Moving Away from Transactional Fundraising

Unfortunately, we’re looking at another tough year for fundraising. I’ve heard some people predict donations will decrease, while others say they’ll increase.

In this era of uncertainty, who knows? That doesn’t mean you should stop fundraising. Not at all. You just need to do it better. 

You may think the most important component of fundraising is raising money. While that’s important, so is building relationships with your donors. 

It’s hard to keep raising money if you don’t build a good relationship with your donors. Every single interaction with your donors needs to focus on building relationships. That includes fundraising appeals. It’s possible to raise money and build relationships at the same time.

You’ll have more success if you move away from transactional fundraising and focus on building relationships. Here are some suggestions.

Stop using transactional language

First, the word transaction should not appear anywhere in your fundraising. Sometimes I see the words “Transaction complete”after I make an online donation. That’s not giving me a nice warm and fuzzy feeling at all. I made a gift not a transaction.

Even more prevalent is the word receipt, which is often used in lieu of thank you. After a donor makes a gift, they should be feeling a lot of appreciation from you. 

Here are some actual thank you email subject lines I received recently.

“Your Recurring Donation Receipt” 

“Payment Receipt” 

This again is emphasizing the transaction. Payment information should not be the lead of any type of thank you. 

Contrast those with these ones that really emphasize their appreciation.

“Thank you for your generous gift”

“You are wonderful!”

This post by Richard Perry Avoiding Transactional Terms in Fundraising mentions other terms such as prospect and annual fund. These are often internal terms, but they reduce donors to a monetary unit. 

When organizations lead their fundraising appeals by saying “It’s our annual appeal” or “It’s GivingTuesday,” they’re not connecting with their donors by concentrating on why donors give. 

Many donors don’t care that it’s your year-end appeal. They care about your work and want to help. Instead, say something like, How you can help families put food on the table. 

Make relationship building part of your fundraising campaigns

You need to build relationships before, during, and after each of your fundraising campaigns.

Before your next 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.

Segment your donors

One way to help ensure you’re focusing on relationships is to segment your donors and personalize your appeal letters and other types of donor communication. 

Don’t send the same appeal to everyone on your mailing list. What is your relationship with these individuals? 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-time donor for supporting you these past five years.

Monthly donors get their own appeal letter. This doesn’t happen enough and it’s one of my biggest pet peeves. Build relationships with these committed donors. Recognize they’re monthly donors and either invite them to upgrade their gift or give an additional donation.

Segmenting Your Donors is More Important Than Ever

Create an attitude of gratitude

Your focus on building relationships continues when you thank your donors. Many organizations do a poor job with this. Send a handwritten note or make a phone call, if you can.

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

Be sure to also shower your current donors with love to keep your relationship going. Do something special for donors who have supported you for several years.

Make sure your donors get a heartfelt thank you, not something that resembles a receipt.

Thanking donors is something you can do at any time of the year. I think one of the best ways to connect is by sending a handwritten note.  I recently received a holiday card and a mug full of Lindt chocolate from a small, local nonprofit. It definitely warmed my heart, although you can always win me over with chocolate.

Holiday cards are a nice way to reach out, but don’t put a donation envelope in one. You have other opportunities to make appeals. Make it 100% about showing appreciation.

You can also send thank you cards at other times of the year. If money is tight, spread out your mailings over the year so each donor gets at least one card.

Don’t miss out on opportunities to build relationships

There are many ways you can build relationships with your donors throughout the year. This is so important right now.

You can give donors other opportunities to connect, such as volunteering, participating in advocacy alerts, and signing up for your newsletter. Done well, a newsletter or other form of an update is a good relationship-building tool. You could also offer virtual tours or Zoom discussions.

I’m amazed that after I attend an event, support someone in a walkathon, or give a memorial gift, most organizations don’t do a good job of building a relationship. I could be a potential long-time donor. Personally, I would never give a memorial gift or support someone in a charity walk if I didn’t believe in that organization’s cause. Don’t miss out on a potential opportunity to build longer-term relationships.

Have a relationship-building day

My main objection to giving days, such as GivingTuesday, is they focus so much on asking. What if we put all the time and energy we focus on giving days into a relationship-building day?

I’m not saying you can’t participate in giving days, but instead of the relentless begging, follow the formula above and build relationships before, during, and after your appeal.

Of course, you could choose not to participate in a giving day and have an all-out relationship-building day instead.

Giving Tuesday: What if it was called Living Schmoozeday?

Build relationships all year round

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 go on communication hiatus at certain times of the year and that’s a big mistake, especially now. Ideally, you should keep in touch with your donors every one to two weeks.

Stay focused on relationships. Good relationships with your donors will help you with retention, especially as we enter another tough fundraising year. 

Some Insights From 2020 to Bring Into the New Year

I hope everyone had a safe holiday. I’m sure you’re relieved 2020 is over, although uncertainty will stay with us for a while.

No doubt this past year brought a lot of challenges to your nonprofit. Even so, many organizations were able, for lack of a better word, to pivot and make changes to the way they ran their programs. 

Donations to nonprofits increased in the first half of the year. Hopefully, your organization was the beneficiary of some generous donors. That would have required you to continue fundraising and not pull back.

The pandemic and other outcomes from 2020, such as the economic downturn and a heightened awareness of systemic racism, have opened our eyes and taught us a lot. I hope we continue to learn from this as we progress through 2021.

We’ve also gained insight on better ways to do fundraising and communications. Here are some insights from the past year that we can take into 2021 and future years.

Make a plan, but be prepared to make changes

You must have fundraising and communications plans. If you haven’t put together these plans yet, do that now! 

If you had plans in place last year, you know you had to start making changes in March, but you did have a plan. Perhaps you had a gala or walkathon planned for the spring and you made those virtual. Maybe you ran an emergency fundraising campaign. Organizations that were able to make changes to a plan already in place were most successful.

Take a look back at 2020 to see what worked and what didn’t in your fundraising and communications. Incorporate what you’ve learned into your 2021 plans. 

Since we’re entering another year of uncertainty, make a plan to change your plans as the year progresses. Most likely you still won’t be able to do a large in-person event in the spring, but you might able to in the fall. If you can’t, make sure you have a contingency plan in place. And don’t stop fundraising!

Revisit your fundraising and communications plans regularly and make changes as needed. You may need to do this more often than in past years.

Remember that donor engagement and donor retention should be part of your fundraising plan. Those are key to success.

