Fundraising During the COVID-19 Outbreak: 4 Best Practices

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

By Leigh Kessler 

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Use data-driven fundraising strategies.

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

Ask yourself questions such as:

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

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

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

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

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

2. Implement a multi-channel approach.

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

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

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

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

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

3. Consider a virtual fundraising event.

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

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

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

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

4. Make the most of matching gifts.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

This Shouldn’t be the Usual #GivingTuesday

I imagine most of you are familiar with #GivingTuesday, the annual giving day that takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This year it will be on December 1.

I don’t need to remind you the world is in a very different place than it was last year at this time. You can’t run the same type of #GivingTuesday campaign you’ve run in the past. What I mean is just blasting a bunch of generic appeals that resemble Black Friday ads or those relentless requests for political donations. 

Giving Tuesday and Why We’re Killing It

Perhaps you’re one of the few organizations that sent more personalized appeals. If so, kudos to you because that’s what everyone needs to do this year. I think this can happen because I did see more personalized, nuanced appeals during #GivingTuesdayNow in the spring. 

I’m not going to tell you whether or not you should participate in #GivingTuesday. Perhaps you’ve participated in the past and it’s been successful, or maybe it wasn’t. Perhaps you’re planning to participate for the first time. Maybe it’s just too hard to do right now. 

Whether you participate or not, #GivingTuesday is now part of the nonprofit landscape and if you’re doing a year-end appeal, you’ll need to factor it into your campaign.

Here a few things to keep in mind for #GivingTuesday 2020.

People want to give if they can

Your donors want to give if they can. That means you should be fundraising. Many people give at year-end so it’s a good idea to run some type of campaign, even if you don’t participate in #GivingTuesday.

As I’ve mentioned many times, you can’t raise money if you don’t ask.

Just because it’s #Giving Tuesday isn’t compelling enough

I’ve seen so many emails that say donate because it’s #GivingTuesday. Many donors don’t care if it’s #GivingTuesday or it’s your “annual appeal.” That’s often not why they donate. They give because they care about your cause and want to help make a difference. 

It’s not just about the money either

A successful #GivingTuesday campaign is about more than just raising a lot of money. You also want to build relationships and make your donors feel good about supporting your organization. This is where it often falls short.

I haven’t been a huge fan of #GivingTuesday or any giving days, for that matter, because they focus too much on getting donations. Many of these donors are first-time donors who don’t give again. The end result is you’ve just spent a lot of time and effort on getting one-time gifts. That’s not what you want right now. You need donors who will support you for many years.

You must address the current situations

Your appeals need to address how the pandemic and economic downturn are affecting your clients/community. Don’t send generic appeals that are basically begging for donations.

Segmentation is crucial

Speaking of generic, many organizations send the same appeals to everyone. Don’t do that.

If someone donated last year on #GivingTuesday, this is the perfect opportunity to thank them for that gift and ask them to donate again this year. If they donated two weeks ago, maybe they shouldn’t get an appeal right now.

Segmenting Your Donors is More Important Than Ever

Also, if you’re sending an appeal to your monthly donors, recognize them as monthly donors. They can either upgrade or give an additional gift. They get their own thank you, too. 

Should You Thank Monthly Donors Who Make an Extra Gift?

Focus on relationship building

Now that you’ve segmented your donors, you can do a better job of building those important relationships. Keep your appeal donor-centered. Thank current donors and find a way to make a connection with potential donors.

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

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

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

Keep in mind your donors will be barraged with email and social media messages on #GivingTuesday. Make yours stand out and be prepared to keep following up.

Next comes the gratitude

Your donors should be feeling the love right after they make their donation.

Make sure you have an engaging thank you landing page and thank you email for your online donors. You could even create ones especially for #GivingTuesday. Then you need to follow that with a phone call, handwritten note, or thank you letter.

Send welcome packets to new donors or welcome back messages to current donors. That’s also very important now.

#GivingTuesday has had a transactional feel to it, although it doesn’t need to. Go the extra mile and do a good job of thanking these donors – both right after they’ve made their donation and throughout the year.

3 Ways to Follow Up with Your Donors After Giving Tuesday

We want to skip #GivingTuesday 

Maybe you’ll decide to bypass #GivingTuesday all together. Keep in mind other organizations will be participating and your messages will be competing with the onslaught of #GivingTuesday appeals. 

You have an opportunity to stand out here by keeping your fundraising campaign focused on gratitude and relationship building. Year-end is a good time to ramp up your donor communication (examples include thank you messages, holiday greetings, and updates) so people don’t think you’re only asking them for money.

A New Approach to Giving Tuesday: Be different and stand out from the crowd

Give back to your donors

I think you’ll find your #GivingTuesday campaign, or any fundraising campaign, will be more successful if you focus on more than just the giving part. And a big part of a successful campaign is getting repeat donations. This means giving back to your donors, as well.

More on #GivingTuesday.

