The Purpose of a Thank You Letter is to Thank Your Donors

Thank youYou would think the purpose of a thank you letter is to thank your donors, but way too many of them have barely an ounce of gratitude.

As you work on your year-end appeal, you need to spend just as much time planning how you’ll thank your donors. Thanking your donors after an appeal (and throughout the year) is equally important, yet many organizations leave this as a last-minute to-do item and it shows.

There are many ways to thank your donors after an appeal – by mail, phone, email, on your website, or a combination of those. The more you can do the better.

Thanking your donors is something you need to take seriously. Don’t shortchange your donors with a lame, generic thank you letter.

Here are a few ways to do a better job of thanking your donors.

Start planning now

Don’t wait until the day after your appeal goes out. Give yourself plenty of time to plan.

Figure out what you’ll be able to do. I highly recommend a handwritten note or phone call. Can you do that for all your donors? If not, maybe you’ll break it down by new donors, long-time donors, or donors who have given a certain amount.

At the very least, your donors should get a letter, even if they’ve donated online. Whatever you decide, get started on the content now.

Make your donor’s day with a handwritten thank you note

I love it when a nonprofit sends a handwritten thank you note. This is a rare occurrence, so if you do this, your thank you note will stand out in your donor’s mailbox.

Handwritten notes are great in many ways, but one advantage is you don’t have to write that much and it shouldn’t take too long. How to Write 3 Minute Thank You Notes

You could make thank you cards with an engaging photo or buy some nice thank you cards. Get together a team of board members, staff, and volunteers right after your appeal goes out and have a thank-you party. 

Think about how much your donors will appreciate this nice gesture. Here’s a sample note.

Dear Steve,

Thank you so much for upgrading your gift to $75. This will help us serve more families at the Parkside Community Food Bank. We’re so happy you’ve been a donor these past five years.

Phone calls are another personal way to say thank you

Calling first-time donors is known to improve retention rates. But you could also call long-term donors to make them feel special.

Again, you want to get a team together for a thankathon. This is a great thing for your board to do. You may need to do a short training first. 6 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors  Here’s a sample phone script.

Hi Linda, this is Jean Perkins and I’m a board member at Neighbors Helping Neighbors. Thank you so much for your donation of $50 and welcome to our donor family. Your gift will help us purchase winter coats for homeless children.

Write an amazing letter

If it’s impossible to send handwritten notes or make phone calls, you can still impress your donors with an amazing thank you letter. Many thank you letters aren’t amazing and are mediocre at best. You’ll have an advantage if you take some time to create a great, donor-centered letter.

Remember, thank you letters are about thanking your donor. Keep that in mind at all times.  

Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization…. If you’re sending it on your letterhead, it should be apparent it’s coming from your organization. Instead, start your letter with Thank you or You just did something incredible.

You also don’t need to explain what your organization does. This is usually done in a braggy way by saying something like – As you know, X organization has been doing great work in the community for 20 years…. Someone who’s donated to your organization should already be familiar with what you do.

And, don’t ask for another gift in your thank you letter. You did that in your appeal letter. Nothing diminishes that feel-good moment by being asked to give more money again so soon. Remember, you’re supposed to be thanking your donors.

Your thank you letter needs to make your donors feel good about giving to your organization. Let them know how their gift is helping you make a difference. Include a brief story or example.

As with all writing, make your letter personal and conversational. Write to the donor using you much more than we, and leave out jargon and any other language your donors won’t understand. Also, you must address your donors by name – not Dear Friend.

A few other ways to make your letter stand out are to use a colored envelope or include a teaser that says Thank You! If you can hand address the envelopes and include a handwritten note inside, that will help make it more personal. You could also include an engaging photo in the letter.

Yes, you do need to include the tax-deductible information, but do that at the end, after you impress your donors with your letter, or include it on a separate page. It’s easiest to include this with the thank you letter or email. Then you don’t have to send it again unless your donor requests it.

 5 Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

How to write a donation thank you letter

How To Write Memorable Donor Thank Yous

Free Download – Nonprofit Thank You Letter Template

With fundraising revenue and retention rates down, you can’t afford to not do a good job of thanking your donors. In my next post, I’ll share some ways to improve your online thank yous.

Photo by Marco Verch

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Nonprofit Fundraising: 5 Ways to Expand Community Engagement

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By Wayne Elsey

Fundraising is the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations. But, planning and executing effective fundraisers is not an easy task to juggle while pursuing your mission. However, without crafting and enacting successful fundraisers, nonprofit organizations would not be able to continue their charitable work.

