Don’t Be a Stranger

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I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard much lately from the nonprofits I support. There’s been a scattering of updates, e-newsletters, action alerts, and appeals. But mostly – silence.

I know it’s quieter time, but that doesn’t mean you need to go AWOL. You should be communicating with your donors at least once a month. In fact, the period between campaigns is an excellent time to reach out. You don’t want to be a stranger. And, since many nonprofits seem to have decided to take a break from donor communication (not a wise decision), your message will be one of the few they’ll receive.

Here are some ways to show your donors that you’re not a stranger.

Share an update

Let your donors know how they’re helping you make a difference. Send something by mail if you can. Maybe a two-page update or infographic postcard. Here’s one of my favorites. Knock it Out of the Park  If it’s impossible to send something by mail right now, you can use email.

Say thank you

Thank your donors just because. Send them a nice thank you card or you can combine a thank you and an update. Have some fun and get creative here. 15 Creative Ways to Thank Donors

Create a better newsletter

You may already keep in touch with your newsletter. Newsletters can be a great way to engage, but before you get too complacent, I have to ask you, Is Your Newsletter Boring? Many of them are, but yours doesn’t have to be.

A good summer project for you is to create a better newsletter. Find some engaging stories to share. Think about what your donors want – Hint – It’s not a lot of bragging. 3 Ways Your Nonprofit Newsletter is Killing You

The general rule for newsletters is a monthly e-newsletter and four quarterly print newsletters. I like to recommend a short (maybe two articles) e-newsletter every two weeks. Our inboxes are overflowing right now. This way you can stay in touch regularly and not bombard people with too much information at once.

Tie in current events

There’s a lot going in the world right now. Will your organization be affected by any of the Trump administration’s policies or proposed budget cuts? Share ways your donors can help – perhaps by contacting their legislators, volunteering, or making a donation.

Focus on relationship building in your appeal

If you’re doing a fundraising appeal this spring, make the main focus relationship building. Thank donors for their past support, share some updates, and show them how their gift will help you make a difference.

Invite long-term donors to join your family of monthly donors. Send a special letter to your lapsed donors letting them know you miss them and want them back.

If you also did a year-end appeal, some of your donors may be reluctant to give again so soon. You certainly can ask for more than one gift a year, but why now?  Don’t just ask for a donation. Make a compelling case and stay focused on relationship building.

Don’t lose momentum

After I made a bunch of monthly gifts last year, several organizations sent me monthly thank you letters either by mail or email. This went on for a couple of months and then it pretty much stopped. Last month I only received two thank you letters. What happened here?

It’s easy to ride on all that year-end energy, but you have to keep it up. Whether it’s thank you letters to monthly donors or e-newsletters, once you start, you can’t stop. What kind of message does that send?  Use a communications calendar to help you communicate regularly.

Your donors want to hear from you throughout the year. Don’t be a stranger.

 

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Why You Need a Communications Calendar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Events

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

Legislation

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

Time of year

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

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

News stories

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

Fundraising and recruitment

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

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

Thank your donors

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

Ongoing content

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

Create a story bank to help you with this.

Keep it up

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

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

Evergreen Editorial Calendar

2017 Nonprofit Editorial Calendar Template

Editorial Calendars – Resources for You

Why Editorial Calendars Help Nonprofits

Make Spring Relationship Building Season

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This may or may not be a busy time for your organization. Some organizations do fundraising appeals or hold events in the spring. Others don’t. Either way, you should make spring relationship building season.

Of course, relationship building needs to be a year-round effort.  Donor relations is an important, but often overlooked, component of fundraising.  It’s easier and less expensive to keep your current donors.  Retention rates are getting better, but we still have a long way to go.

Put relationship building front and center this spring.

Find ways to build relationships in your spring fundraising campaign

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

Be sure to segment your donors and personalize your appeal letters and thank you letters. Send welcome packets to new donors and shower your current donors with love.  Make a plan to stay in touch throughout the year.

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

When you hold an event, give your attendees an opportunity to sign up for your mailing list. Then call or send thank you notes afterwards.  Recruit volunteers and board members to help you with this.

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.

Stay in touch. Event attendees can be potential individual donors if you give them a good reason to continue to support you.

Keep building relationships

Even if you aren’t planning a spring fundraising drive or event, this is a good time to continue to build relationships.  Plan to mail a thank you post card or short update.  Mail is generally better than email, because your donors are more likely to see your message, but if your budget doesn’t allow it, send something by email.

Practice your ABC’s – Always be connecting

Ideally, you should keep 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 stay donor-centered and use channels your donors prefer.

If this sounds too stressful, use a communications calendar to help you stay connected and build relationships. Stay Connected Throughout the Year by Using a Communications Calendar

Never miss an opportunity to build relationships with your donors.

What’s Important to You – Cash, or Relationships with Donors?

Stay Connected Throughout the Year by Using a Communications Calendar

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Donor retention continues to lag. One reason is people feel they only hear from the nonprofits they support when the organizations are asking for money.

You need to communicate with your donors throughout the year.  If you’re feeling stressed about 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 out 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.

Keep all your communication audience-centered and emphasize how you are making a difference for the people you serve and in the community.

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 is pertinent to your organization? Perhaps it’s homelessness awareness month or your organization was founded in March 1985.

Thanksgiving, the holidays, and winter can be a difficult time for some people. How can you weave that into your mission?

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

Fundraising and recruitment

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

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

Thank your donors
Figure out different ways to let your donors know how much you appreciate them. Do this at least once a month.

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

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

Here is more information to help you create a communications/editorial calendar.

Take Charge of Your Communications with LightBox Collaborative’s 2015 Editorial Calendar

Editorial Calendars – Resources for You