Are you making any of these fundraising communications mistakes?
by Mike Montalto
November 11, 2021

Let’s be real. No one is perfect. So, when’s the last time you did some soul searching and asked, “What fundraising communications mistakes are we making and how do we fix them?”

Whether you’re new to fundraising, or have been working at a nonprofit for decades, there’s always room for improvement.

After all, we know no two organizations are alike and each face their own unique challenges. But we find many nonprofits run into the same issues in their outreach. And some of these mistakes can hold your fundraising back.

These mistakes can cause you to miss out on support that will help you achieve your mission!

Here are some of the more common fundraising communications mistakes we see in organizations across the board and what you can do to fix them.

Paying attention to details in your donor data allows you to be more personal and communicate more effectively.

You don’t value your data.

Data-driven communications strategies help nonprofits raise more money. Organizations that don’t use their data to its potential are selling themselves short and missing out on revenue. They won’t have a deep understanding of their donor base and can’t evaluate their efforts effectively.

But there’s good news! You probably have more data than you think.

First, get your database in order. Then, use what you already know about your donors to build donor profiles and create audience segments based on similar characteristics. This helps you create and send communications that feel more relevant for each recipient!

Your data can also help you determine if there are other fundraising communications mistakes in your strategy. For example, if your emails don’t get a lot of clicks, you might need a stronger call to action.

READ MORE: Why your nonprofit’s call-to-action doesn’t work.

There’s no balance.

Analyze all the regular communications you send throughout the year. How many of them make an ask?

When donors are asked to give again and again, without other meaningful interactions in between, they feel like an ATM.

Varying your outreach is critical to grow relationships with donors and retain them over time. So, share success stories about your work and invite donors to volunteer opportunities, in addition to your appeals and thank you’s. And if donors reach out with questions, make sure you respond as soon as you can!

Then, make these communications more meaningful by using your data. It’s easy to say happy birthday and acknowledge donor anniversaries.

Or, if a donor has given to a specific campaign, let them know about your progress towards that goal.

A donor survey is an under-utilized and powerful communications tool.

You’ll learn more about your donors so you can be more personal with them in the future. But keep it brief and fun. A survey shouldn’t feel like a chore. It’s a fun non-ask communication that also gives you more data to work with!

READ MORE: Why your nonprofit should be using donor surveys.

Go surround sound! Your messages need to reach donors in the right place at the right time.

You don’t go surround sound.

We are a culture of consumers, and we are bombarded with thousands of messages every day.

“Drive this car!” “Eat this food! “Support this cause!” “Watch this movie!”

These messages come at us from all directions and in every medium. And it’s easy for your nonprofit’s message to get lost in the clutter.

Yet, some organizations still just send a direct mail appeal and wait to see how much they raise.

But if you want your communications to stand out, you need to reach your audience with the right message, in the right way, at the right time.

A campaign that reaches audiences across multiple channels is your best bet.

Try sending an email appeal a week before a regular print appeal. You might see a new slew of online donations when your mailer is delivered.

If your initial email inspired donors, but they didn’t have a minute to donate and it slipped their mind, your direct mail appeal can remind them to go back and finish making their gift!

And don’t forget to apply the integrated approach in all your messaging! You can tell a holistic message throughout a campaign by using the same images on your donation page as your appeals, highlighting the story in your appeals on social media, and sending follow up emails.

READ MORE: Repurposing assets for your nonprofit’s social media outreach.

You’re not being donor-centric.

If your appeals and other communications contain anything about meeting your budget, you have some work ahead of you. Your board members would be interested in how this initiative will help you meet financial goals, but your donors really aren’t.

Your nonprofit is the vehicle donors use to make an impact on the causes that are important to them. They are only really interested in how their support furthers your mission. So, telling them that your annual fund is 20 percent behind last year isn’t going to inspire giving!

Your appeals and other messages need to be mission-focused and donor-centric.

They should highlight how donors are making an impact with their support.  You want donors to feel like they can be a hero by doing their part to further the cause. So, your communications should put the donor at the center of the story.

Remember, it’s not about what the organization is doing. It’s about what the donor makes possible!

READ MORE: How you can tell a more donor-centric story.

Stewardship is an ongoing process. One thank you email after a donation won't cut it!

Your “thank you’s” are lacking.

This is one of the more common fundraising communications mistakes we see. We understand the chaos of working at a nonprofit. With only so many hours in the day, building your stewardship strategy can sometimes slip through the cracks.

But do not fall into this trap!

We know donor acquisition is always on mind, but it is actually far more cost effective to make sure donors who gave recently don’t lapse!

Make sure your donors are thanked immediately with an automatic email containing their donation receipt. Then, reach out again within a week with a more personal and heartfelt thank you.

And then don’t let off the gas! It’s important to continue to thank donors and remind them of their impact.

Remember, when communications flow, relationships grow.

READ MORE: How better thank you’s can elevate your fundraising.

Free eBook: Your year-end appeal

You understate a donor’s impact.

Too many nonprofits speak in broad terms when explaining how every donation makes an impact. And it’s one of the more common fundraising communications mistakes many nonprofits make!

It’s not enough to say, “your gift helps provide job opportunities to underserved populations.”

Instead, show your donors how each dollar furthers your mission.

In this scenario, you might say something like, “Your gift of $50 buys 10 ties, so our beneficiaries can dress for success at their next job interview.”

There is no shortage of donors who identify with your cause. If your mission didn’t speak to them, they wouldn’t want to learn more about you in the first place!

But that’s not enough to make a donor want to give. They want to see the real impact their gift will have towards advancing the values they share with your nonprofit.

READ MORE: How to show donors the impact of every donation.

Invest in your outreach and do more for your cause.

You’re unwilling to invest in your outreach.

Money doesn’t grow on trees. So, if you’re not investing the necessary time, resources, and capital into your fundraising communications, you’re not going to bring in as much revenue as you hoped.

Would you rather spend $2,000 to raise $10,000 doing what you’ve been doing, or spend $20,000 to raise $100,000?

Yes, it’s important that as much of your revenue goes towards your goals as possible. But your organization could do so much more for the cause if you invest more into your fundraising!

For example, you might be ready to invest in fundraising software, depending on the size of your organization and your nonprofit’s budget.

But first, research! You’ll want to consider several factors before determining the right nonprofit solution for your organization. Because yes, fundraising software is a great way to be more effective, but only if it fits your unique needs.

Many nonprofits find themselves in fundraising limbo. They’re understaffed and spread thin, with board members who are resistant to change.

Whether you hire an outside agency or consultant to take charge of an initiative or use that money to add staff and build up your own development department, spending money to raise more money will enable you to have a bigger impact!

Like what you see? Stay in touch!