While many fundraisers focus on the amount of funds you earn, what has a greater impact on the progress of your organization is the amount of support you receive.  

Rather than focusing on just revenue, your nonprofit organization should be focusing on building relationships with your donors and expanding your engagement with your community. 

Bring your nonprofit’s fundraising success to new heights by focusing on these 5 ways to expand community engagement:

  1. Donor Communication
  2. Social Media Fundraising
  3. Community Events
  4. Community Drives
  5. Corporate Philanthropy

Let’s delve into the top strategies to expand your community engagement and your organization’s fundraising strategy!

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1. Donor Communication

Think of pursuing your mission and engaging your community as twin sides of the same core goal. You have to put time into both tasks to succeed as a nonprofit organization, and hosting fundraising campaigns is where they meet.

Nonprofits need to fundraise effectively to garner support from their community of donors. For the best results, and to ultimately make more of an impact, you must keep your communication donor-centric.

Donor-centric communication shows your donors that you care about them and their community. Focus on your donors’ interests, acknowledge them in your appeals, and recognize donor differences to enhance your donor communication.

Do not fall into the trap of writing generic donation appeals and other communications— it’s boring and irrelevant. Become fluent in the language of your donors and talk with them, not at them.

For example, if your organization is located within a school district, try to organize fundraisers to be held throughout the school year. Reach out to parents, teachers, and the district’s board to promote all of the benefits incorporating fundraisers would provide their children, their families, and their communities.

If your nonprofit, for example, holds a shoe drive fundraiser, focus your communication efforts on the points that truly matter to your donors. Emphasize the impact donors will make if they participate in the fundraiser. Emphasize that by engaging with your nonprofit, donors can teach students the benefits of philanthropy and unite their community by aiding others.

Before sending your next donor message, make sure that it follows these donor-centric tips:

  • Stay focused on your donors and their needs. Your organization’s communication with your donors should remain focused on your donors, their aspirations, and how your organization aligns with their interests.
  • Lose the jargon to gain donors. While your organization’s office may be up-to-date on all the latest nonprofit jargon, many of your donors are not. Do not patronize, confuse, or bombard them with unfamiliar language. Opt for decisive and donor-centric communication instead.
  • Glow with gratitude. Your thank you letters should demonstrate your appreciation for the donor’s gift. Your appeal should be teeming with compliments, praise, and recognition of your donor’s efforts.
  • Illuminate their impact. Show your donor more than your gratitude, show them how their gift made (or is going to make) a valuable impact. Specify the exact ways their contributions will be used—can $25 feed a family of four for one week? Include photos, personalized messages, or videos from those impacted by your donor’s contribution. Personal appeals to your donor will create stronger bonds with your organization.
  • Recognize each donor specifically. Storing information in your database and referring to this relevant information about your donors is vital to the success of donor-centric communication. The way you address each donor should differ depending on whether this is a first-time donation, an increased donation, or a recurring donation.
  • Build relationships and trust with your donors. Ensure that your appeal is directed toward the correct segment of your donor base. Your message to a committed donor of five years should not sound the same as your message to a new donor. Personalizing messages to your donors will foster trust and build relationships.

With these facets of donor-centric communication incorporated, the next message your organization sends to your donors should illustrate how much your nonprofit cares about the individual donor and your community of donors.

Once you’ve got your messaging down-pat, it’s time to think about how you’re going to distribute those messages. By using the powerful features of social media fundraising, your nonprofit can create stronger ties between your organization, your donors, and your community.

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2. Social Media Fundraising

As the popularity of online fundraising among donors continues to rise, ensure that you are maximizing your community engagement by investing in your online outlets for both communication and fundraising.

The useful aspects of social media have allowed for two very prominent nonprofit fundraising techniques to stem from this central concept:

Crowdfunding

What if there were a way to grow your organization’s social media presence and use your online prominence to secure more donations? With crowdfunding, there is.

