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.
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.
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:
Help increase fundraising for your organization
Expand your nonprofit audience
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Address your supporter by name.
Employ preferred marketing channels.
Launch a new donor marketing campaign.
Segment supporters by giving level.
Consider the geographic location of supporters.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
Use a Matching Gift Database
Incorporate Matching Gifts into Your Fundraising Events
Promote Matching Gifts Across Multiple Channels
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.
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.
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.
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!
We’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.
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.
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.
Do you offer a monthly or recurring giving option?
A monthly giving program is a win-winfor 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 planto 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.
I hope everyone is doing okay and staying safe. Please wear a mask and practice social distancing.
Summer is often a quieter time for nonprofits, although I don’t need to tell you we’re not having a normal summer. You don’t want to be too quiet and ignore your donors. In fact, this is a good time to do some relationship building.
You may be holding back because of the pandemic and economic downturn, but you actually want to communicate more with your donors right now. First, we’re looking at a tough fundraising season, but better donor engagement could help. Also, while some people may be on vacation, many are staying home this year, so it’s a good time to reach them.
You should be communicating with your donors at least once a month, if not more. Don’t make the mistake of taking a vacation from your donor communication – never a smart decision.
Here are a few ways you can connect with your donors this summer, as well as throughout the year, and build those important relationships.
Check in and send an update
Check in with your donors and see how they’re doing. Wish them well. This is especially important if you haven’t communicated with them since the COVID-19 outbreak started earlier this year (I hope that’s not the case). Even if you have been in touch more recently, send a message of kindness. Many states are seeing a rising number of COVID cases and we’re all dealing with a lot.
Send an update to let your donors know how they’re helping you make a difference for your clients/community right now. Share what’s going on whether it’s success stories, challenges, or some of each. Be authentic and specific. Don’t get trapped in jargon land.
One of my favorite ways to connect is with a postcard. I know mail is expensive, but a postcard shouldn’t cost too much. It’s also a quick way to share an update with your donors.
If it’s impossible to send something by mail right now, you can use email.
Show some #donorlove
You don’t need a reason to thank your donors. Just do it and do it often. Most organizations don’t do a good job of thanking their donors, so you’ll stand out if you do. My last post was all about thanking your donors. Create a thank you plan to help you with this.
This is another situation where a postcard will work wonders. You can do a combo thank you and update. Go one step further and make your donor’s day with a handwritten thank you card. You could also create a thank you photo for a card or you can share your photo by email and social media. Another great way to connect is to make a thank you video.
There are so many ways to thank your donors. Spend a little time thinking of ways to show some #donorlove.
You may already keep in touch with your newsletter, whether it’s electronic, print, or both. In theory, newsletters can be a great way to engage, but in reality, most of them are long, boring bragfests.
For the time being, I would suggest a shorter newsletter to capture your donors’ attention. You could also opt not to do an official newsletter and just stay in touch with short, engaging updates instead.
Focus more on relationship building in your fundraising appeals
A fundraising appeal can be a way to connect with your donors if you make relationship building the main focus. This rarely happens because most appeals are transactional and generic.
You shouldn’t stop fundraising. You won’t raise the money you need if you don’t ask. Plus, donors want to give if they can.
Remember to keep relationship building front and center at all times. Thank donors for their past support, share some updates, and show them how their gift will help you make a difference for your clients/community.
Nonprofit organizations will be facing some tough times ahead. During an economic downturn, the need for nonprofit services grows while some donors won’t be able to give as much, if at all.
Your first inclination may be to make cuts or continue working with a bare-bones budget with the mindset “we can’t afford this.”
I understand you want to be cautious. But you also want to use caution before you eliminate something you think you can’t afford. It may be something you should be investing in.
This is why you need to make smart investments. It may seem counterintuitive to spend money when you have so little, but if you make the right decisions, these investments can help you raise more money.
