support you for a long time.

Giving is Up. Donor Retention is Down. What to Do?

Why Your Donor Will Give Again  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Can Learn from Your Donors

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Do you know why your donors give to your organization? Most likely they feel a connection to your cause. Most of us are good people and we want to help others.

I’m very upset about the results of the recent U.S. presidential election, which prompted me to donate to organizations that will help people/communities who will be left behind in the next administration.

There’s no question that nonprofit organizations do good work, but as a donor, I feel that many aren’t good at communicating this or making a personal connection with me.  

You hear a lot about how important it is to be donor-centered, but organizations need to practice this. You need to think from your donors’ perspective. This is what’s important to us.

Why should I give to your organization?

Why is it important to give to your organization now?  It doesn’t matter to me that it’s your annual appeal, #GivingTuesday, or the end of your fiscal year. I want to hear how you’re helping people or the community.

I don’t want a bunch of boring statistics either. Tell me a story. Show me how I can help make a difference for someone or in the community.

I also don’t need to hear about how great your organization is. If I’m a current donor, I wouldn’t have supported you if I hadn’t thought highly of you.

Do you really know me?

I’m barraged with fundraising appeals, especially at the end of the year. Some of them are from organizations I support and others aren’t. There’s not much difference between them. Most are generic with no regard for who I am. I guess I expect that from organizations I don’t support.

But it bothers me when organizations I’ve supported for many years never acknowledge that. It’s not that hard to segment your letters or add a handwritten note.

I’m always thankful for the few organizations who take the time to be more personal.

Let me know that you appreciate my gift

The generic automatically generated thank you email doesn’t cut it. I need something better. Let me know how much you appreciate my gift.

If I’m a new donor, welcome me.  If I’ve given before, thank me for my continued support.  Surprise me with a phone call, handwritten note, or at the very least, a heartfelt letter. Say Thank You Like You Mean It

I made a number of first-time donations this year, many of them monthly gifts. I’m curious to see how many of these organizations welcome me and do anything special for monthly donors.

Use language I understand

I don’t use words like at-risk and underserved and neither should you. Your jargon is boring and makes me gloss over your letter. Instead of using the term food insecurity, tell me families have to choose between buying groceries or paying the heating bill. Use plain language to help me understand your messages.  10 plain English principles for writing better web content

This feels like a transaction

Many fundraising appeals focus more on the transaction than the relationship. Yes, you’re trying to raise money, but you should also try to build a relationship with me.

I make a majority of my donations on #GivingTuesday. I almost dread opening my email inbox because there’s a relentless stream of Donate Now messages.

As a donor, I like the idea of #GivingTuesday and I’m always happy if there’s an opportunity for a matching gift, but it’s very transactional, and that includes the thank you experience or lack there of.

Whether you participate in #GivingTuesday or not, please keep your relationship with me front and center.

Don’t ignore me

After I give a donation, I want you to stay in touch, and that doesn’t mean blasting me with appeals. Send me updates on how my gift is making a difference.

Very few organizations do that and do it well. I’m always grateful when I get an endearing update like the one in this post. Knock it Out of the Park

Remember, your donors give to your organization because they care about what you do. Show them that you care about them, as well.

It’s #Giving Tuesday Not Asking Tuesday

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

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

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

Focus on relationship building

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

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

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

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

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

Show some #donorlove

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

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

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

How did you do?  

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

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

Low-Cost Fundraising: 6 Innovative Ideas

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By Kerri Moore

It’s hard to raise money and it’s more difficult if you have limited resources. In this post, Kerri Moore of Booster has some low-cost fundraising ideas for you. Some don’t even involve asking for money but emphasize building relationships with the donors you already have.


Low-cost fundraising isn’t just about saving your nonprofit some extra cash.

After all, a cost can be:

  • The time it takes to plan and execute a fundraising campaign or event.
  • The labor of your staff, volunteers, and fundraising team.
  • Net fundraising expenses, which you can measure as cost per dollar.

This might sound paradoxical, but to keep all of your costs low, your organization will need to make an investment. 1

An investment in your donors, that is.

It’s much more expensive to acquire new donors than it is to work with the supporters you already have.

That’s why building up donor relationships is the best way to keep fundraising costs low.