Crowdfunding not only provides the opportunity to increase your fundraising revenue but also enables your organization to strengthen and widen the scope of its community support. By fostering a sense of camaraderie and teamwork with crowdfunding, your organization can capitalize on community support and the power of social media to spread awareness. Crowdfunding enables your organization to:

  • Collect small donations from a broader audience by convincing them to fund your cause
  • Make your fundraising appeal outside of your usual donor base
  • Grow your donor community
  • Share your mission, fundraiser, and impact
  • Promote your campaign on all social media avenues

Check out this list of some of the ultimate crowdfunding websites. Choose a platform that will help expand your community engagement and your crowdfunding campaign’s success.

Crowdfunding, however, isn’t the only social media fundraising tool. With peer-to-peer fundraising, social media gives supporters the chance to fundraise on your behalf.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

With crowdfunding, your nonprofit organizes the campaign and solicits donations. With peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising, your donors act on your behalf. Your supporters are given the opportunity to make more of a direct impact and take on more responsibility by creating their own fundraising pages for your organization.

When donors engage with your organization through peer-to-peer fundraising, they:

  • Share their fundraising content with all of their social circles across their various social platforms
  • Raise money in support of your organization through online promotions
  • Convince their friends to join your organization’s fight and invite them to your events
  • Expand your organization’s reach to new prospective donors
  • Persuade their peers with personalized appeals

The absolute magic of P2P fundraising comes from the relationships that your organization will build. Carefully cultivating donor relationships can be a tricky process, but with peer-to-peer fundraising, your organization reaps the reward of previously developed relationships between existing and potential donors. 

Through networking with your donors, your organization receives an immediate donor referral. It’s a boost of trust and authenticity to prospective donors to hear about the amazing work that your organization does from someone that they already know and trust. Remember to follow the donor relationship advice in section 1 to help you keep these new donors.

With social media fundraising, your organization can more easily optimize your web presence for mobile donors while gaining new relationships. With these relationships primed, you can continue to grow them by inviting donors to community events.

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3. Community Events

Communities are built on trust. Without the stability of trust and transparency, your organization’s donor base would dwindle, and your fundraiser’s effectiveness will suffer. After all, donors need to trust that you’ll responsibly steward their gifts. One way to expand your nonprofit’s community engagement, your community trust, and, thereby, your fundraising efforts is to host community-oriented events.

Whether you hold an open house or coordinate a silent auction, you need to do something special for your donors as a way to thank and encourage them. There are so many fundraising ideas out there that can engage, enliven, and educate your donors about your organization’s cause.

Your community events do not need to be elaborate productions— in most cases, that will work against your goals. Forgo the glamorous for the authentic. 

  • Keep it informal and informative. Let your donors drop by after work, with their children, or in any way they can. Do not exclude donors with any formal dress code. The gathering should be a chance for your organization to meet and impress donors, not for donors to impress one another.
  • Keep it personal. Embrace the proximity of your donors. You have an opportunity to speak with each donor personally. Take advantage of this opportunity instead of speaking on stage.
  • Keep it focused on the community. The point of these community events is to bring people together, inspire community spirit, and achieve donor unity. If your donors can work together to solve a problem in front of them— like seeing which team can surpass the others in collecting and donating running shoes—they can work together with your organization to help the people/community you serve.
  • Keep it fun! Make sure your donors are having a good time. Do not allow donors to leave your community event without a smile. It will not bode well for their loyalty to your organization or the community’s trust in your organization. 

To maximize your organization’s community events, your fundraisers must increase community engagement. One of the most potent events you can do to harness community spirit is a community drive.

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4. Community Drives

Hosting community drives highlight the ties between your organization and the community, ultimately strengthening your bond. Community drives not only support your organization, but they support your community.

Hosting community drives is an innovative and inexpensive fundraising idea for your organization to grow your community connections. Because these types of fundraising events are low-cost, your organization can build your community without blowing your budget!

Try coordinating one of these drives into your next community fundraiser

There are plenty of ways that your organization can inspire your community into action and demonstrate the power of teamwork. While it is certainly essential to unite your organization with your community, it is equally important for your organization to partner with your community’s corporations.

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5. Corporate Philanthropy

The rising generation of donors and consumers are socially conscious and philanthropic. That means that for both nonprofits and corporations to secure these incoming prospective donors and consumers, they must work together. They must engage in corporate philanthropy.

Corporate philanthropy creates opportunities for both nonprofits and corporations to expand their community engagement through corporate giving programs.

Corporate giving programs allow:

  • Nonprofits to secure more financial backing to achieve their missions
  • Corporations to gain socially philanthropic equity among their consumer market
  • Both to expand community engagement because employee donations drive the programs

With matching gifts and volunteer grants, the two main types of corporate giving programs, your nonprofit can maximize the number of donations it receives and encourage further community involvement.

