If you’re like most people dealing with nonprofit fundraising, there have been times when you just couldn’t get off the ground It happens to everyone at some point whether you’re drafting a grant narrative, appeal letter, or a soft campaign on a social channel. Even the most gifted fundraisers experience the dreaded point of no return, when those checks and PayPal donations just aren’t showing up in your inbox.
Talking about how great your organization is can be exhausting. But what if it’s not you, but your communication methods, that have grown tired? Don’t worry, we have some advice to help take your fundraising into the stratosphere and beyond!
Getting Personal with Fundraising
We all know that it’s important to know your donors. But when we tell you to get personal, we don’t mean snooping through their trash, we’re talking about personalized content! Doesn’t it feel nice to get something in mail that feels like it was meant especially for you? If you’re like us, the answer is yes. Organizations that personalize elements of their newsletters or e-mail blasts achieve significant increases in response rates, from active donors and sustained supporters alike.
Now, for every mail merge expert reading this who’s thinking “We’ve been addressing our letters individually for years, this makes no difference!” I ask you to think bigger! Personalization is more than just Dear Your Name Here or Your donation of $___. It’s changing complete elements of your narrative. It’s changing images so that they appeal specifically to the recipients, and having two totally different formats of your letter based on age groups or average response rate. It can be simple or advanced, but it’s always highly effective.
All Systems Go!
Direct mail, e-mail, and social communications can be used to create a little competition among donors. This can make a fundraising campaign more interactive and fun. We saw one university use Facebook to gather alumni and the school’s favorite professors for an online “party” where there was a soft push to give. The class with the highest donation level won a free happy hour as a reward for their giving. The college doubled the number of alumni donations and added new names to its database to set themselves up for future success.
Being able to tell your story is a really important part of successful fundraising, but you need to be talking to everyone, everywhere. Cross-channel communication is really important nowadays. Social media is a free and prevalent resource, so there’s no reason for organizations to not take advantage of it. The term we use for this type of work is integrated marketing. In other words, reaching out to your constituents using data-driven strategies that utilize various media, approaches, and digital channels. As always, the magic word is data. Knowing your audience and using that knowledge will supercharge any multi-channel campaign.
Social media is great for helping nonprofits spread the word about the need for contributions. However, you probably don’t want to convert that appeal letter into a series of 1,000 tweets. We’re not telling you that all your fundraising woes will be solved with social media. In fact, social campaigns alone rarely yield donations. However, the visibility of your effort is amplified when you apply a strategy based on clean data integrated in a campaign that hits your audience in their mailbox, Facebook timeline, and even their Instagram feed.
Houston, We Have a Problem
With a simple review of giving history, it is not uncommon to find a disconnect with your donor base. In fact, the average donor retention rate is only 40 percent year over year. That means that each year, six donors stop giving. Five of these donors stop because they are disconnected from the organization’s message. If you find this to be the case, stop and review your communications strategy. Do your donors really understand your mission and the practical impact their donation makes?
One organization we worked with realized they needed clearer communication about their mission and impact. So, they undertook a more personalized and integrated approach utilizing direct mail, email, and personalized landing pages. As a result, 19 percent of their donations that year came from donors who didn’t give the year before. An additional 19 percent of donations came from first time donors!
Getting the right message to the right people in the right way is imperative. When you have a clear picture of who your donors are, where they’re from, and what makes them tick, you can develop a message that will resonate with them in more meaningful way.
Astronauts are not alone in outer space. They rely on mission control to relay critical information and keep an eye on a space shuttle’s intricate systems. Like an astronaut, you don’t have to approach your mission without support. Some organizations work with a third-party provider to analyze their donor bases and determine what characteristics they should be looking for in potential prospects. With that information, you can launch a fundraising campaign to reach lapsed donors, prospective donors, or other targeted segments. One nonprofit we know used this strategy and increased their average donation size nearly 15 percent compared to the previous year.
49 years ago, Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. We all know Neil Armstrong’s famous words as he took those triumphant first steps on the Moon’s surface. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Following our advice and implementing a data-driven, integrated approach to fundraising just may be that giant leap your nonprofit needs to open possibilities of a whole new world.