How to Prepare a Nonprofit Fundraising Plan

10 ELEMENTS FOR FUNDRAISING PLANNING – 2020-21

How NOT to Make a Fundraising Plan

Nonprofit Marketing Plan Template: 9 Simple Steps to Achieve Your Goal

A step-by-step guide to creating a nonprofit communications strategy

Donors are heroes

The pandemic has shown us the world is full of heroes, such as health care professionals and other essential workers. Donors are also heroes because you could not have gotten through the last year without them. Think of who came through for you. Most likely, it was long-term donors. 

This is why donor retention is so important and needs to be a priority. We’ve known this for a long time, but you’ll have more success if you work to keep the donors you already have instead of focusing on getting new ones.

Keep track of your retention rate. If it’s low, it’s something you can fix, usually with better communication. Your goal should be to have donors who support you for a long time.

It’s easier and less expensive to keep your current donors than to find new ones, so, once again, make donor retention a priority.

A Guide to Donor Retention

That said, you may have some new donors who saw a need and felt a connection to your cause, Don’t let these donors slip away.

The Importance of Making Your New Donors Feel Welcome

Whether a donor has supported you for 10 years or is brand new, they are heroes. Please don’t forget that.

3 Steps to Light Up Your Donor Engagement Strategy Through COVID-19 and Beyond

Monthly giving is the way to go

Speaking of retention, the retention rate for monthly donors is 90%. These donors are dedicated to your nonprofit. 

Monthly giving makes sense at any time, but it was especially crucial this past year. Organizations that had monthly giving programs saw a steady stream of revenue throughout the year. Donors who opt for monthly giving find it’s easier on their finances. Dedicated monthly donors also stepped up and gave additional donations last year.

Work on starting or growing your monthly giving program so you can have a bunch of highly committed donors. A good way to start is to invite your current donors to become monthly donors.

How Monthly Giving is a Win-Win for Your Nonprofit

Quick Tips to Create a Great Monthly Giving Program

Better communication makes a difference

I’d like to see us say goodbye to boring, generic communication. This past year donors saw real people with real problems in real time. They turned on the news and saw long lines at food banks. They read about theatres and museums that had to shut their doors to patrons.

It makes a difference if you can put things in human terms. Organizations that did this did a better job of connecting with their donors.

Stop using jargon, such as at-risk and underserved. These terms are demeaning to your clients, especially if they’re people of color. Tell more stories and go easy on the statistics. If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell.

Better communication also means more frequent communication. Donors want to hear from you and they want to feel appreciated, too. I know it’s hard right now, but better, more frequent communication will help you raise more money. A communications calendar will help you with this. 

Start the New Year off by making fundraising and communications plans, if you haven’t already done so. Put donor retention and donor engagement front and center. This will help bring you more success in 2021.

Keep in Touch with Your Donors Throughout the Year by Using a Communications Calendar

I like to emphasize the importance of keeping in touch with your donors throughout the year. During the pandemic, this has become more important than ever, even though it may be harder due to everything that’s going on.

Your donors want to hear from you and don’t just want to be blasted with fundraising appeals. The good news is that better donor communication (thank yous and updates) can help you raise more money.

Ideally, you should communicate with your donors at least once or twice a month throughout the year. If that sounds impossible, it will be a whole lot easier if you put together 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.

Some of you may already have a communications calendar, which is great. Now is a good time to update yours for the coming year. For the rest of you, here are some suggestions to help you get started. Even though it will take a little time to put together, it will be worth it in the end because you’ll be able to do a better job of communicating with your donors.

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 (and I hope you do use direct mail), but send an e-newsletter once a month and communicate by social media several times a week. You’ll often use several 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.

Your communications calendar is a fluid document and this last year is a good example of how you needed to make changes, especially as the pandemic started. We’re still in unchartered territory even as the vaccines roll out, so be prepared to keep things current.

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

Current Events/News stories

At the beginning of 2020, most of us couldn’t predict the year we were about to have. In other years, current happenings wouldn’t dominate your communication as much as they did this year.

At the start of the pandemic, I hope you reached out to your donors to wish them well and update them on your clients/community.

After George Floyd was killed, many organizations professed their support for Black Lives Matter. I hope that was the beginning of any communication about systemic racism and not the only one.

Our world has changed a lot this past year and many donors will expect more communication about social and economic issues. Keep them apprised of how all this is affecting your clients/community.

Updates

You need to keep your donors updated on how they’re helping you make a difference. Your print and e-newsletter should be included in your communications calendar. If you don’t do a newsletter, make a plan to share updates another way – maybe by postcard, email, and/or social media. Sometimes short updates are more effective.

Share your success and challenges, especially as we continue to navigate through the current climate.

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. Many donors will be receptive to this type of involvement.

Time of year

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

Thanksgiving, the holidays, and winter can be a difficult time for some people. How can you weave that into an engaging story to share with your supporters? This will be an especially hard winter for many people.

Keep in mind your organization’s anniversary doesn’t mean much to your donors unless you can tie that in with how they’re helping you make a difference.

Fundraising and recruitment

Be sure to add your fundraising campaigns to your communications calendar. Obviously, these campaigns are important, but you also want to show gratitude and send updates during this time without inundating your donors with too many messages. Planning ahead will help you strike this balance.

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

Thank your donors

This is crucial! Find different ways to let your donors know how much you appreciate them. You can combine a thank you with an update. Do this at least once a month.

Events

Your organization may not be holding any in-person events next year, but perhaps you’ll continue to do virtual events. Besides your events, are there other events (virtual or in-person) in your community that would be of interest to your supporters? If so, you could share it on social media.

Ongoing content

If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell. Share a story at least once a month. Client stories (either in the first or third person) are best. Your stories need to be relevant to the current situations, so you may need to create some new ones.

You could also profile a board member, volunteer, donor, or staff member. Be sure to highlight what drew them to your organization.

Put together a story bank to help you with this.

Keep it up

As you hear about other relevant information, add it to your calendar, so you can stay connected with your donors/supporters throughout the year. Information will be changing quickly next year, so you’ll want to keep on top of it.

Here’s more information to help you create a communications/editorial calendar. A couple of these links also include templates.

How to create and use a nonprofit editorial calendar

Make Your Fundraising Easier with a Donor Communications Calendar

Creating the Perfect Editorial Calendar – A Cinderella Story

EDITORIAL CALENDARS – RESOURCES FOR YOU

The Importance of Making Your New Donors Feel Welcome

As your year-end donations come in, you may have some new donors. If you get new donors this year, don’t take that for granted. 