Matching Gifts

Matching gifts are the buy-one, get-one coupon of the nonprofit world. The matching gifts process is a simple one:

  1. A donor makes a gift to your organization
  2. They check their eligibility in a matching gifts database
  3. If eligible, they submit their application for their matching gift request before their company’s deadline
  4. Your organization receives the donor’s initial gift plus a matching gift from the donor’s employer based on their matching gift ratio.

Without any extra work on your organization’s part, you have just increased your organization’s fundraising efforts and your donor’s impact two-fold!

The more your organization expands its community engagement and encourages matching gifts, the more success you will have with your fundraising.

Volunteer Grants

Volunteer grants are the premier way for corporations and nonprofits alike to encourage direct community engagement. When employees of eligible corporations volunteer their time to better their communities, companies donate financial compensation to match their employee’s efforts.

With volunteer grants, donors in your community can now directly impact your organization through both hard work and financial benefits.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Your nonprofit is all about one thing: achieving your mission. But your nonprofit’s fundraiser is all about another thing: your community.

You cannot achieve your mission without the support of your donors and your community. Try incorporating these 5 ways to expand your organization’s community engagement and the impact your supporters have on your nonprofit’s fundraisers.

Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE) and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Sneakers4Funds, which is a social enterprise that helps schools, churches, nonprofits, individuals and other organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations. 

Improving Donor Communication: A Q&A Guide for Nonprofits

 

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By John Killoran

One of the most important assets of a nonprofit is its donors. Donors are crucial to the growth of your nonprofit, so it is key to both attract new donors while also keeping up relationships with previous donors. Nonprofits are constantly looking for new ways to raise money and having a wide network of donors and supporters can help create sustainable fundraising revenue.

In the end, nonprofits should have an effective and organized platform to attract new donors, and a qualified communications and research team to support relationships with existing donors. 

With this in mind, there are certain questions that nonprofits should ask themselves in order to strengthen relationships and improve communication with their donors:

  1. What kind of fundraising software should I choose?
  2. What kind of communication team do I need?
  3. How can I learn more about my donors?
  4. How can I create the perfect donation page?
  5. How can I keep up with donor communication?

Ready to improve your donor communication? Let’s dive into the answers to these top questions. 

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1. What kind of software should I choose?

In this day and age, it makes sense to assume that most of your donors are going to be coming from the same place—the internet. That is why it is extremely important for your nonprofit to have the most effective software tools at your disposal. The donor’s interaction with your online presence is crucial.

Having effective software for your nonprofit can make your interactions with donors more streamlined and efficient. It makes things both easier for the donor and yourself, leading the way to stronger communication and a more positive relationship. Having the perfect software should be one of the first things you find when you are starting your nonprofit organization. 

With the right communication software, your nonprofit can:

  • Organize your donors. Some software helps compile a database for your donors so you have an easy way to find the information you need. It can look for key traits like donor location, donor amount, and more! This can help you communicate with your donors.
  • Have an easy payment experience. Certain software can improve the donation process, for both the donor and the nonprofit. They can provide options like online donation pages to text-to-give tools. 
  • Improve fundraising planning. Planning for a fundraiser is always hard, but with the right software, you can easily plan a walkathon or a t-shirt drive for your nonprofit.

For more information, check out Snowball’s extensive list of the best nonprofit software.

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2. What kind of communication team do I need?

While having the right software in order to keep up your online presence is important, you shouldn’t be reluctant to do things like sending letters or meeting your donors in person.

Having the right communication strategy and team is important because different methods work with different types of people. Your grandpa probably wouldn’t respond to a text asking him to donate, but a millennial donor might.

It’s important to make your message stand out. The more effectively you communicate with your donors, the more likely they will donate. And then donate again.

Depending on your nonprofit’s goals, different strategies will work best. Make sure you focus on one main need in your message so you don’t bombard possible donors with too much information. No one wants to read about a fundraising event, volunteering, and donating all in one email.

The right medium will help. Often people will let unread emails pile up in their inbox, so it’s good to consider what kind of donor you are dealing with. Also, don’t forget about direct mail! You might think it outdated, but most people at least look at their physical mail as opposed to clearing unread email and phone notifications.

