Nonprofit Fundraising: 5 Ways to Expand Community Engagement

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By Wayne Elsey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1. Donor Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2. Social Media Fundraising

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

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

Crowdfunding

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

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

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

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

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

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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3. Community Events

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

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

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

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

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

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4. Community Drives

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

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

Try coordinating one of these drives into your next community fundraiser

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

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5. Corporate Philanthropy

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

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

Corporate giving programs allow:

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

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

Matching Gifts

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

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

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

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

Volunteer Grants

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

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

_______________________________________________________________________________

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

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

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

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How to Get Ready for Your Year-End Appeal

Image result for free images for get readyCan you believe we’re already halfway through August? Like it or not, September will be here before you know it.

Fall is a busy time for nonprofits, especially if you’re doing a year-end appeal. You don’t need to mourn the end of summer yet, but you should start planning for your year-end appeal.

Many nonprofits rely on their year-end appeal for a good portion of their revenue so you want it to be successful. Use this checklist to help you get started. You can also use this for fundraising campaigns at other times of the year.

How much money do you need to raise?

You may have already set a goal in your 2019 fundraising plan (at least I hope you did) and perhaps you need to revise that goal. If you haven’t set a goal, determine how much money you need to raise before you start your campaign.

Do you have a plan?

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

When do you want to launch your appeal?  I think earlier is better. Remember, you’re also competing with countless other organizations who are doing appeals. If you can get yours out by the end of October, you may be ahead of the game. 

Figure out what you need to get done and how long it will take. Keep in mind things usually take longer than you think. If you want to launch your appeal by November 1, make your goal October 20.

Also, how are you mailing your appeal? You may need to recruit extra volunteers or get your materials to a mail house.

An Annual Appeal Fundraising Timeline You Can Use

13 End-of-Year Appeal Strategies

Do you have a good story and photo to share?

Find a good story for your year-end appeal. You’ll want some engaging photos for your letter and donation page, too. Quotes from clients will also enhance your appeal.

Tell the Stories Your Donors Want to Hear

Entice Your Donors With Visual Stories

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

Your appeal letter should highlight some of the year’s accomplishments and state what you plan to do next year. For example, let’s say you run a tutoring program. Let your donors know that thanks to them, 85% of the students in your program are now reading at or above their grade level. Next year you’d like to expand to five more schools.

Focus on the people you serve and show how your donors are helping you make a difference or can help you make a difference. Don’t brag about your organization.

Are your mailing lists in good shape?

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

Also, now is a good time to segment your mailing lists – current donors, monthly donors, lapsed donors, event attendees, etc. This is so important! You should have more success if you can personalize your appeal letters.

Do you have enough letterhead, envelopes, and stamps?

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

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

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

Is it easy to donate online?

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

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

Examples Of Great Nonprofit Donation Pages

How does a donation help the people you serve?

Create a set of giving levels and let your donors know how their gift will help.

How To Create Donation Tiers That Drive Donations

Do you have an incentive to entice donors to give a larger gift?

Instead of offering premiums, see if you can find a major donor who will match any upgrades. I know of an organization that used this as an incentive to get new donors.

Boost Your Fundraising Results With a Match From a Major Donor

Do you offer a monthly or recurring giving option?

Monthly or recurring giving is another way to get a larger gift. I highly recommend a monthly giving program if you don’t already have one.

Some people might balk at donating $100 or more, but if you present it as $10 a month ($120 a year!), it sounds more feasible.

Incorporating Monthly Giving Into Your Fundraising

How will you thank your donors?

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

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

How will you keep up with your donor communication?

Even though you’ll be busy with your appeal, you want to ramp up your donor communication this fall. Keep engaging your donors and other supporters (who may become donors) by sharing success stories and gratitude. Pour on the appreciation! You could create a thank you video or hold an informal open house. Just don’t disappear until appeal time.

What are you doing to get ready for your year-end appeal?

 

Show Some Donor Appreciation by Holding an Open House

46151444015_a1828a3de5_mMany nonprofits do a poor job of showing appreciation to their donors, but you don’t have to be one of them. 

There are many ways to show some donor appreciation. One idea is to have an open house at your organization. If you can’t hold one on-site, have it at a restaurant or other venue. You may be able to find someone to donate space.

Invite other supporters, too

You could just have an event for donors, but why not invite other supporters such as event attendees, email subscribers, and social media followers, as well? This could be a great way to convert these supporters into donors. Encourage your donors to bring a friend, too.

Coordinate it with your year-end appeal

Depending on your resources, you may only be able to hold one open house a year. If you can hold more, that’s great.

A good time to have your open house is before you launch your year-end appeal so you could hold one sometime between mid-September and early November.

Another option is spring if you have an appeal then, or you could make it a thank-you event.  

Winter is tricky unless you’re lucky enough to live someplace where it doesn’t snow. And summer’s not good since most people go away on vacation.

Whenever you decide to hold your open house, don’t ask for money at this event.

