The Millennial generation—those 80 million folks born roughly between 1979-99—may not be your organization’s largest contributors today, but these “digital natives” are poised to receive the largest transfer of wealth from their Baby Boomer and Greatest Generation parents and grandparents. Nearly $41 trillion is expected to flow from one generation to the next in the decades to come. Yes, Boomers will continue be your fundraising bread and butter over the next few years, but there’s no denying the fact that Millennials will become more important to the long-term future of charitable giving.
For your cause to survive well into the future, you must have a plan for attracting and retaining this cohort of supporters. To do this, you first need to understand and adjust to the fact that Millennials communicate and interact with marketing differently than previous generations. More than any other generation, they rely on digital and mobile technology to connect to friends, family and organizations they care most about. So what does this mean for nonprofits?
Don’t brush Millennials off as non-donors.
Keep in mind that this generation already wields nearly $200 billion in direct purchasing power. Millennials are giving to charity, but not in the numbers or dollar amounts of their older counterparts—yet. According to the Millennial Impact Report, nearly 40% gave amounts between $1-50, and another 23% gave at $51-100 levels in 2012. Though Millennials may not be ready to give larger individual gifts, there’s an opportunity to raise more over time, as 52 percent of the Millennial Impact Report’s respondents said they’d be interested in monthly giving.
While Millennials are giving at different levels, they’re also giving in different ways. Blackbaud’s The Next Generation of American Giving report underscores the importance of these key generational differences in communication and giving preferences. It’s no surprise that Millennials overwhelmingly prefer to give online, and that direct mail and phone solicitation are unpopular with this group of young donors. These donors are more likely to give via mobile or through social media, as they see these methods as being a core way of interacting with the world. If ever there was a reason to segment your donors and match them with the appropriate giving channel, here it is.
Beyond how they donate, where the money goes is equally important to Millennial donors. Being able to quickly and clearly illustrate impact is key to activating these givers. Tell them exactly what will happen as a result of their donation and give them the proof to back it up. Only 22 percent of Millennial donors said they would be likely to give an unrestricted gift to a charity, according to The Next Generation of American Giving report. This makes it even more crucial to tie all donations to a measurable impact to gain trust.
To Millennials, the experience matters.
No matter the message, if your outreach doesn’t meet their expectations in terms of accessibility and authenticity, your organization’s results of engagement with this group will suffer. Some things to remember:
Share and connect. The most frequent action taken by Millennials on a nonprofit’s website was connecting with the organization via social media. So, plan to use your website as a hub for younger donors to find ways to connect with you. But note that these supporters prefer to share information about the causes that resonate with them, not specific organizations.
Giving is social. The 2013 Millennial Impact Report states that over 70 percent of Millennials are willing to raise money on behalf of causes that matter to them. This means these young supporters can be powerful fundraising messengers, because they love to spread the word. They like to find out about ways to get involved from their peers online, so make sure you’re equipping them with the right tools to share your message and volunteer opportunities with their networks.
Authenticity is paramount. Trust and transparency are increasingly important for all donors, and Millennials are no exception. They have grown up questioning the media and messages presented to them—they are used to having equalizing platforms like social media at their fingertips. Being upfront about your mission and how you accomplish it will win you favorable ratings from this group, as will having an authentic, personal approach to the way you communicate with supporters. No faceless messages devoid of personality, please!
Involvement, not just awareness. Millennials are interested in true involvement with the causes they support. They view themselves as collaborators, and not just hands-off donors. The NextGen Donors report sees this interest as this generation’s way of developing a sense of self while building their philanthropic identities.
Engagement, then participation. Millennials, like most other donors, don’t want to be bombarded with messages or endlessly solicited. As this generation is likely to tune out irrelevant messages much more quickly, it will be critical for nonprofits to focus on building a relationship with younger supporters and making the case for involvement before asking for a commitment.
Want to find out how you can combine these trends with technology to build relationships with Millennial donors and volunteers?
Next week, we’ll tackle these topics during the 2014 Nonprofit Technology Conference in our Big Idea panel: The Power of Technology and Leveraging a New Generation Network. This panel brings together new generation experts to explore how to leverage technology to inspire and collaborate with the Millennial Generation. Here are the smart folks who will be joining me for this session:
Todd Baylis, President & Co-Founder, Qgiv
John Clese, Director of Marketing, Strategic Initiatives, Abila
Becky Leven, Strategic Development Officer, Tendenci
Michael Rubio, Senior Program Manager, ZeroDivide
Jason Shim, Digital Media Manager, Pathways to Education Canada
Together, we’ll dig into how Millennials use technology, what it means for you, and we’ll share key strategies you can adopt to engage them on your organization’s behalf. We’d love to have you join us for this discussion. You’ll leave with new ideas on engaging young volunteers, strategies for fundraising with a new generation, and tips for successfully experimenting with technology to build your own Millennial network.