You can hire a nonprofit fundraising consultant. If you want some outside help or just a professional’s opinion, it makes sense to talk to a fundraising consultant. Make sure to look at consultants whose focus lines up with your nonprofit’s. For help picking the right consultant, Averill Fundraising Solutions has a guide of the top nonprofit fundraising consultants.

Having the right strategy will be a big help with your donor communication. The wrong type of communication can end even the strongest donor relationship. For more on common donor communication problems check out this list

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3. How can I learn more about my donors?

Having the right communications strategy all depends on how much we know our donors. Gaining a few pieces of information about them can help you improve our relationship with them. 

Why do they want to donate? This can vary from having a personal connection to just wanting to contribute to any good cause. Knowing why they want to donate can help you count on them for future donations. One way you can find this out is with surveys. Keep these short and to the point. Many people won’t fill these out if they take up more than 5 minutes of their time.

How do they donate? Knowing their preferred method of donation is helpful. This way you won’t pester donors by email if you know they like doing donations over text instead. Various nonprofit software can help you track this information.

How much do they donate? If your donor gives a huge amount, you will be more inclined to see if they want to give in the future. Look into your CRM to review their donor history. This way, you’ll pose the right asks to the right donors.

Using these methods you can improve communication with your donors as well as make your organization’s marketing more efficient and effective. Once you have the right information on your donors, you can segment them into different groups with their own marketing strategy. This personalization will definitely improve donor communication.

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4. How to create the perfect donation page?

Now is when you should start thinking about the page that donors are most often at⁠—your donation page. Your donation page is the beginning of your relationship with your donors. 

There are two things that your donation page should do, avoid incomplete donations and encourage future donations.

Avoid incomplete donations

Often, when potential donors attempt to start a transaction they give up. They don’t finish the donation, much like a trend among online shoppers called shopping cart abandonment. This could be for many reasons, but having the right donation page can help prevent it. Make sure that your page is: 

  • Customized to your cause. When a donation page looks and feels like a seamless part of your brand, donors are more likely to feel inspired to complete their gift.
  • Easy to use. Your donation page is navigable and not too complicated. The harder it is to donate the less likely someone will.
  • Make it fast. Don’t have a string of links for the donor to press. The longer the process takes the more time the donor has to change their mind.
  • It has to work. In the end, the most important thing about your donation page is that it actually works. If your page is broken or takes forever to load, it signals to your possible donors that this isn’t an established nonprofit. 

Encourage future donations

We all want that golden donation. Golden donations are the second donation that a donor can make. This is what your donor page should encourage. And when a donor gives twice, there is a 63% chance that they will do it again!

To help retain more donors and get that golden donation you can:

  • Have a recurring donations option. This makes it an easy option for your donor when they make that first contribution!
  • Establish a personalized relationship with the donor. Make your donor feel special, like their donation is essential. And their donation is essential! You just have to let them know that. More on this later on in the next section.

Having the perfect donation page is important because this is where your donor ultimately decides if contributing is worth their time. This can improve donor communication because it simplifies the process of donating and encourages future donations.

For more tips on creating a donation page, click here.

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5. How can I keep up with donor communication?

In the end, it seems that one of the most important, if not the most important, goals for your nonprofit is to retain your donors. You want to keep them! You want them to keep coming back to you! It makes sense that when you have an established relationship with a donor, it will take less time (and effort) to steward them for another contribution. 

So you have the right software, communications strategy, donation page, and vital information on your donors. How do we strive for that golden donation? 

It all comes back to your communication with your donors. You need to keep this relationship strong no matter what. If you don’t, your donor may think their contribution is not important and ultimately forget about you.

Don’t ignore your donors! Remember to keep up donor communication throughout the year with updates or newsletters. Tie in current events to make them feel connected. 

Remember to thank them! Give them some love. Whether it is with a simple card or a more elaborate gift for a larger donation. Show them how their past contribution made a difference. Make sure they know that their donation is appreciated. 

Relationship building should be a part of your fundraising campaign. Donors will be more likely to respond to a fundraising campaign if they have a personal connection to it. Ann Green has some great tips on how to build relationships with your donors. 

Building the right relationship with your donors is key to improving communication! We all have questions about how to go about this, but with this guide, your team should feel confident enough to move forward. Good luck!

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

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

 

Entice Your Donors With Visual Stories

46728822135_8c5d713f5b_mIn these days of information overload, it can be hard to get your donors’ attention. In my last post, I wrote about the importance of telling stories. Written stories are great, but since donors get so many messages from different sources they may not want to read another word. 