Keep it casual

No three-course dinners and speeches that go on and on. Hold a gathering where your supporters can drop in after work, and serve something to eat and drink. You may be able to get food and beverages donated or find a sponsor.

Have a brief program. You could show a video and/or let a client share his/her story. Your executive director or board chair should thank your guests and share some accomplishments and plans for the future. Remember to keep it brief. You don’t want anyone looking for the nearest escape route.

Create some photo displays and have literature available. You could also show a video on a laptop. Offer tours, if that makes sense.

Speaking of tours, you could offer them at other times, too. After I became a monthly donor, one organization invited me to arrange a tour. Even though I didn’t take them up on it, I thought it was a nice gesture.

7 Tips to Create an Amazing Donor Cultivation Tour

Get your board involved

You must have a good turnout from your board. Encourage board members to invite friends and other potential prospects.

Make everyone feel welcome

Don’t hide in the corner or spend all your time talking to your co-workers. Your staff and board need to mingle with your guests and make them feel welcome.

You may want to go over your organization’s talking points and brush up on your elevator pitches so everyone is prepared to talk about what you do and answer questions. And that doesn’t mean reciting your mission statement. Use language your attendees will understand.

How to Nail Your Nonprofit’s Elevator Pitch

Don’t forget the follow-up

Anyone who has taken time out of her/his busy schedule to attend your open house needs to be thanked. Follow up is crucial. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to build relationships.

Collect names and addresses of the people who attended and send a thank you note right away. This is a good project for your board. Don’t ask for money (that comes later).

Segment your open house attendees, so when you send your next appeal you can include a sentence that says, “It was great to see you at our open house.”

Not all your donors will attend your open house but will appreciate the invitation. Donors and other supporters who do come are showing you they’re interested in your organization. Keep them interested and keep showing appreciation and building relationships with them! This will help ensure they’ll continue to support you for a long time.

 

 

 

How to Stay on Track for the Rest of the Year

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

5 Key Takeaways from the 2019 Giving USA Report

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

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

Nonprofit Fundraising Plan: 6 Must-Do Steps For Success

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

Ask your donors for an upgrade

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

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

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

Start or enhance your monthly giving program

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

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

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

Get in touch with your lapsed donors

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

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

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

Do a better job of thanking your donors

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

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

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

You still have time to stay on track

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

Giving USA 2019 | How to fundraise smarter, not harder

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

3 Ways to Stay Ahead of Giving Trends

 

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

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

Thanks, But No Thanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Create Post Donation Thank You Pages That Delight Donors

Plan to write a warm and personal automatic thank you email

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

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

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

7 Best Practices for Donor Thank You Emails

Email Thank You Letter Examples for Donors

Plan to thank your donors by mail or phone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 Engaging Ideas for Donation Thank You Letters

INFOGRAPHIC: The ULTIMATE Thank You for Nonprofits

How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

Plan to keep thanking your donors all year round

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

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

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

Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors

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

What Fundraising and Strength Training Have in Common

32004749403_9d5d6ffa41_mAbout a year and a half ago I started doing strength training with a personal trainer. My initial assessment was humbling, to say the least, and at the beginning, there were several times I wondered “Why am I doing this?”

But I’ve benefited so much. Not only am I stronger, but I’ve lost weight, I’m sleeping better, my mood is better, and I have a more robust immune system.

Strength training has a lot in common with fundraising and when I say fundraising, I’m including the stewardship and relationship building components, too.

It’s supposed to be hard, but doable

If I ever say one of my training exercises is hard, my trainer will respond, “It’s supposed to be hard.” That said, it also needs to be doable.

What a wonderful world we’d live in if people just donated money to nonprofit organizations without us have to do anything.

Fundraising is hard. It doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it, but you also need to be realistic. I’m not lifting 100-pound weights. That would be too much for me. Certain fundraising endeavors, such as events, may be too much for your organization to take on right now.

How to raise money: 3 steps to creating sustainable funding for your new, young, or small nonprofit

Starting small is often the way to go

I work out twice a week and do what’s known as a circuit –  seven or eight exercises each of the days, usually three sets of 10-12 reps each. People who are more advanced might do four or five sets of two different exercises with heavier weights.

This same formula can work for your organization when you concentrate on individual gifts. Many of these will be under $100 each, but you’ll be able to get a larger number of them.

Be patient and you’ll see results

It took about two or three months for me to see the results I mentioned above. Some of your fundraising will take even longer.

You can get smaller gifts fairly quickly. Securing major gifts and grants will take longer.  It can take up to a year to cultivate major gifts and it takes a lot of relationship building to get there. If you get approved for a grant, it can take several months to get the money and there are often restrictions.

But if you persevere, you should see results.

Take it to the next level

If I kept doing the same exercises I started with, I wouldn’t make much progress. The same is true with fundraising.

Most appeal letters are generic,one-size fits all. You’re missing an opportunity to grow when you don’t ask donors to upgrade their single gifts or invite them to become a monthly donor.