Check out these six innovative ideas that focus on your nonprofit’s relationship with your donors:

  1. Brand t-shirts and products.
  2. Strategize with social media.
  3. Host a thank-a-thon.
  4. Leverage your supporters.
  5. Host a community drive.
  6. Appeal for recurring donations.

Let’s get started with number 1.

1. Brand t-shirts and products.

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Low-cost product fundraisers are an effective way to entice donors to give without breaking your budget.

But to create long-term low-cost fundraising, you’ll need to brand your products so that donors become invested in your organization.

T-shirts are one of the most effective products, but there are plenty of options that can suit your organization’s needs, whether it be a school, church, or traditional nonprofit. 2

That said, t-shirts for your fundraising campaign allow supporters to:

  • Support your organization with a donation.
  • Promote your nonprofit by wearing the shirt and spreading the word.
  • Remind your supporters of your nonprofit and their connection to your cause.

That’s why it’s vital that you brand your t-shirts or products with the name of your fundraising campaign and/or your nonprofit’s name and logo.

Make your cause tangible on the shirts, so that anyone who sees them can understand your message. 3

Since t-shirts can be extremely affordable, or even free (with a cost per shirt sold, rather than an upfront charge), they’ll help keep your costs low. 4

2. Strategize with social media.

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With rising print costs, communicating and advertising over mail can be a strain on your organization’s budget.

While we would never advise that you forgo print communication channels, a strong social media strategy can supplement your print efforts and diminish your donor acquisition costs.

After all, social media allows your supporters to share information about your nonprofit with their own networks. Many peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns capitalize on social media for this very reason.

Producing quality material for social media is important and the internet offers plenty of free or affordable software to help you advertise on the web. 5

Social media integration for your online fundraising platform is important, and mobile-friendly pages are a must. 6

Beyond the technical basics, how can you use social media to keep your costs low?

  • Spread awareness with a hashtag. A hashtag is the perfect tool to advertise your fundraising campaign, and they’re free to make! You will, however, want to take the time to choose a hashtag that encompasses your campaign. Something simple, something catchy, an alluring alliteration — all of these factors are elements of a strong hashtag.
  • Host a soft launch. One of the most cost-effective means of building hype for your campaign is hosting a soft launch, where your supporters and board members donate to your campaign before it’s launched to the public. A soft launch taps into social psychology. If people see that others have already donated, then they’ll be more inclined to give themselves.
  • Live tweet your campaign. Twitter allows you to update your followers on your fundraising campaign — for free! A social media coordinator can post live updates about your campaign. A little wit goes a long way. You could, for example, tie your campaign into current, trending topics to attract retweets and favorites.

Creating an effective social media strategy is the perfect low-cost way to advertise your campaign and connect with more supporters.

3. Host a thank-a-thon.

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If you’ve heard of walkathons, you’ll get the gist of a thank-a-thon. 7  Your fundraising team, as well as volunteers, board members, and supporters, come together for an hour or two of pure gratitude to thank people for their recent donations.

If you can’t call everyone during the thank-a-thon, call major or mid-level donors with major donor potential. Calling first-time donors often results in repeat gifts.

This fundraising strategy does not involve asking for money.

Instead, you’re building stronger donor relationships in a single, deliberate effort, which will ultimately benefit your fundraising down the road. 8

A thank-a-thon is a low-cost activity that you can modify to suit your needs.

Besides making calls, you can, for example:

  • Hand-write thank you notes.
  • Thank each social media supporter in the comments.
  • Have each team member hold up a sign with a donor’s name, take a picture, and post it to your campaign’s Facebook page.

The possibilities are endless.

The goal is to go beyond your typical thanking strategy to ensure that your donors feel more appreciated at your organization than they do anywhere else.   

4. Leverage your supporters.

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Keeping your fundraising costs low means using the resources you already have to your advantage.

You can reach out to your supporters directly, or you can perform preliminary research and make targeted appeals. 9

Here are just a few ideas of how you can leverage your supporters:

  • Board members can host events. A fancy, intimate event is a staple of major donor relations, but venues, food, and entertainment costs can add up quickly. A board member may be able to offer a nice property or valuable connections that can cut overhead costs. Take 10 minutes during a meeting to have each member write down three possible contributions that they could offer.
  • Hold a skills clinic. Everyone has talent. Your organization is probably full of people with unique skill sets. A skills clinic allows your supporters to contribute to your organization and the community, all while having fun at a unique and cost-effective event.
  • Promote matching gifts. Many companies offer matching gifts opportunities, where a company will match their employees’ gifts. Taking a look at your supporters’ business affiliations can indicate who’s sitting on a donation that could be doubled. You can also promote matching gifts to your entire organization so that everyone is aware of the opportunity.