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 photo

You can capture your donors’ attention in an instant with a great photo. That doesn’t mean a one of your executive director receiving an award. Use photos of your programs in action.

Print newsletters and annual reports tend to be dominated by long-winded text. Most of your donors won’t have time to read the whole thing. But if you share some engaging photos, your donors can get a quick glance of the impact of their gift without having to muddle through a bunch of tedious text.

You may want to try a Postcard Annual Report instead of the usual boring booklet. Postcards with 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 – appeal letters, 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. Hire a professional photographer or find one to work pro bono.

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.

5 Killer Photography Tips for Nonprofit Brands

6 Steps to Establishing a Photo Policy that Boosts Giving & Shows Respect

5 Photo Tips For World-Changing Nonprofits

Highlight your work with a video

Create a video to show your programs in action, share an interview, give a behind the scenes look at your organization, or my favorite – thanking your donors. Make your videos short and high quality. If you’re interviewing someone, make sure that person is good on camera.

You can use videos on your website, in an email message, on social media, and at an event.

Nonprofits should Use Video Storytelling to Create Impact!

TIPS FOR CREATING A NONPROFIT VIDEO MARKETING STRATEGY

5 Steps to Successful Video Storytelling

Liven up your statistics by using infographics

A typical annual report is loaded with statistics. You want to share these, as well as your accomplishments, but you don’t want to overwhelm your donors with a lot of text.

Why not use an infographic instead of the usual laundry list of statistics and accomplishments?  

Here are some examples. A Great Nonprofit Annual Report in a Fabulous Infographic

Brochures are becoming a relic of the past, but what if you want an informational print piece to give to potential donors or volunteers?  An oversized infographic postcard should do the trick.

5 Must-Have Nonprofit Infographic Templates to Supercharge Your Campaigns

Infographics for Nonprofits: How to Create One and Why They’re Effective

10 Nonprofit Infographics That Inspire and Inform

Good visuals will enhance both your print and electronic communication. Keep your donors engaged with all types of stories.

Using Visual Storytelling in Your Nonprofit for Greater Impact

 

Tell the Stories Your Donors Want to Hear

7803683540_76d8f5f45d_zHow often do you use stories when you communicate with your donors? Most likely, not enough. That’s a mistake because people respond better to stories. 

Imagine your donors opening an appeal letter or newsletter and glossing over a bunch of mind-numbing statistics as opposed to being captivated by a story about how the Mason family moved out of a shelter and into a home of their own.

Donors want to hear your stories

You may be reluctant to use stories because it’s more work for your organization, but that shouldn’t stop you. Keep in mind that donors want to hear your stories. Stories bring the work you do to life by using everyday language to create a scene. Here’s an example.

The past several months have been tough for Janet and her three young kids. After losing her job and being evicted from her apartment, she moved between her sister’s house, motels, and shelters. It was taking a toll on her family. Everyone was stressed out and her kids were falling behind in school.

That was about to change because thanks to donors like you, Janet and her family will be moving into a home of their own.

Can you tell a story like that? If you’re making a difference, you can. Stories should show your donors how they’re helping you make a difference for the people/community you serve.

Create a culture of storytelling

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.

When you put together a story, ask.

  • Why would your donors be interested in this story?
  • Why is this important?
  • Who are you helping?
  • 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. You can also share profiles of volunteers, board members, and donors. Many organizations profile new board members in their newsletters. Instead of emphasizing their professional background, concentrate on what drew them to your organization. Perhaps she has a brother with autism or he knows what it’s like to arrive in the United States as an immigrant.

Another way to find stories is to put a Share Your Story page on your website. 

4 INSPIRATIONAL “SHARE YOUR STORY” PAGES THAT WILL KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF

Create a story bank to help you organize all your stories. Take advantage of slower times of the year to gather stories. You want to use stories often. Use them in your appeal letters, thank you letters, newsletters, annual reports, website, blog, and other types of social media. You can use the same stories in different channels.

Give your stories the personal touch

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.

 Fundraising with Names Have Been Changed Disclaimers

Your stories aren’t about your organization

Let your donors know how with their help, Brenda doesn’t have to choose between buying groceries and paying the heating bill. Your organization stays in the background. And remember, Your Mission Statement is NOT Your Story

Tell your donors the stories they want to hear. In my next post, I’ll write about sharing visual stories.