How to make #GivingTuesday more than a gimme

How to Keep Your Giving Tuesday Donors

3 Things Your Nonprofit Needs to Say After #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday 2020 Ideas & Best Practices

Setting Goals, Reaching Donors, and Other Crowdfunding Tips

Crowdfunding is a flexible and relatively easy way to tap into supporters’ generosity. Learn the best tactics to see long-term benefits from your campaign.

By Lomesh Shah

As a result of COVID-19, it’s now more important than ever to actively engage your supporters and keep them up to date with your nonprofit’s latest happenings. With year-end fundraising campaigns quickly approaching, you want your nonprofit to be at the forefront of your supporters’ minds.

The needs that your constituents and communities face are still as present as ever, so it’s crucial to continue raising support and awareness for your cause. 

The technique of crowdfunding helps individuals and nonprofits alike raise needed support quickly and across a large donor base. Not only does crowdfunding raise funds and awareness for your nonprofit, but it can help you recruit donors and strengthen those donor relationships.

Curious about what the crowdfunding process looks like? It’s a fairly straightforward technique whether you’re raising funds as an individual or as a nonprofit. Organizations create campaigns with fixed, often short-term timelines that are designed to raise funds for a specific project.

First, you select your platform and set up your campaign. Next, promote your fundraiser and watch your progress. Finally, thank your generous donors for their support!

Today, we’ll take a look at the best practices for maximizing your crowdfunding efforts and a few other helpful tips to benefit your nonprofit as a whole. Here’s an overview of the tips we’ll suggest:

  1. Embrace the Versatility of Crowdfunding
  2. Keep Your Donors Updated
  3. Promote Matching Gifts to Donors Post-Contribution
  4. Actively Promote Your Campaign Supporters
  5. Utilize Engaging Content

Ready to learn more about the best way to improve your fundraising? Let’s dive in. 

Tip #1: Embrace the Versatility of Crowdfunding

One massive benefit of raising money through crowdfunding? Its wide array of options! You can raise funds for pretty much any project you or your organization can think of. Crowdfunding campaigns can be adapted for any type of nonprofit project, occur on shorter time frames, and typically have lower goals than full-scale fundraising campaigns. These give you a lot of flexibility that you wouldn’t necessarily get with a major campaign that requires more investment of your time and resources to plan.

For nonprofits, crowdfunding reduces many restrictions and provides unmatched flexibility for your fundraising needs. 

While crowdfunding is extremely versatile, you have to make sure your supporters will be motivated to support your campaign. A specific, timely project related to your nonprofit’s mission or operations will be the most effective choice. This will engage existing donors and attract new donors who will be likely to stick around with your organization after the crowdfunding campaign ends.

Tip #2: Keep Your Donors Updated

As you set up your crowdfunding campaign and invite donors to contribute, it’s vital to keep those generous supporters up to date on your campaign. Set up a system to inform donors on the latest happenings in your organization and your progress towards your crowdfunding goals. Do this weekly, if you can.

Remember, donors want to see and hear about the ways their money is having an impact on your mission, so keeping them informed not only keeps them happy, but encourages them to give, and give again. In order to keep these donor updates professional and consistent, it’s a good idea to invest in a high-quality constituent relationship management system (also known as a CRM).

Consistent updates show your supporters that you’re personally invested in your campaign and encourages them to share it with their own networks. According to Fundly’s statistics, crowdfunding campaigns that updated their supporters at least every 5 days raised 3 times more in donations than less communicative campaigns. 

Communicating updates on your campaign’s progress is vital for its success. Having a weekly outlet to do this makes it easier to boost energy if you’re falling behind or to give donors new ways to engage with your nonprofit if your campaign is attracting a lot of support.

Tip #3: Promote Matching Gifts

One commonly forgotten aspect of crowdfunding is additional promotion of donations and engagement after your supporters have contributed. 

After receiving a generous contribution, try engaging even further with your supporters by promoting matching gifts. Through these programs, donations might be financially matched by the donor’s employer. Donors love to see their contribution grow, so by reminding them to check on matching donations, you’re giving your supporters the opportunity to see their gift literally double. Ask them to check their eligibility in your follow-up messages after they make a donation.

Contrary to popular belief, many companies are actively growing their matching gift programs amid COVID-19. These gifts are often underused, so take advantage of the opportunities that most people easily miss! While some companies offer matching gifts at a 1:1 ratio, many also offer 2:1 or 3:1 options! Matching gifts are a great way to help your fundraising team succeed, and they also lay the groundwork for long-term engagement and support after your crowdfunding campaign ends.

Tip #4: Actively Promote Your Campaign to Supporters Via Email & Social Media

Crowdfunding doesn’t work unless you spread the word. Without successful promotion, supporters will be less likely to see and engage with your campaign. When you raise awareness, you give your organization the opportunity to speak for itself. 

Promoting your campaign on social media is a great way to get it in front of a wide audience and encourage supporters to share it with their own networks. Additionally, email marketing is still one of the most efficient ways to get your message out and see tangible results, so embrace the ability to put a message directly in your supporters’ inboxes and see higher numbers in giving. Check out these email statistics from DNL OmniMedia:

  • Run, walk, and ride fundraisers that used email marketing raised 76% more than those that didn’t.
  • Email messages drove 28% of all online fundraising revenue for nonprofits in 2017.
  • Over 50% of people who receive an email about a crowdfunding campaign donate.