If you’ll be at NTC in person, we hope you’ll join us for this conversation. If you can’t attend NTC this year, this session is part of the Online NTC live stream, so you can participate from your computer, wherever you may be!
According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report, 105% of donors gained by nonprofits were offset by lapsed donors. Let that sink in for a minute: for every 100 new donors that came through the door, 105 walked out. Not exactly the growth most nonprofits are looking for.
One of the best ways to improve your donor churn rate is to improve your donor communications.
Here are six of the worst donor communication mistakes, and some tips for how to avoid them:
1. The “One and Done”
Sadly for some donors, the only “communication” they receive from the nonprofits they support is a donation receipt. Others may receive a nice thank you letter, but not much else.
How to avoid: Plan a series of ongoing communications with your donors. In addition to your nonprofit newsletter, provide quarterly updates for donors on the impact of their gifts, and show what goes on behind the scenes to make it happen. Create an editorial calendar and include your donor outreach as one key component to track.
2. The “Me Me Me”
Some causes suffer from nonprofit narcissism. They mean well, but their messages are devoid of one key ingredient: the donor. People who support your work also want to feel like part of your team.
How to avoid: Instead of talking only about the work you’re doing, reframe your communications to underscore how the donor is making your work possible. Use the word “you” more than “we”, and highlight the work of individual donors and volunteers to bring these stories to life.
3. The “Broken Record”
All too often, I see organizations sharing the same updates over and over. This is great … if you want to bore your donors. Unless you’re sharing success story after success story, your donors may wonder if you’re doing anything new or making any progress.
How to avoid: This is another way an editorial calendar can help you improve your donor communications. Create a list of stories, events, announcements, and seasonal topics that are relevant to your cause—and your donors—then, plot them out on your calendar to incorporate variety in your newsletters, impact updates, and social media outreach. Stuck for ideas? Ask your donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries for their input. They have a different perspective than you and probably have some fresh suggestions. Another option: tap your board to share a short update or quote for you to use in your next message.
4. The “Word Vomit”
Are you guilty of sharing too much information? When it comes to your donor outreach, is “verbose” an understatement? If your messages feel like solid walls of text, your supporters are less likely to bother reading them—and may feel like you don’t respect their time.
How to avoid: In most cases, people scan more than they read. This means that short, skimmable text works best, especially online. Use a “tease and link” strategy in your emails if you have longer stories to share. To make your messages even more readable, cut any acronyms, jargon, or insider language that will leave donors scratching their heads.
5. The “Disconnected”
Do you ever feel like you’re talking, but no one seems to be listening? Most often, this is because you’re not communicating in a way that reflects what your donor wants to hear. This often happens when organizations aren’t in sync with why their donors give.
How to avoid: Talk to your donors to understand why they care about your issue and what prompted them to give. Ask for feedback on your communications and let your donors have a say in how they hear from you. Try segmenting your donors by how they came to your organization, their level of giving, or by the specific programs they support. Then, communicate with them based on these parameters to make your message more relevant.
6. The “Show Me the Money”
You know that relative who never calls—except when he needs something from you? Don’t be that guy. When donors only hear from you when you have an appeal, they may start to wonder what happened to the money they already gave you.
How to avoid: Implement a “share vs. ask ratio” in your organization’s communication. Plan to send a certain number of cultivation or update messages for every time you send an appeal.
(For more donor stewardship ideas, try our checklist.)
‘Fess up: are you guilty of any of these mistakes? What would you add to the list? Which communication missteps bug you the most? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
We’re really excited to have this year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference right in our back yard here in Washington, DC. If you’ll be in town for the conference, please make sure you stop by and say hi. We’d love to see you!
Here are all the ways you can get in touch with Network for Good while you’re at NTC:
NTC Science Fair: Visit us at booth #235 to meet our team, take a picture in our photo booth, pick up some NFG swag, and learn about how to make the most of Network for Good’s online fundraising tools. Don’t forget, the Science Fair is open to the public. So even if you’re not registered for the conference, come by to say hello!
Breakout Sessions: Join our Director of Content Strategy, Caryn Stein, for two breakout sessions on Friday, March 14, 2014
Progressive Party: Come meet the whole Network for Good team and help us celebrate processing $1billion in donations! We’ll be providing food, drinks, and tons of fun on Friday, March 14, 2014 from 9-11pm ET in downtown DC.