Here are some great resources to help you tell your stories.

The Storytelling Nonprofit

INFOGRAPHIC: A Nonprofit Storytelling How-To

The Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Storytelling (30+ Tips)

How To Create A Culture of Storytelling in Your Nonprofit

 

How to Stay on Track for the Rest of the Year

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACan you believe we’re already halfway through the year? I hope your fundraising and communications are going well so far. If not, you’re not alone. According to the 2019 Giving USA report, overall giving is down 1.7%.

5 Key Takeaways from the 2019 Giving USA Report

The mid-point of the year is always a good time to see if you’re meeting your fundraising and communications goals. If your fundraising is down, you’ll need to make some smart choices for the rest of the year. This often includes better donor communication.

If you never made a fundraising plan for 2019, stop right there and put one together now and use it for the remainder of the year.

Nonprofit Fundraising Plan: 6 Must-Do Steps For Success

No need to panic yet. There are ways you can stay on track and raise more money in the second half of the year. Here’s how.

Ask your donors for an upgrade

An obvious, but overlooked, way to raise more money is to ask your donors to upgrade their gifts. Even if you’re a smaller organization, it’s not too much to ask $25 donors to give $50, $50 donors to give $75, and so on.

Make a point to do this in your next fundraising campaign. If you don’t, you’re leaving money on the table.

How to Get Your Donors to Give More this Year than Last Year

Start or enhance your monthly giving program

I’m a big fan of monthly or recurring giving. It’s a great way to raise more money, as well as your donor retention rate. Retention rates for monthly donors are 90%, much much better than other retention rates.

If you don’t have a monthly giving program, plan to promote one in your next campaign. To get more monthly donors, send a special targeted letter to current donors inviting them to become monthly donors. This another good opportunity to upgrade smaller dollar donors, or any donors for that matter.

Also, do something special for your current monthly donors. Send them a thank you postcard or email. They’ve made a commitment to you, now make a commitment to them.

Get in touch with your lapsed donors

Reaching out to your lapsed donors could help you raise additional revenue. An organization I used to contribute to sent me a nice letter asking me to come back. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but I stopped donating to them mainly because my giving priorities changed. 

I was impressed that they made a special attempt to reach out, because most organizations don’t do that. Yes, you might get the usual generic letter.

In your next fundraising campaign, send targeted letters to your lapsed donors telling them you miss them and want them back. After your campaign is over, make an attempt to reach out to any additional lapsed donors.

Do a better job of thanking your donors

Last week’s post was all about doing a better job of thanking your donors by creating a thank you plan. 

Creating a Thank You Plan Will Help You Stay Focused on Gratitude All Year Round

Showing gratitude is just one part of the donor communication mix. Stay in touch throughout the year with donor-centered updates. Show your donors how they’re helping you make a difference.

You still have time to stay on track

If you’re falling short of your goals, you still have time to do better, but you have to make an effort.

Giving USA 2019 | How to fundraise smarter, not harder

Be sure to keep evaluating your progress for the rest of the year to help ensure a successful 2019.

3 Ways to Stay Ahead of Giving Trends

 

Creating a Thank You Plan Will Help You Stay Focused on Gratitude All Year Round

2503278977_df634081d6_mHave you seen the recent posts from the Agitator blog about thanking your donors? It’s worth reading, as are all Agitator posts. They cite a study where thank you calls didn’t result in an increase in donations.

Thanks, But No Thanks

This prompted a flurry of responses, all in support of thanking your donors, including this one by Penelope Burk, whose research has shown that thank you calls can increase future donations.

Just Do It? No. In Fundraising, You Have to Do It Right

Some donors may not care if and how they get thanked, but most people want to feel appreciated. Perhaps these thank you calls didn’t make a difference since some people don’t like phone calls. These calls were made three to six months after the donation, which is way, way too long afterward. It should have been more like three to six days.

Maybe these calls were done poorly and someone was just robotically reciting from a script. Donor thank yous are often done poorly, so it may not be surprising that your generic thank you email didn’t resonate with your donors.

If you want donors to respond positively about how you thank them, then you need to do a better job of it.

This is a good time to revisit the importance of having a thank you plan. Thanking donors often takes a back seat to fundraising when you should spend equal time doing both. Many organizations just thank donors after they receive a gift and then go into hiding until the next fundraising appeal.