Invest in a good CRM/database
A good CRM (Customer Relationship Management)/database is a must for a number of reasons. First, it can help you raise more money. You can segment your donors by gift amount and politely ask them to give a little more in your next appeal – $35 or $50 instead of $25.
A good database can also help you with retention, which will save you money since it costs less to keep donors than to acquire new ones. You can personalize your letters and email messages. Some CRM’s also have an email component. Otherwise, make sure to invest in a good email service provider, too.
Personalized letters and messages mean you can address your donors by name and not Dear Friend. You can welcome new donors and thank current donors for their previous support. You can send targeted mailings to lapsed donors to try to woo them back. You can send special mailings to your monthly donors. You can record any personal information, such as conversations you had with a donor and their areas of interest.
You also want a CRM that everyone on your staff can access remotely. When the pandemic hit earlier this year and most everyone was forced to work from home, organizations that could access their CRM and still communicate with their donors had a clear advantage.
Invest in the best CRM/donor database you can afford, and Excel is not a database.
Monthly donations are more important than ever now. If you already have monthly donors, or any type of recurring donor, you’ve been receiving a steady stream of revenue throughout the pandemic and economic downtown.
If you don’t have a monthly giving program or you want to grow the one you have, it’s not hard to do. Plus it’s a win-win for your organization since you can raise more money and raise your retention rate as well. The retention rate for monthly donors 90%. That’s significantly higher than other retention rates.
It’s also easier for your donors if they’re worried about their financial situation, but still want to help. They can make small donations of $5.00 or $10.00 a month instead of giving the entire amount at once.
Monthly giving is an investment you must make.
Invest in donor communications and that includes direct mail
Years ago, I was working at a nonprofit and our executive director said we shouldn’t do an e-newsletter anymore because we needed to concentrate on raising money.
I wish I knew then what I know now. Fundraising isn’t just about sending appeals. And to quote Tom Ahern – If you do better donor communications, you’ll have more money.
Yet many nonprofits have a similar view. They don’t want to spend much time thanking their donors and sending newsletters and other updates, even though those types of donor communications can help you raise more money, provided you do it well.
You don’t want to skimp on your communications budget and that includes direct mail. If you never or rarely use direct mail, you’re missing out on an effective and more personal way to communicate with your donors. Think of the enormous amount of email and social media posts you receive as opposed to postal mail. Your donors will be more likely to see your messages if you send them by mail.
Yes, direct mail is more expensive, but you don’t have to mail that often. Quality is more important than quantity but aim for three or four times a year, if you can.
Creating thank you cards and infographic postcards are a smart investment and a necessity, not a luxury. Thank you cards are a much better investment than mailing labels and other useless swag.
A few ways you can use direct mail without breaking your budget are to clean up your mailing lists to avoid costly duplicate mailings, spread thank you mailings throughout the year – perhaps sending something to a small number of donors each month, and look into special nonprofit mailing rates. You may also be able to get print materials done pro bono or do them in-house, as long as they look professional.
Shorter is better. Lengthy communication (goodbye long annual reports) will cost more and your donors are less likely to read it.
Of course, you can use email and social media, but your primary reason for communicating those ways shouldn’t be because it’s cheaper. It should be because that’s what your donors use. If your donors prefer you to communicate by mail, then you should honor their request.
You want to communicate with your donors at least once or twice a month. Use a communications calendar to help you with this.
Getting your donors’attention in the best of times is hard enough and we’re not in the best of times right now. In my last post, I wrote about the importance of telling your stories. Written stories are great, but donors may not have the time or energy to read a story right now.
This is why you also need to use visual stories. Some people respond better to visual stimuli, anyway. Here are a few ways to tell visual stories.
Tell a story in an instant with a great photo
You can capture your donors’attention in an instant with a great photo. That doesn’t mean one of your executive director receiving an award. Use photos of your programs in action or something else that’s engaging.
Print newsletters and annual reports tend to be dominated by long-winded text. Most of your donors won’t want to read the whole thing, and long print communication isn’t in your best interest right now. But if you share some engaging photos, your donors can get a quick glance at the impact of their gift without having to slog through a bunch of tedious text.