Email marketing is an extremely effective way to share updates with your existing supporters and generate more interest in your crowdfunding campaign. Once you’ve successfully captivated your audience via email, you can encourage them to share your campaign on social media to reach new supporters and begin building more relationships.

Tip #5: Put Your Heart Into Your Content

In a time when maintaining your audience’s interest is everything, prioritize content that will grab their attention and hold it. Whether it’s through offering incentives or using multimedia, your message needs to get across in an engaging way.

Your organization is fighting for a cause that’s near and dear to your heart. It’s crucial that your audience gets a window into that emotional connection that your organization holds. Let your prospective donors see how much your campaign means to your organization by creating unique photo and video content that tells the story of your mission and how your specific project (and their support) will help fund it. 

Incentives are another fantastic way to make content worth engaging with. For various giving levels of your crowdfunding campaign, offer gift incentives that will excite your audience. Whether it’s a free t-shirt or tickets to your organization’s next virtual event, offer a gift that will engage your audience and thank them for their contribution. When your donors are excited about what they’re getting, they’re more likely to turn to social media and share their big news, resulting in more shared content for your organization.


At the end of the day, nonprofits are in uncharted territory when it comes to effective fundraising in a pandemic. As your organization heads forward, remember to focus on doing your best and not get too dragged down by new challenges. 

Fortunately, people want to help and support those most hurting. It’s important to not get too discouraged and instead focus on all the good your organization can bring to the world with the money you raise. 

Crowdfunding is a flexible and relatively easy way to tap into supporters’ generosity and investment in your mission. You’ll just have to back it up with the right communication, engagement, and promotional tactics to see long-term benefits from your campaign.

Lomesh Shah has over 25 years of experience in international corporate leadership with a strong emphasis on marketing technology and data management systems. Lomesh has worked with small to mid-size businesses, privately-held companies and Fortune 500 corporations in various capacities; from sales and marketing to overseeing automation and re-engineering of processes and operations.

As CEO of Fundly, Lomesh spends much of his time immersed in the nonprofit industry both as an industry leader, speaker, and in service to several organizations as a board member and volunteer. Outside of the industry, Lomesh is a technology junkie and will give anyone willing to listen an assessment of the latest trends in anything from espresso makers and mobile gadgets to electric cars and wind power.

How to Give Your Donors a More Personal Online Thank You Experience

Many people donate online now. There’s a good reason for this. It’s usually fast and easy, or at least it should be. You may be opting for an online only year-end campaign this fall, although I do recommend mailing an appeal letter if you can.

One issue with online donations is the poor thank yous that come after your donor has given you a gift. I like to think of what happens after someone donates online as a thank you experience, which consists of a thank you landing page, thank you email, and a thank you by mail or phone, plus additional bursts of gratitude throughout the year.

Even though your thank you landing page and thank you email are automatically generated, it doesn’t mean they need to sound like they were written by a robot.

There’s a human being on the other end and they just did something great by donating to your organization. Don’t they deserve to be lavished with gratitude? Of course they do. Especially in 2020, possibly one of the worst years ever, when we’re dealing with so much and missing out on personal connections.

It’s not hard to make your online thank yous more personal. Here’s what you need to do.

Use words that convey gratitude

First, make a list of words you associate with gratitude. Did you come up with words such as transaction and processed? I hope not, although those are words I often see after I make an online gift. I cringe every time I see transaction complete or your gift was successfully processed.

Words matter and some words of gratitude include appreciate, grateful, and of course, thank you. 

Think of the donations you receive as the start or continuation of a relationship and not a transaction. 

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 usually about as engaging as an Amazon receipt. In fact, I’ve seen online shopping receipts that are more personal than some nonprofit “thank you” landing pages.

Remember to use words that convey gratitude. You could open with Thank you, Kara! or You’re amazing! Capture your donor’s attention with an engaging photo or video. You could also create a thank you word cloud. Include a short, easy to understand description of how the donation will help your clients/community during these uncertain times.

Invite donors to connect with you in other ways such as signing up to receive your newsletter, following you on social media, and volunteering.

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

Don’t let your donors think they only made a transaction.

How to Create Post Donation Thank You Pages That Delight Donors

How To Optimize Your Donation Thank You Page + Examples Of Nonprofits Who Do It Right

Write a thank you email that your donors will appreciate

Start off by thinking of a good subject line. At the very least say Thank You! and not Donation Received. Stay away from the dreaded words processed and transaction. You want your thank you email to stand out in your donor’s overflowing inbox.

Open your message with Thank You or You’re incredible, and not the usual On Behalf of X organization. Then let your donors know how they’re helping you make a difference for your clients/community.

You want to follow the rules of writing a good thank you letter. The key word here is good. It amazes me how many thank you letters/emails don’t do a good job of saying thank you.