Thanking your donors is not a one and done deal. It’s something you need to do throughout the year. Creating a thank you plan will help you stay focused on gratitude all year round.  

Here’s what you need to include in your thank you plan.

Plan to make a good first impression with your thank you landing page

Your landing page is your first chance to say thank you and it’s often just a boring receipt rather than something that makes a person feel good about making a donation.

Open with Thank you, Debbie or You’re amazing! Include an engaging photo or video and a short, easy to understand description of how the donation will help the people you serve. Put all the tax-deductible information after your message or in the automatically generated thank you email.

If you use a third-party giving site, you might be able to customize the landing page. If not, follow up with a personal thank you email message within 48 hours.

How to Create Post Donation Thank You Pages That Delight Donors

Plan to write a warm and personal automatic thank you email

Set up an automatic thank you email to go out after someone donates online. This email thank you is more of a reassurance to let your donor know you received her donation. You still need to thank her by mail or phone (see below).

Just because your thank you email is automatically generated, doesn’t mean it needs to sound like it was written by a robot. Write something warm and personal.

Give some thought to the email subject line, too. At the very least make sure it says Thank You or You made a difference today and not something boring like Your Donation Receipt or Donation Received. And please don’t use words like transaction and processed.

7 Best Practices for Donor Thank You Emails

Email Thank You Letter Examples for Donors

Plan to thank your donors by mail or phone

I’m a firm believer that every donor, no matter how much she’s given or whether she donated online, gets a thank you card or letter mailed to her or receives a phone call.

Try to thank your donors within 48 hours or within a week at the latest. This shouldn’t be hard to do if you plan to carve out some time to thank your donors each day you get a donation. If you wait too long, you’re not making a good impression.

Instead of sending a generic, boring thank you letter, mail a handwritten card or call your donors. Making thank you calls or writing thank you notes is something your board can do. 

Find board members, staff, and volunteers to make phone calls or write thank you notes. Come up with sample scripts. You may also want to conduct a short training. Make sure to get your team together well before your next fundraising campaign so you’re ready to go when the donations come in.

Here’s a sample phone script, which you can modify for a thank you note.

Hi, this is Tanya Lewis and I’m a board member at the Northside Community Food Bank. I’m calling to thank you for your generous donation of $50. Thanks to you, we can provide a family with a week’s worth of groceries. This is great. We’re seeing more people coming in right now because of cuts to food stamp programs. We really appreciate your support.

If you can’t send handwritten cards or call all your donors, send them a personal and heartfelt letter. Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization, we thank you for your donation of…. Open the letter with You’re incredible or Because of you, Michael won’t go to bed hungry tonight. Create separate letters for new donors, renewing donors, and monthly donors.

Add a personal handwritten note to the letter, preferably something that pertains to that particular donor. For example, if the donor has given before or attended one of your recent events, mention that. Make sure all letters are hand signed.

Let your donors know how much you appreciate them and highlight what your organization is doing with their donations.

In addition, write your thank you letter at the same time you write your appeal letter. Make sure they’re ready to go as soon as the donations come in. Don’t wait three weeks.

20 Engaging Ideas for Donation Thank You Letters

INFOGRAPHIC: The ULTIMATE Thank You for Nonprofits

How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

Plan to keep thanking your donors all year round

This is where having a thank you plan makes a difference because as I mentioned before – thanking your donors is something you must do all year round.

Use your communications calendar to incorporate ways to thank your donors. Try to say thank you at least once a month. Here are some ways to do that.

  • Send cards or email messages at Thanksgiving, during the holidays, Valentine’s Day, or mix it up a little and send a note of gratitude in June or September when your donors won’t be expecting it. Try to send at least one or two gratitude messages a year by mail, since your donors will be more likely to see those.
  • Invite your donors to connect with you via email and social media. Keep them updated with accomplishments and success stories. Making all your communications donor-centered will help convey an attitude of gratitude. Be sure to keep thanking your donors in your newsletter and social media updates. Emphasize that you wouldn’t be able to do the work you do without your donors’ support.
  • Create a thank you video and share it on your thank you landing page, by email, and on social media.
  • Hold an open house at your organization or offer tours so your donors can see your nonprofit up close and personal.

Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors

Creating a thank you plan will make it easier to keep showing appreciation to your donors all year round. If you treat them well, maybe they’ll treat you well the next time you send a fundraising appeal.