5 Fatal Donor Communication Mistakes Nonprofits Should Avoid

Donor communication can be the key to growing your nonprofit’s community and reaching your fundraising goals. Be wary of these 5 fatal communication mistakes!

By Steve Page

16185149128_a4db78e711_m

When your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts are in full swing, it can be easy to get caught up in a numbers game of trying to reach your fundraising benchmarks.

However, if your team wants to raise as much money as possible for your cause, there’s one area of your fundraising strategy that you shouldn’t disregard: your donor communications.

Having an air-tight donor communication strategy in place is one of the fundamentals of perfecting your fundraising strategy. Without optimizing how your organization connects with donors, your nonprofit could be missing out on some of your most important supporters.

Not sure if your nonprofit is making the most of how you communicate with donors? Look out for these five fatal donor communication mistakes that could derail your fundraising efforts:

  1. You don’t have a donor communication strategy in place
  2. You’re failing to communicate through diverse channels
  3. You’re discounting traditional donor communication channels
  4. You’re not thinking through your social media strategy
  5. You’re not making the most out of your email communications

Ready to learn how to overcome these common donor communication missteps? Let’s dive right in!

Bonus! Is your nonprofit looking to strengthen all areas of your fundraising strategy? Check out MobileCause’s fundraising software buyer’s guide to learn about how investing in the right online tools can help your team fundraise better, as well as improve your donor communications.

MobileCause_Ann Green Nonprofit_5 Fatal Donor Communication Mistakes to Avoid_Header1

1. You don’t have a communication strategy in place

One of the biggest mistakes nonprofit organizations make is failing to identify where and how they want to see their communication strategy grow like they would for their fundraising strategy as a whole.

It’s important that your team takes the time to develop an overarching communication strategy to shape each individual strategy from its foundation. As your team makes changes to improve the way you connect with donors, consider some of the following tactics.

Identify your communications goals.

While the ultimate goal of your communication strategy should be to increase donations and achieve the goals of your fundraising strategy, you also need to identify tangible benchmarks to meet that are specific to donor communications, such as adding new supporters to your email list or increasing profile views on your social media pages.

Create a communications calendar.

When your team plans out a fundraising campaign, you likely create a fundraising calendar to structure how the campaign plays out. Similarly, your team should create a communications calendar that accounts for each channel of your communications with donors. This way, you can easily keep track of what each channel is responsible for and when you will communicate.

Keep your plan flexible and responsive.

Now that you’ve developed actionable goals for your overall communication strategy, periodically follow up on them throughout your fundraising calendar and see what’s working. If you’re not progressing as planned, make the necessary changes across all arms of your communication with donors.

Bonus! Thinking through your nonprofit’s communication strategy should be one of the central parts of developing your fundraising plan. Check out Aly Sterling Philanthropy’s guide to crafting your nonprofit’s fundraising plan for more tips to get ahead!

MobileCause_Ann Green Nonprofit_5 Fatal Donor Communication Mistakes to Avoid_Header2 (1)

2. You’re failing to communicate through diverse channels

When it comes to your nonprofit’s community of supporters, your team should know better than anyone that they have donors from many different walks of life.

To paint them with the same brush would be shortsighted, and your fundraising strategy likely already accounts for differences in giving capacity, age, gender, region, and more.

That being said, with supporters coming in all shapes and sizes, it’s doubly important that your donor communication strategy takes account of these differences by thoughtfully implementing multiple channels of donor communication.

Put simply, your team needs to have a targeted multichannel donor communication strategy in place if you want to effectively communicate with your supporters.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! Develop specific communication strategies for:

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Phone
  • Direct mail

Many of your donors will respond better to certain communication channels over others. Some may not even use a particular channel of communication and will be completely blind to any calls to action, invitations to upcoming fundraising events, or other information that might be primarily shared on that channel.

To avoid missing out on members of your donor community, you can assess the reach of campaigns on different communication channels by using A/B testing as a means of comparison.

Additionally, by carefully segmenting your lists of supporters, you can more accurately identify the demographics of your donors and volunteers. With this knowledge, you’ll have a better idea of which communication channels to prioritize and how to better approach communicating across all channels.

The next sections will show you how to communicate more effectively on specific channels.