Whether you’re looking for business affiliations or valuable connections, keeping an organized database of your supporters can help you identify the people with the potential to offset costs — and further your cause! 10

5. Host a community drive.

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A community drive not only benefits your nonprofit, but it helps your community!

There are plenty of different ways that this type of campaign can work, but the concept is the same: supporters supply the products, and your nonprofit makes a nearly pure profit.

Here are some ideas for community drives that your organization can try:

  • Bottle and can drive.
  • Upcycled artwork.
  • Prom dress drive.
  • Used batteries.
  • Old cell phones.
  • Used book sale.

You can even turn some of these drives into an event or an auction to promote more fundraising. 11

Ultimately, your product drive should help people in your community or the environment.

The most important part of pulling off a community drive is spreading awareness so that people donate their recyclables or gently used products.

6. Appeal for recurring donations.

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A fundraising campaign can reap great rewards for your nonprofit, but part of keeping your cost-to-benefit ratio in good territory means planning for long-term success.

Recurring donations are a means for donors to continue their support after your fundraising campaign ends.

Creating a strong appeal for recurring donations can encourage supporters to make more than a one-time, in-the-moment donation when they give to your campaign. 12

You can, for example, emphasize the simplicity and ease of recurring donations (especially at churches, where recurring tithes are an easy way for supporters to make their weekly contributions). 13

Or, you can craft your campaign’s focus around recurring donations. For example, you can suggest that supporters give up one $30 meal per month to feed hungry children for 30 days. Hashtag with #30for30, and you’re set for low-cost fundraising!

Are you ready to innovate your low-cost fundraising? Well, don’t forget to keep your donors in mind.

Their relationships with your nonprofit are priceless, so building strong connections is the most cost-effective fundraising you can do!

Sources
  1. https://anngreennonprofit.com/2015/11/24/make-an-investment-in-your-donors/
  2. http://blog.booster.com/school-fundraising-ideas/
  3. https://anngreennonprofit.com/2015/03/04/steer-clear-of-generic/
  4. https://doublethedonation.com/product-fundraising-ideas/
  5. https://anngreennonprofit.com/2012/06/27/choose-quality-over-quantity-part-two-social-media/
  6. https://doublethedonation.com/nonprofit-software-and-resources/online-fundraising-guide/
  7. http://blog.booster.com/walkathon-guide/
  8. https://anngreennonprofit.com/2015/07/13/dont-treat-thanking-your-donors-as-an-afterthought/
  9. http://www.donorsearch.net/
  10. https://www.360matchpro.com/top-matching-gift-companies/
  11. http://www.bidpal.com/charity-auction-item-ideas/
  12. https://anngreennonprofit.com/2015/09/02/how-to-create-an-a-appeal-letter/
  13. https://www.atpay.com/church-management-tips/

Kerri Moore is the Director of Marketing at Booster, Created by CustomInk. She Headshot-Kerri-Mooreand her team help create content aimed at maximizing organizers’ fundraising potential and furthering their mission to raise awareness for the cause or passion that means the most to them.

Why Having an Open House Makes Sense

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If you’re stuck trying to figure out a special way to show appreciation to your donors, how about having 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.

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 fortunate to live someplace where it doesn’t snow. And summer’s not good since most people are off in vacationland.

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 put you to sleep. 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 fleeing the room.

Create some photo displays and have literature available. You could also show a video on a laptop. Offer tours, if that makes sense. 7 Tips to Create an Amazing Donor Cultivation Tour

Let your donors and other supporters see the heart and soul of your organization.

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.

How to Get Everyone in your Organization on the Same Page

The Big Mistake That’s Hurting Your Nonprofit (and How to Fix It)

Don’t forget about the follow-up

Anyone who has taken time out of her/his busy schedule to attend your open house needs to be showered with love. Nonprofits often 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).

When you do send your next appeal, 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! This will help ensure they’ll continue to support you. That’s why having an open house makes sense.