APostcard Annual Reportis a better option, anyway.Postcardswith an engaging photo are also great for thank you cards and updates. I’m a big fan of postcards because they’re a quick, less expensive way to communicate by mail.
If you use social media, you need to communicate several times a week. As your donors scroll through an endless amount of Facebook and Twitter posts, an engaging photo can pop out and get their attention.
Use photos everywhere – fundraising appeals, thank you letters/cards, newsletters, annual reports, updates, your website, and social media. Create a photo bank to help you with this.
It’s fine to use the same photos in different channels. It can help with your brand identity. Be sure to use high-quality pictures. Also, make sure your photos match your messages. If you’re writing a fundraising appeal about children who aren’t getting enough to eat each day, don’t use a picture of happy kids.
Work with your program staff to get photos and videos (more on videos below). Confidentiality issues may come up and you’ll need to get permission to use pictures of kids. It may be hard to get new photos right now. If so, I hope you already have some good ones to use.
Videos are becoming a more popular way to connect. They can be used to show your programs in action, share an interview, give a behind the scenes look at your organization, or my favorite – thanking your donors.
You can share videos that are relevant to our current situations. If you’re a museum that’s about to re-open, you can show how people can visit it safely. If you haven’t re-opened, you could give a virtual tour of some of your collections. You could also talk about how the COVID-19 outbreak or systemic racism is affecting the people/community you work with.
I would definitely recommend a thank you video. I received a personalizedvideoa few months ago that specifically thanked me for making a donation in addition to my monthly gifts. It was such a nice gesture. If it’s not feasible to make personalized thank you videos, you can make a general one.
Make your videos short and high quality. Short is key. People are spending a lot more time online now, especially on Zoom. If your video is more than a couple of minutes, they may not bother to watch it.
You can use videos on your website, in an email message, on social media, and at an event (virtual for now).
This is no time for a long annual report. Also, if you send out your annual report too late, it becomes irrelevant. I just received an organization’s 2019 annual report with no insert referencing COVID-19, and right now I’m not interested in what this organization did last year.
With everything changing at a rapid pace, I would recommend short quarterly or even monthly updates with infographics and other visuals instead of the typical annual report.
We’re halfway through 2020 and it looks like this will be a year that will stand out in history. We’re having a global pandemic, along with a severe economic downturn. The horrific killing of George Floyd by a police officer spawned protests against racism and police brutality.
Systemic racism is something that’s been part of the United States (and other countries) for centuries. Are we just now realizing that Aunt Jemima is a racist symbol?
It’s not surprising that the COVID-19 outbreak and economic devastation are affecting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities at a much higher level. It’s very likely that all of these situations are affecting the people/community you work with.
I want to briefly address racism right now. If your nonprofit organization works with the BIPOC community, then they are affected by racism. If you’re working on issues such as affordable housing, homelessness, education, health care, etc, these have ties to racism.
Your organization shouldn’t be afraid to talk about racism when you tell your stories or communicate in other ways. Vu Lee addressed this last month.
You may have made a statement against racism, which is a good first step. Don’t stop with that.
Donors want to hear your stories
Stories are one of the best ways to communicate with your donors. Unfortunately, you’re probably not using them enough. That’s a mistake because people respond better to stories than a bunch of facts and statistics. Stories bring the work you do to life by using everyday language to create a scene.
You may be reluctant to use stories because it’s more work for your organization, but that shouldn’t stop you. I know it’s even harder now since the COVID-19 outbreak has upended the way you work. Maybe everyone is still working at home or only some of you are back at the office. You can still do this. The summer is a good time to come up with some new stories.
Your stories need to be relevant
Just as it’s been for the last few months, your stories need to take the current climate into account. That’s why you new need ones. You’re seeing real people with real problems in real time. These posts address this more.
If you create a storytelling culture in your organization, you can make storytelling the norm instead of the exception.