MobileCause_Ann Green Nonprofit_5 Fatal Donor Communication Mistakes to Avoid_Header3 (1)

3. You’re discounting traditional donor communication channels

These days, when nonprofits talk about donor communication the conversation usually circles back to one thing: social media. Having an effective social media communication strategy certainly is important and your team should take the time to hone how you communicate with donors within that important medium.

However, although donors are increasingly turning to digital means of accessing and engaging with nonprofits online, that doesn’t mean your organization should completely discount more traditional communication channels.

In particular, communicating with donors via the phone and through direct mail can both be useful ways to build relationships with supporters who might not respond well to email communication or who don’t spend much time on social media.

Even better? Just because these methods have been around for a long time, that doesn’t mean they can’t be brought into the 21st century! You can easily integrate online fundraising tools and tactics into your phone and direct mail donor communication strategies.

For example, your team could set up a phonathon run by staff or volunteers. They can call potential supporters and process their donations using your online donation forms in a matter of minutes. With this method, you can access potential donors who may need assistance in completing their online donation or those who simply need an extra reminder to give.

When it comes to direct mail, you could include a QR code or the URL of your online donation form in any mail communication you have with donors. Because this communication is on paper, these supporters can keep the letter up on their fridge or desk if they’re not immediately able to donate, which serves as a more permanent reminder of your ongoing campaign.

MobileCause_Ann Green Nonprofit_5 Fatal Donor Communication Mistakes to Avoid_Header4 (1)

4. You’re not thinking through your social media strategy

In much the same way that a nonprofit might lean too heavily on social media communications to connect with donors and end up neglecting more traditional communication methods, it’s just as easy for your team to fail to think through your social media strategy entirely.

Many nonprofits seem to see social media communication as a new frontier for connecting with donors. Because of this, some organizations think that any form of social media communication will be effective and that just having an active Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram page will help boost their fundraising efforts.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it appears! Effectively using social media to engage with donors should take time, research, and a strategic approach.

Your team can start this process by asking yourselves the following questions.

What are we posting about?

Your nonprofit’s social media profiles should be sharing a variety of relevant information with supporters, but not overwhelming them with a lot of white noise. Aim to consistently post 3-5 times each day, and vary the types of posts you share. You should share upcoming events, call supporters to action with donation requests, post impact videos, and even interact with supporters’ own posts.

Are we steering supporters toward donation tools?

Some of your supporters will only encounter your organization on social media and never venture onto your nonprofit’s main website. Because of this, it’s important to get your online donation form in front of these visitors while they’re on your social media pages. By sharing links to your forms or even embedding these forms in your Facebook page, these supporters are more likely to give.

How can we learn more about our community through social media?

What’s great about social media communication with donors is that it can tell you a lot about who you’re interacting with, their habits, and the types of engagement strategies that work with them. Track metrics such as post views, click through rates, and more by analyzing how your supporters respond to your social media strategy. Armed with this knowledge, you can tailor your approach to better serve your social media audience in the future.

MobileCause_Ann Green Nonprofit_5 Fatal Donor Communication Mistakes to Avoid_Header5 (1)

5. You’re not making the most out of your email communications

In much the same way that your team should take a dynamic approach to communicating with donors via social media, the same can apply to how your nonprofit uses email to connect with donors.

Right now, your organization may simply be using email to remind supporters about upcoming donation deadlines or the next big fundraising event. However, your email communication strategy can do so much more!

Consider some of the following ways your team can maximize email communications with your donors:

  • Enable giving through email. Just as you should enable giving through your social media pages, your team can make giving easier for supporters by directing them to your online donation form right from your email messages.
  • Pair email campaigns with text-to-donate messages. Strengthen your email campaigns with text-to-donate reminders. When you pair email calls to action with a text reminder to give, you can increase your nonprofit’s email open rate from an average of 14% to 90%!
  • Track campaigns with shortlinks and keywords. Be sure to create unique keywords and short links for each of your fundraising campaign’s donation pages. This way, by including these in your email communication with donors, you can track engagement.
  • Use email to thank your donors and send updates. Your donors need to feel appreciated and receive regular updates from you. Email is a great way to stay in touch.

Just like with social media communication, it’s important to not relegate your email strategy to simply performing one task. Make the most of your email communications by using them to both steer supporters toward donating and to learn more about your community.