You won’t be able to segment much, but you should be able to distinguish between single gifts and monthly donations.

Speaking of monthly donations, many organizations send their monthly donors an email acknowledgment each month. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what’s wrong is many of these are just plain boring and usually include the same generic message each month.

Your monthly donors have made a long-term commitment to you. You can show the same commitment to them by writing a better thank you email and mixing up the content by sharing updates. This is even more important now.

You can include a donation summary or receipt with your thank you email, but that should be at the end – AFTER you pour on the gratitude. I prefer the term donation summary because it doesn’t sound as transactional.

Remember, you’re a human writing to another human. Don’t make your message sound like it was written by a robot. Write something warm and personal.

Examples of Email Thank You Letters to Online Donors

Best Fundraising Thank You Emails for Your Supporters

Don’t stop showing gratitude 

Since your thank you landing page and email are automatically generated, you can’t make them as personal as a handwritten note, phone call, or letter. That’s why you need to do at least one of those for your online donors. An online thank you is not enough. Also, your donors may not see your thank you email, but you want to make sure they feel appreciated.

You also want to keep thanking your donors throughout the year – at least once a month if you can. If it’s too hard to use mail or make phone calls right now, you can keep thanking by email, as well as social media. A personalized thank you video is another great way to show some gratitude.

You want to give your donors a thank you experience. Your thank you landing page and email acknowledgment are just the beginning. Make them engaging and personal and keep up that theme as you continue to show gratitude to your donors throughout the year.

The Value of Keeping Things Simple

8942956212_3c06d69a16_mOver the years I’ve come to find the value of keeping things simple. In a way, the COVID-19 outbreak has forced us to keep things simple since we’re limited in what we can do, especially outside the house. Instead of running back and forth from place to place, we’re staying put, although we’re spending more time online.

I realize the pandemic has also complicated our lives and brought with it a lot of stress and uncertainty. But during this time, we can find pleasure in simple things such as taking a walk, reading a novel, or baking bread (which is not keeping it simple for me since I don’t bake anything that involves yeast or rolling dough). 

Keeping it simple doesn’t have to mean a bare-bones existence. There’s a Swedish term called lagom meaning everything in moderation or not too much, not too little. Right now, this can apply to how much we read about COVID-19 – enough to know what’s going on, but not too much so it’s overwhelming. 

Keeping things simple is also important for your nonprofit organization. You’re going through a lot. You’ve had to make changes in the way you do your work. That may be providing limited contact or remote services or not be being open at all. Some of you may still be working from home, which can make your work more complicated. 

You need to raise money and communicate with your donors fairly regularly, while not taking on too much. Donors are also going through a lot, but they want to help if they can and they want to hear from you. What they don’t want is a lot of complex content.

Here are a few ways to simplify your communication without making it too difficult for you.

Keep it simple by planning ahead

If communicating regularly with your donors sounds too overwhelming, plan ahead by using a communications calendar. You should be in touch every one to two weeks right now. Fill your calendar with different ways to do that. Think ask, thank, update/engage, repeat. And as I mention below, shorter communication is the way to go.

Keep it simple by sticking to one call to action

Your communication needs to be clear. Before you send an email message or letter, ask what is your intention? Is it to ask for a donation, say thank you, or send an update.

Stick to one call to action. If you pack too much information into your message, it’s likely your donors won’t respond to any of your requests.

In your fundraising appeals, don’t bury your ask. Make it relevant to the current situation. You can start with a story, followed by a clear, polite ask. Recognize your reader. Thank previous donors and invite potential donors to be a part of your family of donors.

Your thank you email or letter should thank the donor. Simple, right? Make them feel good about giving to your organization. Welcome new donors and welcome back returning donors. You don’t need a lot of wordy text explaining what your organization does.

Keep your messages simple, yet sincere, and include a clear call to action.

5 Nonprofit Email Call-to-Actions That Inspire Action

Keep it simple with shorter, easy to read messages

If your communication is too long, most people won’t read it. This is crucial now. People are getting so much information it’s hard to take it all in.

Limit print communication, such as newsletters and annual reports, to four pages or less. Your email messages should be just a few paragraphs. On the other hand, you don’t want to be terse or say too little.

Be sure your communication is easy to read and scan. Use short paragraphs, especially for electronic communication, and include lots of white space. Don’t clutter up the page.

Keep it simple by using conversational language

I find it annoying to read an appeal letter or newsletter article that sounds like a Ph.D. thesis. Write at a sixth to eighth-grade level. That’s what most major newspapers do. This is not dumbing down. You’re being smart by ensuring your donors will understand you.

Keep out the jargon and other confusing language. Instead of saying something like We’re helping underserved communities who are experiencing food insecurity, say  – Thanks to donors like you, we can serve more families at the Eastside Community Food Bank. 

We’re seeing real people being affected by real problems in real time. Don’t diminish this with jargon and other vague language.

Use the active voice and there’s no need to get fancy by using a lot of SAT vocabulary words. Again, you want your donors to understand you.