In this tumultuous year, these donors saw a need and found a connection to your cause. Maybe you’re a food bank that’s seeing a record number of people. Perhaps you’re a beloved performing arts organization that’s temporarily closed.

Unfortunately, the likelihood these donors will stick with you is questionable. Even in the best of times, the retention rate for new donors is a little over 20%.

One of the many lessons from this pandemic is the importance of having long-term donors who will stick with you when you need them most. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to hang on to your new donors.

Start with a special thank you

Go the extra mile when you thank your new donors.

If someone donates online, it’s hard to tailor the thank you email specifically to new donors. But you can do that with a phone call, handwritten note, or thank you letter.

Try to call your new donors or send a handwritten note. This will make a great impression on them. Get together a group of board members, other volunteers, and staff to help you.

*Make sure these are actually new donors. A good database will help you avoid any snafus.*

Create a welcome plan

A week or two after the initial thank you, send a welcome package. You can do this by mail, email, or a combination of both.

Welcome your new donors. Thank them again and show them other ways they can connect with you. Invite them to subscribe to your newsletter, join you on social media, and volunteer (most likely virtually for now).

Your welcome package should include a warm introductory message and a few facts about your organization, but don’t brag too much. Keep it donor-centered. You could also direct people to your website for more information about your organization.

Be careful about how much information you send. Donors want to feel welcome not overwhelmed.

I don’t recommend sending unsolicited swag. You could offer your new donors a gift and they can let you know if they want to receive it, but it’s not necessary. I don’t like it when organizations send me things I don’t need, such as a wall calendar.

What donors really want from you is to know how they’re helping you make a difference.

What are you doing now to welcome new donors?

How to Create an Effective New Donor Welcome Series

Anatomy of a Stellar First-Time Donor Welcome Packet

Who are your new donors?

They could be event attendees, volunteers, or newsletter subscribers. If you know, refer to that in your thank you note, letter, or phone call. If not, send a short survey with your welcome package and ask, “How did you hear about us?” or “What drew you to our organization?” 

Another question to ask is whether your donors prefer print or electronic communication. Short surveys are also a good way to connect throughout the year. The more you know about your donors the easier it will be to communicate with them.

Make your current donors feel special, too

While I’ve been focusing on new donors in this post, retention rates for current donors have also been declining. The biggest hurdle is getting from the first to the second gift. That second gift is known as the golden donation. But don’t stop there. You want a third and a fourth, etc. donation.  

If you’re not acknowledging a donor’s past support, you’re making a huge mistake. Imagine how you would feel if you gave to an organization for over five years and they never thank you for your long-time support.  

These valuable, long-term donors could leave at any time, so ignore them at your own peril. Remember the importance of long-term donors. Make sure they get a special thank you from you.

Keep it up throughout the year

You should know you need to communicate with your donors regularly, especially now. Plan on special mailings or emails specifically targeted to new donors. Try to send something by mail if you can. It’s more personal and your donors are more likely to see it. 

Think of other ways to do something special for your new donors too, such as offering virtual tours or an invitation to a Zoom discussion.

Of course, don’t ignore your other donors. Keep reaching out – at least once or twice a month. 

Show appreciation and share updates. A huge factor in donor retention is a good donor relations plan that you’ll carry out regularly as long as your donors support you, which hopefully will be for many years.

Fundraising During the COVID-19 Outbreak: 4 Best Practices

Fundraising during a pandemic can be a challenge. Check out our top four strategies for maintaining revenue and morale at your nonprofit during COVID-19.

By Leigh Kessler 

Nonprofits all across the globe have been met with substantial and unprecedented financial challenges so far this year.

As a result of widespread unemployment and economic hardships, many generous donors have had to press pause on their financial support of charitable causes. Therefore, organizations that depend highly on individual donations have seen significant drops in fundraising revenue. 

Additionally, the seamless flow of day-to-day operations has been disrupted as some of the most powerful and profitable fundraising events had to be canceled or postponed.

While you may have some doubts about continuing fundraising practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s crucial that you don’t quit altogether. Instead, here are some best practices to consider as you rework your fundraising strategy to meet the shifting demands you’re encountering.

  1. Use data-driven fundraising strategies.
  2. Implement a multi-channel approach.
  3. Consider a virtual fundraising event.
  4. Make the most of matching gifts.

Even if you chose to scale back your fundraising outreach at the beginning of the pandemic, it’s crucial that you continue to implement strategic donor retention practices. This way, you can engage supporters for the long haul and your post-pandemic fundraising will be off to a great start. Are you ready to learn more about keeping your nonprofit afloat in a season of financial uncertainty? Let’s jump in!

1. Use data-driven fundraising strategies.

Ensuring effective fundraising strategies is one of the most important processes involved in successfully running any organization. That being said, it’s essential that you don’t leave your fundraising plans up to chance. Instead, use previously collected fundraising data to inform your future strategy.

Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What is your average donation size? Has it increased or decreased recently?
  • What is your average frequency of donations? Has it changed recently?
  • How many new donors have you acquired during the pandemic?
  • Which types of campaigns have brought in the highest revenue in the past?

Thankfully, with the right nonprofit CRM software, this information (and much more) can be waiting right at your fingertips. Now, you can craft your fundraising plan based on this data to better refine your tactics to target your ideal audience.

Once you’ve established your data-driven fundraising goals, it’s time to get the word out about your upcoming campaign. 

According to AccuData’s handy guide to effective data marketing, data-driven strategies aren’t limited to just setting goals. It’s also best employed for your outreach plan to ensure you have an informed communication plan as well. For instance, using this data to set up a multi-channel fundraising strategy will result in your messages getting across to more supporters.

In other words, make note of which communication strategies have seen the most success in your previous marketing strategies and go from there.

2. Implement a multi-channel approach.

As you begin supporter outreach to solicit donations, diversify your communication strategy so your reach stretches further across channels, networks, and communities. 

Keep in mind that your donors want to hear from you — and the most effective way to do that will often require a combination of tactics. After all, in a world so saturated with marketing materials, a single-channel approach can be too easily drowned out and lead to substantial missed opportunities. That’s where multi-channel fundraising comes in.