Keeping in touch with donors can be daunting! Now that your nonprofit knows what missteps to look out for, it’s time to start perfecting the way you connect with your supporters.

Steve Page is a blogger, marketer, and webmaster for MobileCause, the world’s leading mobile and online fundraising platform. MobileCause helps organizations reach their goals with a full suite of mobile-friendly solutions that allow donors to connect and give to your cause from any device. When he’s not working at MobileCause, Steve can usually be found helping organizations with their websites, learning the latest marketing trends, or working on his golf game.

Advertisements

How to Plan a Multichannel Fundraising Campaign

9302746500_abac718b17

Year-end fundraising season is upon us. This is the busiest time of the year for most organizations and you need to plan carefully.

If you just send one fundraising letter and then wait for the donations to pour in, you’re in for a rude awakening. Your donors are busy and may put your letter aside to handle later, and then never get to it.

You may be thinking of bypassing direct mail altogether because it’s too expensive, and only sending email appeals. That’s a mistake. Direct mail is still very much a viable way to communicate and worth the investment.

Of course, you can also send email appeals, but you will need to plan to send more than one appeal due to the immense volume of email people receive. 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 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?

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 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.

October 25

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 Kids 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 October 30

Mail your appeal letters.

Week of November 6

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 13

Send another reminder. Your donors are busy and may need a gentle prompt. Keep it positive. Don’t make your donors feel bad because they haven’t donated yet.

If you’re doing most of your reminders by email, remember you want your message to stand out. Sending generic weekly reminders is not enough.

Don’t Be Part of the Noise – Make Your Email Messages Stand Out

Week of November 20

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

Week of November 27

Start making reminder calls, along with your electronic messages. If time is an issue, you could just call people who have donated before. That’s probably most effective.

Also, November 28 is #GivingTuesday so you could tie that into a reminder message.

December and beyond

Keep sending reminders throughout December. It’s tricky because you want to get your message across without being annoying. 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.

The end of December is the busiest time of the fundraising season. Network for Good recommends sending an email reminder on December 23, 29 or 30, and 31. 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 secure donations, don’t forget about building relationships, too.

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.

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

More on multichannel fundraising.

How to Make a Multichannel Fundraising Ask: the Basics

Channeling Real Human Beings in Multichannel Fundraising

 

 

Once is Not Enough,and Why You Need a Multichannel Fundraising Campaign

9299959937_3edb05f367_m

If you think you can send one fundraising appeal and then wait for the donations to pour in, you’re in for a rude awakening. Your donors are busy and may put your letter aside to handle later, and then never get to it. Or, they may not see your fundraising email in their ever growing inbox. While some donors will respond to the first appeal, most are going to need a few reminders.

You also don’t want to rely on one communication channel. 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. Not to mention, election season is in full force in U.S. but, thankfully, will be over on November 8.

This is why you need a multichannel 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.

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 your appeal is underway. Make sure your donate button is in a prominent place.

Consistency is key

Your messages need to be consistent across channels. Use the same story and call to action in direct mail, email, and on your website.

Everything you send needs to look like it’s coming from the same organization.

Which channels do your donors use?

Yes, we’re talking about multichannel, but that doesn’t mean spending 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.

October 26

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. Encourage them to donate online right now. This means your donation page needs to be in great shape.

Week of October 31

Mail your appeal letters.

Week of November 7

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. 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 14

Send another reminder. Your donors are busy and may need a gentle prompt. Keep it positive. Don’t make your donors feel bad because they haven’t donated yet.

Week of November 21

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

Week of November 28

Start making reminder calls. If time is an issue, you could just call people who have donated before. That’s probably most effective.

Also, November 29 is #GivingTuesday so you could tie that into a reminder message.

The rest of December and beyond

Keep sending reminders throughout December. It’s tricky because you want to get your message across without being annoying. 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.

The end of December is the busiest time of the fundraising season. Network for Good recommends sending an email reminder on December 23, 29 or 30, and 31. 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 secure donations, don’t forget about building relationships, too.

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 mailing to donors who don’t use electronic communication.

Remember, your fundraising will be more successful with multiple asks and by using multiple channels. 9 Tips for Making a Multichannel Fundraising Ask  Good luck with your campaign.