How Jargon Destroys Nonprofit Fundraising & Marketing

Make it easier for your nonprofit and your donors by keeping things simple.

Photo by One Way Stock

 

Once is Not Enough – Why You Need a Multichannel Fundraising Campaign

9302746500_abac718b17_wYear-end fundraising season is starting to gear up. Perhaps you’ve already mailed an appeal letter or are planning to in the next couple of weeks.

Planning is the key word here. If you just send one fundraising letter and wait for the donations to come in, prepare to be disappointed. Your donors are busy and may put your letter aside to handle later, and never get to it.

You may be thinking of not using direct mail at all because it’s too expensive and only sending email appeals. That’s a mistake. Direct mail is still a viable way to communicate and well worth the investment.

Of course, you can also send email appeals, but you’ll need to plan to send more than one appeal due to the enormous volume of email people receive, especially at this time of the year. 

Some donors will respond to the first appeal, but most are going to need a few reminders.

Your fundraising campaign will be more effective if you use a combination of mail, email, social media, and phone calls. Some donors may respond to your direct mail piece but donate online. Others will see your email message but prefer to send a check.

You’ll have a lot of competition since you’re not the only organization seeking year-end donations. Plus, you’re competing with a deluge of email and social media posts from a variety of sources.

This is why you need a multichannel fundraising campaign with a series of asks.

BEFORE YOU START

Clean up your mailing lists

If you haven’t already done so, clean up and organize your mailing lists. Do you have both postal and email addresses for all your donors?  Be sure to segment your donors into different groups (current, monthly, etc), as well.

6 Steps to Direct Mail List Management

Clean Up Your Email List With These 3 Simple Steps

Make it easy to donate online

You must have a donation page that’s engaging and easy to use on all platforms, including mobile. Test all links in email messages and social media posts. The last thing you want is a donor contacting you about a broken link or have to hunt around on your website for a link to your donation page.

When you’re ready to launch your campaign, include a blurb on your homepage that says your appeal is underway. Make sure your donate button is in a prominent place and stand out even more by including an engaging photo to draw people in.

Which channels do your donors use?

Don’t spend a lot of time on channels your donors aren’t using. Figure out in advance where you want to focus your efforts.

SAMPLE SCHEDULE AND STRATEGY

Come up with a schedule of when the appeals will go out. I’ve created a sample schedule below. Of course, you can adjust the timeframe as needed and use this for campaigns at other times of the year. That said, I do recommend starting your year-end campaign sooner than later. If you’ve already mailed your appeal, you can start planning your reminders.

November 6

Give your supporters a heads up by email and social media. Let them know your year-end appeal is underway and they should receive a letter from you soon, provided you have their mailing address. Encourage them to donate online right now. This means your donation page needs to be in great shape.

Keep in mind that the fact your year-end appeal is going on will matter to some donors and not to others. Use an enticing subject line such as How you can help Lisa learn to read.

Make sure it’s obvious your message is coming from your organization so you have a better chance of getting it opened. Get noticed on social media by using an engaging photo.

Week of November 11

Mail your appeal letters.

Week of November 18

Start sending follow-up reminders via email and social media. If possible, don’t send reminders to people who have already donated. Otherwise, be sure to thank your recent donors. You can even phrase your reminders as more of a thank you or an update.

Thanks so much to all of you who donated to our year-end appeal. We’re well on our way to our goal of serving more kids in our tutoring program. If you haven’t donated yet, please help us out today by visiting our website (include a link to your donation page) or sending us a check (provide address).

Week of November 25

Send another reminder, along with a Happy Thanksgiving message. Share a success story in your appeal.

Week of December 2

December 3 is #GivingTuesday so you could tie that into a reminder message. You may already have a campaign planned.

Your donors’ inboxes will be bursting at the seams on #GivingTuesday and your messages can easily get lost in the melee. Make your messages stand out and show some gratitude, too. 

Don’t just send generic weekly reminders. Also, keep it positive. Don’t make your donors feel bad because they haven’t donated yet.

Week of December 9

Start making reminder calls, along with sending electronic messages. If time is an issue, you could just call people who have donated before. That’s probably most effective. It’s a busy time of the year and your donors may need a gentle prompt.

The rest of December and beyond

Keep sending reminders throughout December. It’s tricky because you want to get your messages across without being annoying. This is another reason why you should only send reminders to people who haven’t donated yet.

Be sure to keep sending your newsletter and other updates. You don’t want the only messages your donors receive to be fundraising appeals. December is also a great time to show some #donorlove and send holiday greetings.

The end of December is the busiest time of this already busy fundraising season. Send two or three reminder emails during the last week of December, including one on the 31st. This is especially relevant if your fiscal year ends on December 31 or your donor wants to give before the end of the calendar year.

Even though you’re trying to raise money, don’t forget about building relationships, too. That’s just as important.

Look to see who hasn’t contributed yet. Concentrate on people who are most likely to donate, such as past donors. You may need to send another letter or a reminder postcard to donors who don’t use electronic communication.

In addition, plan to get in touch with your lapsed donors at the beginning of January.