A powerful multi-channel fundraising campaign can include the following communication channels:

  • Email: Email is a popular method of donor communication and fundraising requests for many reasons. For one thing, your team can quickly and easily send messages to thousands of recipients at once, even while automating content customization for each recipient. After all, personalized emails are known to generate a median ROI of 122% as compared to their generic counterparts. Use marketing software to automatically put the individual’s name in the salutation, personalize ask amounts, and to craft messages specifically for certain donor segments. 
  • Direct mail: While more costly than email, direct mail can be a great way to gain supporter attention and really make your organization (and your fundraising appeals) stand out. That’s because a direct mailing provides a physical reminder of your cause that can keep you at top of mind for longer periods of time. Plus, studies show that the human mind is able to better retain information on paper as compared to on a screen.
  • Phone: Encompassing both text and voice calls, phone communication is an effective way to grab your desired audience’s attention. Besides face-to-face interactions (which are significantly limited right now), phone and video calls are the most personal fundraising approach possible. That can be extremely worthwhile when targeting your mid-to high-range donors.
  • Social media: Your social media platforms are a fantastic way to engage with new and potential donors who you may not already have on your email or mailing lists. Plus, you can encourage dedicated supporters to interact with and share your posts with their own networks, effectively expanding your reach in seconds.

One common mistake made by many organizations attempting a multi-channel campaign is using the same fundraising messages and tactics across each channel. However, this does not give your team the room to accommodate for differences in mediums, and therefore risks a repetitive and unintuitive approach. Instead, adjust your strategy for each communication platform, while maintaining the same overarching campaign message.

3. Consider a virtual fundraising event.

Just because in-person events are canceled for the time being doesn’t mean you can’t find new and exciting ways to engage your audience while raising money for your cause. In fact, organizations all over the world are turning to virtual fundraising events as a powerful alternative to traditional face-to-face interactions. 

If you’re interested in pivoting an existing event to the virtual space or planning a new one from scratch, these are a few of our favorite suggestions:

  • Online auctions: Charity auctions are a favorite fundraiser for many, and with the right tools, they can be easily transitioned to a virtual fundraising event. Collect items to auction off, then upload pictures and descriptions to a detailed auction catalog. When the event begins, encourage donors to bid on their favorites from the comfort of their own homes.
  • Virtual walk-a-thons: Using a smartphone app or another tracking device, encourage supporters to take part in a virtual run or walk-a-thon. Participants can reach out to family and friends asking them to make a pledge, then the supporter completes the physical activity in a local park or another remote location.
  • Digital classes: With all this time stuck at home, many people are taking up new hobbies. You can leverage that trend with digital classes— some of our favorites include cooking classes and art workshops. Find an experienced individual willing to teach and have them explain their skill step-by-step over a live-streamed platform.

For more ideas and best practices, take a look at CharityEngine’s guide to pulling off virtual fundraising events. More than likely, your donors will jump at the chance to get involved with a fundraiser during a time when most of their favorite events are no longer possible. 

4. Make the most of matching gifts.

Matching gift programs are one aspect of corporate philanthropy that can significantly boost any organizations’ fundraising revenue without a ton of extra effort. Although corporate philanthropy is a powerful fundraising tool at any time, its potential in the current economic climate is something that you do not want to miss out on.

Here are a few reasons why a matching gift database with an easy-to-use employer search tool is one of the smartest investments any nonprofit can make, especially during a financial crisis:

  • Donors are more likely to give. Now more than ever, many of your supporters are likely on the fence about giving. They may be asking themselves things like, “is it a smart financial decision to donate right now?” Luckily, matching gift eligibility might be just the deciding factor. Studies show that more than 84% of donors are more likely to give if they’re aware that a company will match their gift.
  • Donors tend to make larger donations. In the same way, many donors tend to increase their donation size if they know it’s being matched. When an individual is aware that their gift can make double (or even triple) the impact, they’re more likely to contribute more in the first place. 
  • Donors can request a match from a previous gift. Even for your supporters who are unable to make additional donations at the moment, matching gifts provide a unique opportunity to help out and further your cause. Since most companies allow employees to request donation matches for up to a year after the initial gift, many of your past donors are likely still eligible!

Plus, many employers are even expanding their matching gift programs for the remainder of the year as a result of the pandemic and its health, economic, and social consequences. Companies are offering higher ratios or match limits to encourage their employees to help out in any way they can. Check out this list of top participating employers and their program adjustments for more information.


Regardless of the fundraising strategies you choose, it’s crucial that you don’t neglect the importance of effectively thanking your donors. Especially in a time like now, showing your appreciation is more important than ever to build donor relationships. 

With these best practices (and the right tools), you’ll be well-equipped to bring your nonprofit team out to the other side. Plus, tips like these can set you up for future success down the line. Good luck!

Leigh Kessler is VP of Marketing and Communications at donor management software platform CharityEngine and a frequent speaker on branding, fundraising, data and technology.  He is a former nationally touring headline comedian and has appeared on numerous TV shows including VH1’s “Best Week Ever”, CNN’s “Showbiz Tonight”, Discovery Channel & Sirius Radio. He has overseen and informed research and branding strategies for some of the most well known brands in America. 

Segmenting Your Donors is More Important Than Ever

A few weeks ago I mentioned one of the themes for your fundraising and communications this year should be this is more important than ever. I don’t need to remind you we’re not living in normal times.

I know you have a lot going on and it may be tempting to send all your donors the same appeal and thank you letter. Don’t do that. 

Your donors are not the same. Some donors have given for at least five years (these donors should get a lot of attention). Some are monthly donors. Yet, nonprofit organizations fail to recognize that and send everyone a one-size-fits-all letter. 

This is why you need to segment your donors. If you don’t segment your donors and send different letters to different types of donors, you’re telling them you don’t recognize them for who they are.

Don’t worry, you don’t need to create 100 different types of letters. Four or five should be sufficient. Your appeal and thank you letter will stand out if it’s not the same old, same old.

Here are a few different types of donor groups. Feel free to add more if that’s relevant. The more you can segment, the better. Investing in a good database will help you with this.

Current single gift donors

One of the biggest hurdles nonprofits face is ensuring first-time donors give a second time. If they keep giving after that, they’re showing their commitment to your organization. Don’t blow it by ignoring this.

An appeal letter to current single gift donors (Monthly donors get their own appeal. More on that below.) must acknowledge their past support. This is also a good opportunity to ask for an upgrade. Many organizations don’t do this, but it’s a good way to increase your revenue. Even in a pandemic and economic downturn, it’s okay to ask donors to give a little more. They will if they can.

If these donors give again, they should get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter letting them know how much you appreciate their continued support. If they’ve upgraded their gift, acknowledge that, too. 

Potential/new single gift donors

If you’re sending an appeal to someone who’s never donated to your nonprofit before, what is your connection to them? Are they volunteers, event attendees, or people on a list you purchased?

The more you can establish a connection, the better chance you have of getting a donation.