Photo by Daniel Iverson

How to Plan a Multi-Channel Fundraising Campaign

9302746500_abac718b17

We have many ways to reach out to our donors – by mail, email, social media, and phone calls. But your fundraising campaign will be more effective if you use a combination of these.

Some donors may respond to your direct mail piece but donate online. Others will see your email message but prefer to send a check. Some donors will respond to the first appeal while others need a few reminders. This is why you need a multi-channel campaign.

BEFORE YOU START

Clean up your mailing lists

If you haven’t already done so, clean up and organize your mailing lists.

Make it easy to donate online

You must have a donation page that’s engaging and easy to use. 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 your appeal is underway. Make sure your donate button is in a prominent place.

Consistency is key

Your messages need to be consistent across channels. Use the same story and call to action in direct mail, email, and on your website.

Everything you send needs to look like it’s coming from the same organization.

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.

October 21

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. Encourage them to donate online right now. This means your donation page needs to be in great shape.

Week of October 26

Mail your appeal letter.

Week of November 2

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 almost halfway to our goal. 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 9

Send out another reminder. Your donors are busy and may need a gentle prompt.  Keep it positive. Don’t make your donors feel bad about not donating yet.

Week of November 16

Start making reminder calls. If time is an issue, you could just call people who have donated before. That’s probably most effective.

Week of November 23

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

Week of November 30

December 1 is #GivingTuesday so you could tie that into your reminder.

The rest of December and beyond

Keep sending reminders throughout December. It’s tricky because you want to get your message across without being annoying.  Be sure to keep sending your newsletter and other updates. You don’t want the only messages your donors receive to be fundraising appeals.

The end of December is the busiest time of the fundraising season.  Network for Good recommends sending an email reminder on December 23, 29 or 30, and 31. 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.

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 mailing to donors who don’t use electronic communication. Also, keep track of how many donors come through each channel.

We live in a multi-channel world. Take time to plan your strategy to ensure a successful year-end campaign.

Here’s a great resource to help you with your multi-channel fundraising.

Multi-Channel Fundraising Campaign Worksheet

Image by Daniel Iverson

Go Multi-Channel for Better Year-End Success

9302746260_6fa6dfef4e_z

Most of you are about ready to launch your year-end appeal.  We have many ways to reach out to our donors – by mail, email, social media, phone calls. But your fundraising campaign will be more effective if you use a combination of these.

Some donors may respond to your direct mail piece, but donate online. Others will see your email message, but prefer to send a check. Some donors will respond to the first appeal, while others need a few reminders. This is why you need to go multi-channel.

BEFORE YOU START

Clean up your mailing lists

If you haven’t already done so, clean up and organize your mailing lists.

Make it easy to donate online

It’s crucial to have a donation page that’s engaging and easy to use. 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 having to hunt around on your website for the donation page.

Right before your appeal goes out, include a blurb on your homepage that your appeal is underway. Make sure your donate button is in a prominent place.

Consistency is key

Your messages need to be consistent across channels. Use the same story and call to action in direct mail, email, and on your website.

Everything you send out needs to look like it’s coming from the same organization.

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.

October 22

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

Week of October 27

Mail your appeal letter.

Week of November 3

Start sending out 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 have donated to our year-end appeal. We’re almost halfway to our goal. 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 11

Send out another reminder.  Your donors are busy and may need a gentle prompt.  Keep it positive. Don’t make your donors feel bad about not donating.

Week of November 17

Start making reminder calls. If time is an issue, you could just call people who have donated before. That’s probably most effective.

Week of November 24

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

Week of December 1

December 2 is #GivingTuesday so you could tie that into your reminder.

The rest of December and beyond

Keep sending reminders throughout December. It’s tricky because you want to get your message across without being annoying.  Continue to send your newsletter and other updates. You don’t want the only messages your donors receive to be fundraising appeals.

Network for Good recommends sending a fundraising email on December 27, 29, and 31. 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.

Look to see who hasn’t contributed yet. Concentrate on people who are most likely to donate, such as past donors.   Also, keep track of how many donors come through each channel.

We live in a multi-channel world. Take time to plan your strategy to ensure a successful year-end campaign.

Here’s a great resource to help you with your multi-channel fundraising.

Download Your Multi-Channel Fundraising Campaign Worksheet

Image by Daniel Iverson