Your fundraising campaign will be more successful with multiple asks and by using multiple channels. Good luck!

More on multichannel fundraising.

Why Every Fundraising Campaign Should Be a Multi-Channel Campaign

How to Make a Multichannel Fundraising Ask: the Basics

 

How to Make Your Online Thanks Yous More Personal

4102985881_0c855d40d7_nMany people donate online now. There’s a good reason for this. It’s usually fast and easy, or at least it should be.

One problem with online donations is the poor thank yous that come after your donor has given you a gift. Even though your thank you landing page and thank you email are automatically generated, it doesn’t mean they need to sound like they were written by a robot.

There’s a human being on the other end and they just did something nice by donating to your organization. Don’t they deserve to be lavished with gratitude?

It’s not hard to make your online thank yous more personal. Here’s what you need to do.

Use words that convey gratitude

First, make a list of words you associate with gratitude. Did you come up with words such as transaction and processed? Because those are words I often see after I make an online gift. I want to tear my hair out every time I see transaction complete or your gift was successfully processed.

Words matter and some words of gratitude include appreciate, grateful, and of course, thank you. 

Think of the donations you receive as the start or continuation of a relationship and not a transaction. 

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 usually about as engaging as an Amazon receipt. In fact, I’ve received online shopping receipts that are more personal than some nonprofit “thank you” landing pages.

Remember to use words that convey gratitude. You could open with Thank you, David! 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.

Invite donors to connect with you in other ways such as signing up to receive your newsletter, following you on social media, and volunteering.

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

Don’t let your donors think they only made a transaction.

How to Create Post Donation Thank You Pages That Delight Donors

Six Tips for a Stronger Post-Donation Thank You Landing Page

Write a thank you email that will impress your donors

Start off by thinking of a good subject line. At the very least say Thank You! and not Donation Received. Stay away from the dreaded words processed and transaction. You want your thank you email to stand out in your donor’s overflowing inbox.

Open your message with Thank You or You just did something incredible, and not the usual On Behalf of X organization. Then let your donors know how they’re helping you make a difference for the people/community you serve.

Basically, you want to follow the rules of writing a good thank you letter, the key word here being good. I covered this in my last post The Purpose of a Thank You Letter is to Thank Your Donors. It amazes me how many thank you letters/emails don’t do a good job of saying thank you.

You won’t be able to segment much, but you should be able to distinguish between single gifts and monthly donations.

Speaking of monthly donations, many organizations send their monthly donors an email acknowledgment each month. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what’s wrong is many of these are dreadfully boring and usually include the same message each month.

Your monthly donors have made a long-term commitment to you, you can show the same commitment to them by writing a better thank you email and mixing up the content by sharing updates.

You can include a donation summary or receipt with your thank you email, but that should be at the end – AFTER – you pour on the gratitude. I prefer the term donation summary because it doesn’t sound as transactional.

Again, don’t make your message sound like it was written by a robot. Write something warm and personal.

Thanking a Donor by Email: Best Practices and Examples

7 Best Practices for Donor Thank You Emails

Give your donors a good thank you experience 

Since your thank you landing page and email are automatically generated, you can’t make them as personal as a handwritten note, phone call, or letter. That’s why you need to do at least one of those for your online donors. An online thank you is not enough.

You want to give your donors a thank you experience. Your thank you landing page and email acknowledgment are just the beginning. Make them engaging and personal and keep up that theme as you continue to show gratitude to your donors throughout the year.

 

Don’t Get Lost in the Shuffle – Make Your Messages Stand Out

4698746521_0f3d47dd0f_mInformation overload is an understatement right now. We’re bombarded by messages of all kinds from many different sources.

How can your nonprofit keep up with all this? You want to communicate with your donors, but you don’t want your messages to get lost in the shuffle. It won’t be easy, but here are a few ways to make your messages stand out.

What’s your intention?

What’s the purpose of your message? What do you want your reader to do? Maybe it’s to donate, volunteer, attend an event, or contact her legislators. Maybe you’re sharing an update.

Think from your reader’s perspective. What would she be interested in or what would make him take action?

Keep it simple and stick to one call to action.

Choose the right channels

Most likely you’ll use more than one channel to communicate. Pay attention to the channels your donors are using and focus your efforts there.

Email is often the primary way nonprofits communicate and there’s a reason for that. It’s fast, easy, relatively inexpensive, and almost everyone has an email address. You can quickly get a message out to a lot of people. Also, unlike social media, it’s something you can control. You don’t have to rely on a social media algorithm to hope your message ends up in your donor’s feed.

But email has its drawbacks. People can get hundreds of emails a day plus messages from other sources such as social media. It’s easy for your messages to get lost in this melee. I often don’t read all my email. I usually scan through the burgeoning list to see what looks interesting. That, of course, depends on if I even have time to look at my email.

Some email messages, such as a fundraising appeal or an event invitation, you’ll probably need to send more than once. Try not to send messages to people who have already responded.

You can also go multichannel. For example, include a link to your e-newsletter on your social media platforms.