The retention rate for first-time donors is terrible. One of the reasons is poor communication. You can help boost your retention rate by making your new donors feel special.

New donors should get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter welcoming them as donors. Invite them to connect with you in other ways such as signing up for your newsletter, following you on social media, or volunteering.

Then a week or so later, send them a welcome packet by mail or email. Personalization is crucial with new donors.

Are We Sure An Automated Email Welcome Series For New Donors Is A Good Idea?

New monthly donors

Brand new donors who opt for monthly or other recurring donations get the same special thank you treatment mentioned above. Welcome them to your family of monthly donors. 

Current monthly donors

Your current monthly donors must get their own appeal that recognizes them as monthly donors. In this appeal, you can either ask them to upgrade their gift or give an additional year-end gift. 

When your donors renew or upgrade their monthly gifts, they, of course, get a super fabulous thank you.

Current donors who become monthly donors

Your current donors who decide to become monthly donors are also showing their commitment to you. They get a handwritten note, phone call, or letter thanking them for their continued support and for joining your family of monthly donors. From now on they should get specialized appeals and other communication targeted to monthly donors. 

Segmenting your donors can pay off

In this down economy, some donors may cut back on their giving. Don’t let them choose between organizations that communicate throughout the year with engaging, personalized appeals, thank yous, and updates and organizations who just send generic, one-size-fits-all communications.

You need your donors. Spending extra time segmenting your donors and personalizing your communications will be worth it if you can raise additional revenue and boost your retention rate.

4 Smart Donor Segmentation Strategies for Nonprofits

11 Ways To Segment Your Donors To Improve Your Fundraising

How to Effectively Segment Your Donors and Audiences 

Your Nonprofit Website: The Importance of User Experience

User experience is one of the core components of a long-lasting and valuable nonprofit website. Learn more about its importance to help your organization.

By Anne Stefanyk

Life is naturally full of both good and bad experiences. And, if something was especially bad, people don’t hesitate to hop on Yelp and write a scathing review. That’s why restaurants and other attractions take the time to set up an ambiance and cultivate an engaging experience. Why shouldn’t your nonprofit website take the same approach?

If your website doesn’t take into account its user experience (UX), you’re taking a risk that visitors will never come back again. No matter how deeply they connect to your cause, a website that takes too long to load, is difficult to navigate, or seems unsafe will drive away supporters and give your organization a bad online rep.

Prioritizing website user experience is one of the best ways to set up your site for long-term health and keep it in good shape. Specifically, a dedicated and comprehensive nonprofit website user experience strategy can:

  1. Help increase fundraising for your organization
  2. Expand your nonprofit audience
  3. Improve relationships with donors

This guide will dive deep into the above reasons to help you not only get to know your supporters better, but also provide some key tips to optimize your online presence. 

Get into the mind of your supporters and start incorporating website design elements based on user experience. Ready to learn more? Let’s begin.

1. Help increase fundraising for your organization

Imagine your website as an extension of your nonprofit’s office — donors should be able to ask questions, find out about current campaigns, and most importantly make a donation. But instead of having to deal with the hassle of driving (no one likes traffic!) and taking a large chunk out of their day, supporters can simply check out your website! And during the pandemic, it may not be easy to visit your nonprofit.

Just like your nonprofit’s office, your website should be inviting and informational. This can be done with the right design elements and user experience strategy. 

For instance, consider the natural flow of how a visitor might find your website and make an online gift. This could include checking out your Mission Statement page, reviewing past accomplishments, and exploring current and upcoming events. Who knows, maybe one of these pages will spark inspiration to give! A clear navigation menu pointing to these popular landing pages is a great way to meet your user’s needs in an accessible and convenient way.

To take it a step further, carefully place calls-to-action (CTA) throughout those pages that take users to your donation form. Let’s say a supporter is inspired to give after reading about a successful past campaign. A CTA leverages this moment of inspiration and offers convenient access to making that gift. Eye-catching, bright buttons and high-quality graphics linked to your donation page are great ways to funnel supporters to contributing in an engaging and seamless way!

Your donation page is where your online fundraising happens. There are a couple of on-page site elements that can further streamline user experience and increase fundraising, so let’s review some key donation page best practices:

  • Customized donation forms. Don’t make the mistake of depending on lengthy donation form templates. Customized forms ensure you only ask the necessary questions and don’t take too much of your donor’s time.
  • Quick page loading speed. Some say a website’s user attention span lasts around 8 seconds! Don’t lose visitors before they even get a chance to explore.
  • Branded, embedded donation forms. Make sure your form is branded to your organization, embedded within your donation page, and doesn’t send donors to a third-party site. This keeps the user experience streamlined, while also building the relationship between the donor and your brand.
  • Recurring donation options within the donation form. This enables users to easily turn their gift into a more consistent and long-term form of support.
  • Suggested giving amounts. This can make it a little easier for the supporters who don’t know exactly how much to give, and can even entice them to give a little more if their original gift is slightly under a suggested amount. Consider also providing the impact along with each suggested amount!
  • Embed a matching gift database. According to Double the Donation, an estimated $4-$7 billion in matching gift funds goes unclaimed each year. This is largely due to donors simply not knowing they’re eligible! With a searchable matching gift database right within your donation page, donors can easily look up their employer and find out the steps to increase their original gift — all without interrupting the user experience.
  • Include a social sharing option. After a supporter completes their donation, it’s a great idea to provide a CTA encouraging them to share their recent gift on social media. This is an easy way to also reach new prospective donors and even increase fundraising!

From leading users to your online donation page to optimizing the page itself, your nonprofit website’s user experience is key to planning out design elements that can help you increase your fundraising. 

2. Expand your audience

Your website’s user experience can not only help you engage current supporters, but can even expand your organization’s audience. This is because a key component of website user experience involves web accessibility. 

According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), “The Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability.” If you want to prioritize user experience, you have to consider it for all users

To ensure that you’re meeting accessibility standards and reaching as wide of an audience as possible, it’s important to review the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines WCAG’s core principles of accessible design. This includes:

  • Perceivable information and intuitive user interface (UI)
  • Operable UI and navigation
  • Understandable information and UI
  • Robust content and reliable interpretation

Using these principles, here are a couple of steps you can take right now to ensure your website is accessible and that you prioritize user experience:

  • Make sure all non-text content (image, video, audio) also has a text alternative for those with visual impairments.
  • Stay away from too many sensory characteristics such as sound and appearance to convey important information. 
  • Avoid flashy elements and bright lights to protect those who might experience seizures.
  • Provide clear page titles and make sure entry fields always include labels or instructions.
  • Make sure your website and all of its pages are accessible on mobile devices.
  • Offer translation tools so users from all over the world can visit your website.