Work with your program staff to create stories that will help you connect with your donors. Everyone needs to understand how important this is. Share stories at staff meetings and/or set up regular meetings with program staff to gather stories. Do this virtually if you’re not in the office.
When you put together a story, ask.
Why is this important?
Who is affected?
Why would your donors be interested in this story?
Are you using clear, everyday language (no jargon) to make sure your donors understand your story?
How are your donors helping you make a difference or How can your donors help you make a difference?
Client or program recipient stories are best, especially now.
Another way to find stories is to put a Share Your Story page on your website. This could be a good way to get some current, relevant stories.
Create a story bank to help you organize all your stories. Take advantage of slower times of the year to gather your stories. You want to use stories as much as possible. Use them in your appeals, thank you letters, newsletters, updates, annual reports, website, blog, and other types of social media. You can use the same stories in different channels.
Language is important
It’s time to stop using jargon such as at-risk and underserved. These terms undermine your clients/community. These aren’t terms your donors use, anyway. Use language they’ll understand.
You also don’t want to give the impression that your organization is coming in to save someone. This is especially important if the majority of your staff and donors are white, but your clients are people of color. This is known as white savior complex. Most likely that’s not intentional on your part, but watching how you tell your stories will help you avoid that. Be an ally and be respectful of your clients/community.
I have to admit I don’t know the best way to approach some of this and would welcome suggestions.
Your stories aren’t about your organization
Remember, your stories aren’t about your organization. Your organization may have had to make a lot of changes to do some of the work you do, but that’s not your story. Your story is why this is important for the people/community you work with.
Maybe you had to change the way you run your food pantry, but what’s most important is that people in the community continue to have access to healthy food.
Make your stories personal
Use people’s names to make your stories more personal. I realize you might run into confidentiality issues, but you can change names to protect someone’s privacy. You could also do a composite story, but don’t make up anything.
One of the first posts I wrote when I started this blog was the 4 C’s of Good Content (clear, concise, conversational, and compelling). I decided to revisit that post and add a 5th C (connection). I gave it a new title, too.
Keep these 5 C’s in mind when you’re writing a fundraising appeal, thank you letter, update, or any type of donor communication.
Is it Clear?
What is your intention? What message are you sending to your donors? Are you asking for a donation, thanking them, or sharing an update?
Whatever it is, make sure your message is clear. If you have a call to action, that needs to be clear as well. You want your message to produce results. Plain and simple, your fundraising appeal should entice someone to donate. Your thank you letter should thank your donors (no bragging or explaining what your organization does) and make them feel good about donating.
Use language your donors will understand (no jargon). Keep out terms like food insecurity and underserved communities. Just because something is clear to you, doesn’t mean it will be clear to others.
Is it Concise?
Can you say more with less? Eliminate any unnecessary adverbs, adjectives, and filler. Get to the point right away. Concise writing doesn’t mean you need to be terse or all your print communication has to be one page. Sometimes it will need to be longer, but the same rules apply.
Keep in mind that many donors won’t read something if it looks like it will be too long. That’s especially true now when we’re dealing with more information than we can take in.
Also, most people skim, so use short paragraphs and lots of white space, especially for electronic communication.
Make all your words count.
Is it Conversational?
Write as if you’re having a conversation with a friend and be personable. Use the second person – where you refer to your donors as you and your organization as we. Remember to use you much more than we.
Avoid using jargon, cliches, multi-syllable words, and the dreaded passive voice. Is that the way you talk to your friends?
You may think you’re impressing your donors by using jargon and big words, but most likely you’re confusing them or even worse, alienating them.
Donors are drawn to your organization because they feel a connection to your cause. You also need to establish a connection with them. You can start by segmenting your donors by different types, such as new donors, current donors, and monthly donors.
Get to know your donors better and give them content you know they’ll be interested in. Hint – it’s not bragging about your organization. They want to know how they’re helping you make a difference for the people/community you serve. They also want to feel appreciated.
Keep these 5 C’s in mind to help ensure good communication with your donors.