While you’ll likely use electronic communication pretty regularly, don’t discount direct mail. Your donors are more likely to see these messages. We get far less postal mail than electronic communication. Also, a person can put a piece of mail aside and look at it later. Don’t count on that happening with any type of electronic communication.

Get noticed right away

A good subject line is the key to getting someone to open your email message. If he doesn’t bother to open it, all your work has gone to waste.

Give some thought to it. Instead of Donate to our Spring Appeal or May 2019 Newsletter, try Find out how you can help Michael learn to read or Thanks to you, Dara won’t go to bed hungry tonight.

For postal mail, consider an engaging envelope teaser or a colored envelope with a stamp. You don’t want your letter to look like junk mail.

Keep it short

Your next step is to get your donor to read your message. Keep her interested. With email, yours may be one of hundreds she’ll receive that day, along with whatever else is going on in her life.

Make your messages short, but engaging, and get to the point right away.

Keep this in mind when you send your e-newsletter or updates. You might want to consider a two-article newsletter twice a month instead of one with four articles (and it’s unlikely your donors will read all four articles) once a month.

Given the cost of direct mail, why send a six-page annual report when you can wow your donors in an instant with an infographic postcard?

Photos and other visuals can be a great way to stand out, especially on social media.

Make it easy to read and scan

Besides sending a short message, use short paragraphs and lots of white space, too. Your messages need to be easy to read (and scan) in an instant. Don’t use microscopic font either.

Be personal and conversational

Write directly to your reader using clear, conversational language – no jargon. Address your message to a person – Dear Janet and not Dear Friend.

Segment your lists so you can personalize your messages. For example, you’ll create different messages for current donors, potential donors, and monthly donors.

Don’t cast a wide net

It’s important that you send your message to the right audience and your audience isn’t everyone.

You’ll have more luck with a fundraising appeal when you send it to past donors or people who have a connection to your cause. The same is true for event invitations or recruiting volunteers.

You may want to reach out to as many people as possible, but that won’t guarantee you’ll get more donations or event attendees. Segmenting and engaging with the right audience will bring you better results.

Be a welcome visitor

If you communicate regularly and do it well, your donors should recognize you as a reputable source and are more likely to read your messages. If all you do is blast them with generic fundraising appeals, well good luck to you.

Make sure people know your email is coming from your organization. In the from field, put DoGood Nonprofit or Lisa Wilson, DoGood Nonprofit. If you just put a person’s name or info@dogoodnonprofit.org, people may not know who it’s from and ignore your message.

Only send email to people who have opted into your list. Otherwise, you’re spamming them. Some people will choose not to receive email from you, and that’s okay. The ones who do are interested in hearing from you. Give people the option to unsubscribe, too.

Even though people only get a few pieces of mail a day, most of it’s junk mail. You never want any of your letters, newsletters, or postcards to be perceived as junk mail.

It’ll take a little more work, but it’s possible to make your messages stand out so you don’t get lost in the shuffle.

 

Seeing the World Through Your Donors’ Eyes

16694129500_90ff25d71d_mIn my last post, I wrote about the importance of staying donor-centered. Now let’s take it a step further. Try to think like your donors. Visualize one donor or a type of donor and imagine how they will respond to your communication.

Get to know your donors better

You may have a hard time with this if you don’t know your donors very well. One way to get to know them better is to send short surveys. The key here is short. Ask a few questions at a time.

3 Examples of Nonprofit Donor Surveys

The 5 ½ Principles of Effective Donor Surveys

GET TO KNOW YOUR DONORS: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO NONPROFIT SURVEYING

While surveys are a great way to connect, not everyone is going to respond to them. Another tactic to try is to create donor personas. You can use your database to figure out vital information and/or interview a few donors.

How to Develop Donor Personas for Your Nonprofit

GUIDE: Using Donor Personas to Maximize Your Nonprofit Fundraising

I think some of the most important things to know about your donors are why they give to your organization, what aspects of your work are important to them, and how they like to communicate (by mail, email, social media, or a combination of those).

Let’s look at these more closely.

Why do your donors give to your organization?

Donors are human beings, not just money machines. There’s a reason they’ve chosen to give to your organization. If you can find out what drew them to your nonprofit, it will help you with your donor communication.

Most likely they feel a connection to your cause. For example, I support the American Cancer Society because way too many people I know have been affected by cancer.

The best time to find out this information is right after someone donates, especially for first-time donors. This will be easier to collect online and you could include this question on your donation form.

Of course, not everyone donates online. You could also include a short survey and a reply envelope or a link to an online survey with your thank you letter or welcome packet for new donors. (You do send those, right?)

What aspects of your work are important to your donors?

You may have already found out this information from the question above, but most likely you’re working on several initiatives. If your organization is working to prevent homelessness, you may discover your donors are most interested in finding affordable housing for homeless families. Then you can share stories and updates about that initiative.

What communication channels do your donors prefer?

It’s probably more than one, but listen carefully. Don’t spend a lot of time on channels your donors aren’t using much.