Web accessibility is all about making sure your website is usable by all. With a dedicated user experience strategy for your website, you not only improve accessibility standards but also can expand your audience. After all, one of the best parts of the internet is the ability to meet different types of people that you might not meet if you were confined to in-person interactions. For all you know, some of your biggest supporters could be across the globe!

3. Improve relationships with supporters  

In the end, your nonprofit website user experience is all about your supporters. The better your website engages supporters and provides them with the resources they seek, the stronger and more reliable your relationship with them will be. 

If you want to improve relationships with supporters, you have to dive deeper into the types of visitors who engage with your website. Using the insights from Kanopi’s article, consider how outlining user stories can help you identify your supporters’ goals and align them with your own nonprofit website strategy.

User stories are all about creating clarity and prioritizing user needs. Put simply, it’s a way for your marketing team to improve user experience and ensure your website is meeting your supporters’ demands. Your own user stories should look something like this: “As a [end user], I want [some goal] so that [some reason].”

  • End user. Who is the person visiting your site? Are they a past donor or a new supporter? 
  • Their goal. What does the user need to be able to do? Are they looking to make a donation? Are they browsing local events to get involved in or seeking purely online ways to support your organization?
  • The reason. Why does the user need to be able to perform this action? How can marketing leaders use this context to better design their website? 

Once you have your user stories, it’s now time for the fun part! How can you brainstorm actionable ways for your website to complete your user stories? 

For instance, let’s say one of your user stories states “As a recurring volunteer, I want a simple way to learn about events so I can sign up quickly.” To complete this story, you might incorporate an event calendar right within your homepage. On top of that, embed a form where users can opt-in to event alerts through email or text! This way, your website meets your users’ needs and sets the stage for future engagement.

Long-lasting relationships are the best foundation for growing nonprofit organizations, and your website can be a key instrument in this strategy! Your website’s user experience can either build a positive relationship, encouraging the donor to continue visiting the site, or it can be the very obstacle leading to decreasing donor retention rates. With some thought and effort, you can keep supporters on the right path.


Your nonprofit website’s user experience should take both your supporters’ needs and your organization’s goals into account. Consider how key design elements can lead site visitors to your online donation page as well as increase overall web accessibility. 

Hopefully, this guide has given you insight into not only why user experience is important, but how you can improve your own website. By improving user experience, you can increase fundraising, expand your audience, and improve supporter relationships!

As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne Stefanyk helps create clarity around project needs, and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions.

Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew.

Twitter – @Anne_Kanopi

https://www.drupal.org/u/annabella

https://www.linkedin.com/in/annestefanyk/

Personalization in Marketing: A Nonprofit’s Guide to Success

Personalization in your nonprofit’s marketing strategies is an important way to build relationships with your supporters to support long-term fundraising goals.

By Gerard Tonti

Personalized marketing is key for nonprofit success, especially when it comes to donor communications. Your supporters are much more likely to pay attention and feel appreciated when your nonprofit addresses them and their interests in your marketing initiatives. This helps build stronger relationships with them and maintain their support in the long-term.

Therefore, as you create your marketing plan, make sure your nonprofit effectively uses software to engage your audience and personalize outreach as much as possible. 

Here at Salsa, we work with all sorts of nonprofit organizations, helping them manage data that makes personalized marketing possible. We’ve found some of the most successful strategies to connect with supporters through data and effective marketing include: 

  1. Address your supporter by name. 
  2. Employ preferred marketing channels. 
  3. Launch a new donor marketing campaign. 
  4. Segment supporters by giving level. 
  5. Consider the geographic location of supporters. 
  6. Keep an eye on engagement metrics. 

The only way to completely personalize your marketing campaigns is to reach out to each supporter individually— every time. This is unrealistic and would use a lot of your organization’s resources and time. 

Therefore, nonprofits have devised techniques to personalize their messaging in a timely manner. Each of these strategies requires the use of an effective donor database solution. Keep this in mind as you’re exploring these techniques.

Now, let’s get started!

1. Address your supporter by name. 

This first tip might seem like a small detail, but it’s incredibly important to encourage your donors to actually read the messages you send to them. It’s a crucial step to establish a connection with your supporter, making it one of the foundations for effective communication

Consider your mail and email communications. Are you more likely to read a message with a salutation of “Dear valued donor” or “Dear [your name]”? Probably the latter! As an example, look at the two samples from nonprofit thank-you messages: 

Dear valued donor,

Thank you for your generous contribution to the buy-a-backpack campaign. Your gift is supporting the purchase of school supplies for hundreds of kids in the community. 

Compare that first message to the following: 

Dear Kiesha, 

Thank you for your generous contribution to the buy-a-backpack campaign. Your gift of $1,000 allowed us to buy new school supplies for 100 kids in the community. 

Using the supporter’s name in the introduction catches their attention and shows that the message is crafted for them rather than a mass audience. 

Other details included in the message were also designed to personally address the supporter’s action, including: 

  • Specifying the amount of the gift contributed
  • Communicating the impact of that specific contribution
  • Identifying the campaign that the supporter contributed to

By getting specific and using personal details in the messages you send supporters, you’re telling them the communication was crafted specifically for them. This establishes a more personal relationship over time. 

2. Use preferred marketing channels. 

There are a lot of different ways you can get in touch with your nonprofit’s supporters. However, your supporters probably check some communication channels more frequently than others. 

Using the channels your supporters pay the closest attention to is a great way to boost supporter engagement with your organization. 

How can you figure out which channels your supporters prefer? There are two primary ways: 

  1. Ask them. This is the easiest way to figure out your supporters’ preferences. Send them a survey and ask key questions about what messages they like the most and how they’d prefer to receive those messages. 
  2. Analyze marketing results. The other way you can discover your supporters’ preferences is by analyzing their past engagement metrics with various platforms. If you find that a supporter tends to open and click through your emails more often than other platforms, you should continue using email. 

Some of the channels you may consider analyzing and asking your supporters about include: 

  • Email
  • Direct mail
  • Phone calls
  • In-person meetings
  • Social media

After you’ve discovered the most effective and desired channels among your supporters, you can start integrating those channels into your marketing plan. 

Keep in mind, however, that the most effective way to communicate with supporters is through a multi-channel marketing approach. This means your organization will use a few separate channels to touch base with each of your supporters. For instance, you may use social media for frequent updates, direct mail to inform supporters about new campaigns, and phone calls to show your appreciation to donors after they contribute. 