There are so many opportunities to take your fundraising to the next level. Smaller dollar donors can upgrade to mid-level donors, mid-level donors can become major donors, and major donors are potential legacy donors.

You need to stick with it

If I miss a week or two of training, it suffers. The same is true with your fundraising. If all you do is send appeals a few times a year, you won’t have much success.

You need to engage with your donors regularly – at least once or twice a month. That includes showing gratitude and sharing updates.

Build Relationships With Your Donors Every Step of the Way

You need a plan

When I started strength training, my trainer designed a plan for me that we can build on and modify as needed. You need to do the same thing with your fundraising.

You shouldn’t be raising revenue without a plan in place. You also need a donor communication and stewardship plan.

Nonprofit  Fundraising Plan: 6 Must-Do Steps For Success

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

My workout consists of exercises for the upper body, lower body, and core. Your fundraising will also consist of different endeavors – individual giving, major gifts, grants, events, etc.

And as I mentioned before, and I’ll mention again since many organizations ignore this, your fundraising also needs a gratitude and relationship building component.

Fundraising takes a lot of hard work, but if you keep building and stick with it, you should see results.

Photo via https://thoroughlyreviewed.com/

Spring Cleaning Projects for Your Nonprofit

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Spring is officially here and depending on where you live, it may or may not feel like it. I recently returned from a trip to New Orleans where spring is in full force. Here in Boston, we have a little ways to go.

You hear a lot about spring cleaning right now. I know, groan. Those of us who don’t like to clean and organize put off these projects until piles of clutter start taking on a life of their own and your windows become so grimy you can’t even see out of them.

As much as I dislike cleaning and organizing, I’m happy once it gets done. Often getting started is the hardest part.

Your nonprofit organization should also do its own version of spring cleaning and decluttering. If you’re feeling reluctant about taking on these so-called cumbersome tasks, just think how happy you’ll be once you tackle them. You’ll also make some much-needed improvements to your infrastructure and donor communication.

Let’s get started!

Clean up your mailing lists and database

Did you have an influx of address changes, returned mail, and bounced emails after you sent your year-end appeal? This is a good time to clean up and update both your direct mail and email mailing lists.

Don’t wait until right before your next mailing to clean up your donor data. Even though it’s tedious, have someone who’s familiar with your donors (your development director?) go through your mailing lists and database to see if you need to make any additions, changes, and deletions.

Be meticulous. No donor wants to see her name misspelled, be addressed as Mrs. when she prefers Ms., or receive three mailings because you have duplicate records.

Your donor database is an important tool and it needs to be up-to-date and filled with accurate information about your donors.

Run your donor list through the National Change of Address database. It may cost some money to do this, but it’s worth it if you come out with squeaky clean data. Do this at least once a year.

Also, if you haven’t already done this, segment your donors into different groups – new donors, returning donors, monthly donors, etc. You may need to make some changes. For example, if a single gift donor starts giving monthly.

You might also want to move some lapsed donors who haven’t donated for several years into an inactive file. Don’t do this until you’ve sent targeted, personalized appeals asking them to donate again. And if you’ve never gotten in touch with the lapsed donors from your last fundraising campaign, why not do that now?

Five simple steps for winning back your lapsed donors

Do the same thing with your email list. It doesn’t make sense to send email to people who don’t respond to it. Give these people a chance to re-engage, and if they’re not even opening your emails, move them to an inactive file.

HOW WE CLEANED UP OUR EMAIL LIST AND RE-ENGAGED OUR SUBSCRIBERS

Maybe you need a better database. If you’re using a spreadsheet to store your donor records, then you need an actual database. Get the best one you can afford.

Fundraising Software Advice

Spring is about bringing in the new and a better database would be a wise investment. If you plan to get a different database, make sure you can easily transfer all your records. The Agitator blog recently covered this. Here’s a link to the third post in a series, which contains links to the first two. Definitely worth reading if you’re planning to get a new database/CRM.

Steps to Avoid Calling Bullshit

Freshen up your messages

Now that you’ve cleaned up your mailing lists and segmented your donors, it’s time to freshen up your messages. Take a good look at your appeal letters, thank you letters, and other content. Have you been using the same old, stale templates for years?  Are you bragging too much about your organization and using jargon? Do your thank you letters begin with the dreaded “On Behalf of X organization….”

Spruce up your messages with some donor-centered content. Create separate templates for new donors, current donors, and monthly donors.

From what I’ve seen, many organizations need to improve their donor communication, especially thank you letters. A thank you letter is something that’s supposed to make your donors feel appreciated and it often falls short. Don’t just freshen up your letters, work on your thank you email acknowledgments and landing pages, too, so they don’t look like boring receipts.

The Importance of Having a Thank You Plan

Don’t put it off too long

Your clutter and dust at home won’t disappear on their own. The longer you ignore it, the worse it gets. The same is true for your nonprofit.

Take on these spring cleaning projects as soon as you can. You’ll be happy once they’re done. Your donors will also be happy if they don’t get duplicate mailings or they receive a stellar thank you letter.