Email will probably be your biggest communication tool. You won’t use direct mail as much because of the cost, but you do need to use it at least a few times a year, especially if you find out some donors don’t use electronic communication.

You could also try to get feedback about the frequency of your communication. Shorter, more frequent messages, especially for email and social media, should be more effective. This doesn’t mean blasting your donors with a bunch of generic messages.

The advantage of email and direct mail is you have complete control of them, unlike social media. Speaking of social media, almost every day you hear about some issue with Facebook. I’ve stopped using it and only use Twitter sporadically, but that’s just me. Other people can’t get enough of social media.

This is a good opportunity to monitor your email and social media to see if people are responding to your messages. Look at the open rates, click-throughs, and likes. (I know likes don’t mean that much, but they do reflect some sort of engagement.) Monitor this frequently and focus your efforts on channels your donors are using.

Use your database

As you gather vital information about your donors, put that in your database. Your database also comes in handy because you want to segment your donors – first-time donors, long-term donors, monthly donors, etc – so you can personalize their communication as much as possible.

Putting your work into action

You’ve spent time getting to know your donors better. Now you want to make sure they respond to your messages. This can be hard, especially when donors are bombarded with messages from many sources.

Keep them in mind. What will entice them to look at your email or letter and take action, if necessary. The email subject line Find out how you helped Claudia and her family move into a home of their own is profoundly better than April e-newsletter.

Now that your donor has opened your e-newsletter, is the first thing she sees a story about Claudia? You know from surveying your donors they like to read about the people they’re helping.

Every step of the way you need to see the world through your donors’ eyes – why they give to your organization, what they would like to hear from you, and which channels are best for connecting with them. Do this for every fundraising letter, thank you letter, newsletter, or any other type of communication.

Take time to get to know your donors, so you’ll have a better chance of keeping them for a long time.

 

The Importance of Keeping Things Simple

Keep it -simpleOver the years I’ve come to find the value of keeping things simple. Whether it’s preparing a dish with just a few ingredients or not cramming my schedule with one thing after another.

But keeping it simple doesn’t have to mean a bare bones existence. There’s a Swedish term called lagom (there are also several books about it) meaning everything in moderation or not too much, not too little. It’s definitely a concept I agree with and it’s much needed in our society of too much, too much.

Keeping things simple is also important for your nonprofit communication. Donors are busy and are receiving an abundance of messages from a variety of sources.

You don’t want to get bogged down with a bunch of complex content. Here are a few ways to simplify your communication.

Keep it simple by sticking to one call to action

Your communication needs to be clear. Before you send an email message or letter, ask what is your intention? Is it to ask for a donation, say thank you, invite someone to an event, or recruit volunteers?

Stick to one call to action. If you ask for a donation, try to recruit volunteers, and invite someone to an event all in the same message, it’s likely your donors won’t respond to any of your requests.

In your fundraising appeals, don’t bury your ask. Start with a story, followed by a clear, polite ask. Recognize your reader. Thank previous donors and invite potential donors to be a part of your family of donors.

Your thank you letter should thank the donor. Simple, right? Make them feel good about giving to your organization. Welcome new donors and welcome back returning donors. You don’t need a lot of wordy text explaining what your organization does.

Keep your messages simple, yet sincere, and include a clear call to action.

5 Nonprofit Email Call-to-Actions That Inspire Action

Keep it simple with shorter, easy to read messages

If your communication is too long, most people won’t read it. Limit print communication, such as newsletters and annual reports, to four pages or less. Your email messages should be just a few paragraphs. On the other hand, you don’t want to be terse or say too little.

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Mark Twain

Be sure your communication is easy to read and scan. Use short paragraphs, especially for electronic communication, and include lots of white space. Don’t clutter up the page.

Keep it simple by using conversational language

There’s nothing worse than reading an appeal letter or newsletter article that sounds like a Ph.D. thesis. Write at a sixth to eighth-grade level. That’s what most major newspapers do. This is not dumbing down. You’re being smart by ensuring your donors will understand you.

Keep out the jargon and other confusing language. Use the active voice and there’s no need to get fancy by using a lot of SAT vocabulary words. Again, you want your donors to understand you.

You May Love Your Jargon, But Your Donor’s Don’t

Keep it simple by creating a clutter-free website

Your website is still a place where people will go to get information. Make sure it’s clear and clutter-free, as well as easy to read and navigate. Don’t forget about short paragraphs and lots of white space.

How to Get Your Website in Good Shape

One of the most important parts of your website is your donation page. It needs to be easy to use and collect enough information without overwhelming your donors. If it’s too cumbersome, they may give up and leave.

If it’s a branded page (e.g. not a third-party site like PayPal), make sure it’s consistent with your messaging and look. Don’t go too minimalistic, though. Include a short description of how a donor’s gift will help you make a difference, as well as an engaging photo.

It’s not always easy to keep things simple, but your donors will appreciate it if you do. Read on for more about the importance of keeping things simple.

Is Your Fundraising Appeal Cluttered? That Won’t Do

Your Donor Communications Should Be Simple & Direct

The Complexity of Simplicity