3. Create a marketing campaign for new donors.

Many nonprofits tend to focus heavily on donor acquisition. In reality, it’s a good strategy to put more emphasis on retaining those supporters you already have. Retaining donors is a more cost-effective strategy with a higher chance of increasing your secured revenue. 

Specifically, the best way to increase your donor retention rate is to make sure your new donors feel welcomed and appreciated by your nonprofit. 

We suggest creating a new donor marketing campaign to accomplish this goal. An easy way to do this? Develop a drip campaign with information that will intrigue this audience. It looks like this: 

  • Develop templates and email drafts of information that new supporters will appreciate and engage with. Make sure these emails stand out and differ from one another. For example, you might send supporters a one-pager about the need for your mission, a summary of the upcoming events or virtual opportunities offered by your organization, and updates from your most recent program, all in separate emails.
  • Create a donor segment of new supporters. You can set up automatic emails to send to this group of supporters using effective marketing tools. Be careful not to send the messages too frequently as to not desensitize the supporters to seeing your name in their inbox, but send them frequently enough to keep you in the front of their minds. Once or twice a week should suffice. 
  • Provide the next step to drive engagement further for this group of supporters. For example, you might ask them to sign up for your newsletter, make a second gift, or register for your upcoming (virtual) event. Be sure to include this as an eye-catching call-to-action in your email communications. 

To make this possible, your nonprofit needs both fundraising and marketing software that will work well together. Salsa’s fundraising software offers an example of a solution that has features such as rich donor profiles and a seamless integration between fundraising and marketing to help nonprofits create these useful campaigns. 

4. Segment supporters by giving level. 

While you undoubtedly appreciate all of your supporters, some have a greater capacity to give and the ability to drive your mission further. 

That’s why as you personalize your communications, it’s important to recognize the donors with the greatest potential lifetime value so you can focus your efforts on developing a connection and relationship with them.

You can do this by segmenting your supporters by giving level (or prospective giving level if you’re using prospect research strategies).

Major donors and major prospects should have the most personalized interactions with your organization. You may go above and beyond with these supporters by: 

  • Setting up in-person or video meetings with them
  • Asking them for their opinions on your latest campaign
  • Giving advanced notice about major campaigns
  • Calling them more frequently with updates

Segmenting your donors by giving level gives your organization a better understanding of who your major prospects and donors are so you can specialize your outreach to them and make stronger connections.

5. Consider the geographic location of supporters. 

One characteristic that you should consider as you personalize your communications with supporters is where they live. This has been historically important for event planning as nonprofits send specialized invitations to their supporters who live in the area where an event will occur. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders, nonprofits have realized that geographic location is a less significant factor when hosting virtual fundraising events. Handbid’s virtual event guide explains how to host these and reiterates how they can unleash greater event potential by removing geographic restrictions to attendance. 

However, this doesn’t mean you should stop considering the geographic location of your supporters. 

Geographic location is important for communicating impact to your donors. For example, imagine you’re a donor contributing to a nonprofit that helps provide school supplies for kids. You might feel an even greater connection to this cause if you know your contributions are helping kids in your own community.

Drawing on the ties that supporters have to their own communities helps them feel like they’re truly making a difference that they can see in their everyday lives. 

6. Keep an eye on engagement metrics. 

After you’ve incorporated personalization strategies into your nonprofit’s marketing plan, be sure to keep an eye on the success metrics to see how they’re performing. Consider tracking the difference in the metrics before and after you implemented personalization strategies to ensure your communication is actually improving and you’re further engaging your audience. 

Some key performance metrics that you can keep an eye on include: 

  • Email open rates
  • Email click-through rates
  • Event attendance metrics
  • Survey response rates
  • Donor retention rates

As these metrics increase and improve, your fundraising efforts should also show signs of improvement. Keep an eye on all of your metrics in your nonprofit’s CRM software. If your donor database integrates seamlessly with your marketing and fundraising solutions (like Salsa’s Smart Engagement Technology), you should be able to easily track and measure success metrics. If you want to learn more about choosing and implementing software that makes this possible, check out this handy guide.  


Personalized marketing is key for your nonprofit’s increased donor engagement and retention strategies. It’s important to develop relationships and encourage a greater connection between donors and your organization. Use these six helpful strategies to get started with your organization’s personalized marketing. Good luck! 

Gerard Tonti is the Senior Creative Developer at Salsa Labs, the premier fundraising software company for growth-focused nonprofits. 

Gerard’s marketing focus on content creation, conversion optimization, and modern marketing technology helps him coach nonprofit development teams on digital fundraising best practices.

How Matching Gifts Can Help Your Fundraising Team Succeed

Double the Donation_Ann Green Nonprofit_How Matching Gifts Can Help Your Fundraising Team Succeed_Feature

Matching gifts can have a huge impact on your organization. Learn how to successfully leverage this corporate giving program and boost your nonprofit’s revenue.

By Adam Weinger

As a nonprofit professional, it can be difficult running a fundraising campaign, especially when there’s competition for funds among many organizations with similar missions. But even in the current climate, it’s important to keep fundraising

You might have already run into scenarios where you have to get creative with your fundraising appeals in order to be successful. However, there’s an additional avenue you can take to boost your donation revenue: matching gifts.

What are matching gifts?

Matching gifts are a form of corporate philanthropy in which companies match donations their employees make to nonprofits after the employee has submitted the relevant request forms. Many companies match at the typical 1:1 ratio, but some companies will match at an even higher rate, such as 2:1 or 3:1!

Unfortunately, many organizations don’t leverage matching gifts as a primary source of revenue because they don’t have the resources, time, or staff needed to pursue it. This leaves a lot of money on the table that could otherwise go toward serving their mission.

So how can you incorporate matching gifts into your fundraising strategy?

We’ll discuss these top strategies that can help you successfully leverage matching gifts and double donations made to your nonprofit:

  1. Use a Matching Gift Database
  2. Incorporate Matching Gifts into Your Fundraising Events
  3. Promote Matching Gifts Across Multiple Channels
  4. Continue Engaging Your Supporters

Trying out these approaches can help boost your matching gift revenue without too much extra effort from your team! Let’s get started.

Double the Donation_Ann Green Nonprofit_How Matching Gifts Can Help Your Fundraising Team Succeed_1

1. Use a Matching Gift Database

It can be a challenge to make donors aware of employer matching gift programs, especially since this opportunity doesn’t occur to most individuals! To alleviate this issue, your nonprofit can leverage a matching gift database.

What is a matching gift database?

A matching gift database houses information on thousands of companies with matching gift programs, including the forms and guidelines needed for employees to submit their match requests.

A matching gift database is accessible by implementing a matching gift search tool plugin onto your donation pages, confirmation pages, and other areas of your website. All donors need to do is type in their company name, and the search tool will populate all the information they need about their employer’s matching gift program.

Double the Donation_Ann Green Nonprofit_How Matching Gifts Can Help Your Fundraising Team Succeed_Database

But it’s not just about the ease with which donors can search for their companies. It’s about raising awareness in general. Now, more than ever, it’s important to leverage matching gifts as a source of income for your organization. This is because even during a global pandemic, matching gifts are continuing to make a difference.

Many companies like the ones listed here are expanding their matching gift programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means companies are increasing their match ratios, matching gift limits, and other components of their programs to better assist organizations like yours.

A matching gift database that stays up-to-date with these changes can help your nonprofit keep donors informed. And when your donors know their gift can go twice as far, they’ll be more likely to give in the first place!

Bonus! Looking for more COVID-19 resources? Check out Double the Donation’s top resources for nonprofits. Continue reading

Get a Head Start on Your Year-End Fundraising Campaign

5524669257_ab67585fd0_wWe’re already halfway through August. Pandemic or not, we still have seasons and fall is traditionally fundraising season for nonprofit organizations.

If you had a campaign planned for this fall, but are thinking against it, don’t do that. You should still do your campaign. You can’t raise money if you don’t ask.

Yes, it will be harder, which is why you should start planning it now. And summer’s not over yet, so there’s still time to get ice cream and go to the beach (please stay safe and practice social distancing when you do).

Here’s a checklist to help you get started. You can also use this for fundraising campaigns at other times of the year.

How much money do you need to raise?

You may have already set a goal for your year-end campaign in your 2020 fundraising plan and most likely that has changed. Perhaps you were able to raise money earlier in the year with an emergency campaign and/or a virtual event.

There’s a good chance you need to raise more money if you’ve had to shift the way you run your programs and there’s a greater need for your services.

You must determine how much money you need to raise before you start your campaign – raising as much as we can is not a goal.

Do you have a plan?

Put together a plan for your appeal that includes a timeline, task list, and the different channels you’ll use. Make it as detailed as possible.

When do you want to launch your appeal? Plan on everything taking longer, so I think earlier is better. You’ll be competing with other organizations who are doing appeals. It’s also an election year in the United States, but that doesn’t always affect nonprofit fundraising.

Maybe you want to send your appeal letters the first week in November. If so, make your goal to have the letters done at least a week before that. Maybe more if people are working remotely.

Also, how are you mailing your appeal? Do you use a mail house or do you get staff and volunteers together to stuff envelopes?  If it’s the latter, it will be harder to get a group together, so you’ll need more time. 

An Annual Appeal Fundraising Timeline You Can Use

13 End-of-Year Appeal Strategies

Do you have a good story and photo to share?

This is going to be the year you’ll retire your boring, generic appeal letter (more on that in future posts). Your appeal must address the current situations.

A good way to start is to create an engaging story for your appeal. How are the COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism, and the economic downturn affecting your clients/community? What challenges are they facing? Focus on them, not your organization.

You’ll want some good photos for your letter and donation page, too. Quotes from clients will also enhance your appeal.

3 Strategies Every Nonprofit Should Use for Year-End Fundraising in 2020

Telling Your Stories in the Current Climate

How to Engage With Your Donors by Using Visual Stories

How did/can your donors help you make a difference?

Your appeal letter should highlight some of the accomplishments you’ve made recently and state what you plan to do in the coming months. For example, let’s say you run a tutoring program. You were able to get Chromebooks for half of the students who didn’t have access to a computer so they could do their sessions remotely. You still need to buy more, and with the pandemic looming, remote sessions will be the norm for a while. This is important because thanks to your donors, regular tutoring sessions help students read at or above their grade level and that needs to continue. 

Remember to focus on your clients and show how your donors are helping you make a difference or can help you make a difference. Don’t brag about your organization.

Are your mailing lists in good shape?

Make sure your postal and email mailing lists are up-to-date. Check for duplicate addresses and typos. Your donors don’t want to receive three letters at the same time or have their names misspelled.

Also, now is a good time to segment your mailing lists – current donors, monthly donors, lapsed donors, event attendees, etc. This is more important than ever. Your current donors are your best source of donations. You should have more success if you can personalize your appeal letters.

Do you have enough letterhead, envelopes, and stamps?

Don’t wait until October to check your supply of letterhead and envelopes. Make sure you have enough. Perhaps you want to produce a special outer envelope. You may also want to create some thank you cards. It could take longer to get some of these things.

Even though many people donate online, you want to make it easy for donors who prefer to mail a check. Include a pledge envelope or a return envelope and a preprinted form with the donor’s contact information and the amount of their last gift.

Stamps are more personal so you might want to find some nice ones to use.

Is it easy to donate online?

Be sure your donation page is user-friendly and consistent with your other fundraising materials. Highlight your year-end appeal on your homepage and include a prominent Donate Now button.

Crafting the Perfect Donation Form: 6 Key Features

Donation Page Best Practices For Nonprofits; Tips for Great Donation Pages

Do you offer a monthly or recurring giving option?

A monthly giving program is a win-win for your organization. You can raise more money, boost your retention rate, receive a steady stream of revenue, and allow your donors to spread out their gifts.

If you don’t have a monthly giving program or you have a small one, now is an excellent time to start one or grow the one you have.

How will you thank your donors?

Spend as much time on your thank you letter/note as you do on your appeal letter and write them at the same time. You need to thank your donors, and thank them well, as soon as you receive their gifts so have a thank you letter/note ready to go.

Handwritten notes and phone calls are much better than a preprinted letter. Create or buy some thank you cards (see above) and start recruiting board members and volunteers to make thank you calls or write notes. Put together a thank you plan to help you with this.

How will you keep up with your donor communication?

Even though you’ll be busy with your appeal, you want to ramp up your donor communication this fall. Keep engaging your donors and other supporters (who may become donors) by sharing updates and gratitude. Pour on the appreciation! 

Send at least one warm-up letter or email. You could create a thank you video or a video that gives a behind the scenes look at your organization right now. Just don’t disappear until appeal time.

I know it will be hard this year, but you still need to run a campaign. Some donors may not give as much or at all, but others will give more. They won’t give anything if you don’t ask.

Best of luck!