We hope to see you at one (or all!) of these events next week.
Next week, we have a treat for nonprofit fundraisers and communicators alike. Taylor Corrado, Nonprofit Marketing Manager of HubSpot will join us for a free webinar to talk about the ins and outs of great content for nonprofits. As far as I’m concerned, HubSpot is one of the very best examples of a company who gets it right when it comes to publishing useful resources and delighting their audience. So, what does all of this content business have to do with you? Here are five ways content can help your fundraising efforts:
1. Great content helps you get found. Organizations who regularly post high-quality, relevant content have a better chance of ranking higher in search for keywords that supporters are using to find similar causes.
2. Great content gives your supporters something to talk about. If you want your fans to help you spread the word about your cause and the work you do, you’ll make it a lot easier on them if you’re providing information that is compelling and sharable.
3. Great content helps you illustrate impact. Remember all of those success stories you have tucked away in a file somewhere? Those great nuggets help you show donors exactly what their contribution will do. This helps you make the case for giving and allows you to put a human face on your cause.
4. Great content builds authority. Donors and partners want to know that you know your stuff. Writing pieces that demonstrate your experience and knowledge of your issue area will help you become even more credible. (Bonus: this also helps when reporters are looking for reliable sources for a story, which will help you get more attention.)
5. Great content reinforces trust. Hand in hand with points 3 and 4 above, content helps you show who you are to your prospective donors. This type of transparency boosts trust, which can remove mental roadblocks to giving.
To learn how to make this happen for your organization, join next week’s webinar (details below). Once you’ve registered, share your burning questions about content in the comments. What types of content are you creating?
Free Webinar: How to Use Content to Boost Your Donations
Tuesday, March 4, 2014 | 1pm EST
(Can’t make it for the live session? Go ahead and register—we’ll send you the recording so you can review it at your convenience.)
[Editor’s note: Today’s post comes to us from David Hartstein, partner at Wired Impact, a web design company that builds websites for nonprofits. David shares some helpful hints on tracking and interpreting key fundraising metrics through Google Analytics.]
Data can be daunting. Not only can the idea of delving into numbers be intimidating, but there are also a ton of terms you need to wrap your head around before anything makes much sense. And even after you have a grasp of the terminology it’s tough to know where to start.
When it comes to measuring your nonprofit’s online fundraising efforts, it’s easy (and common) to get lost, floating amidst the sea of data available.
What data matters the most? And how do you find it? While there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, there is a common starting point.Everything Centers Around Online Profit
The first key when measuring online fundraising is a sound mindset. Instead of giving every metric equal weight, remember:
All the decisions you make with regards to online fundraising center around online profit.
That’s the bottom line. If fundraising is one of your website goals, online profit should be your primary concern when measuring online fundraising. The metrics outlined below don’t matter in their own right. They only matter insofar as they ultimately lead to more overall dollars for your organization.
Total profit from online giving is the metric that should keep you up at night. It’s the one that you should celebrate first and foremost when reviewing your website data. It’s the one that should determine if your website is a success (again, assuming boosting donations is one of your primary website goals).
But profit isn’t easily tracked in most analytics tools since most tools are unaware of your expenses. So while you need to be mindful of your expenses, when using your analytics tool you’ll likely focus on revenue instead of profit.
Become consumed with driving up your online revenue. Then, use the metrics below to determine how you actually make that happen.
In honor of Social Media Week, I asked a few of our favorite nonprofit experts to weigh in with their personal picks for nonprofits who are hitting it out of the park on social media. Here’s what they had to say:
Principal, Founder & CEO, Sea Change Strategies
National Audubon Society
Where I follow them: Facebook and Twitter
Why they’re so awesome: Social media manager Elizabeth Sorrell knows her audience and feeds them a generous supply of bird photos, interactive challenges, and conservation news. She’s made the Facebook page incredibly fun and lively, and the extremely high level of engagement is testimony to that.
Darian Rodriguez Heyman
Co-Founder, Social Media for Nonprofits
Where I follow them: Twitter
Why they’re so awesome: Everyone talks about how amazing charity:water is at outreach, but one specific thing they’ve done on Twitter to get to over one million (!) followers is their “photo of the day” campaign. They use the assets they have incredibly well, and that’s the key to their success.
Where I follow them: Facebook and Twitter
Why they’re so awesome: They are timely, relevant, authentic. They use engagement data to optimize their social media communications. They use social media as a listening tool to tap into what their supporters are thinking and feeling about human rights. That info gets communicated to the fundraising and advocacy teams and informs integrated campaign opportunities.
No Kid Hungry
Where I follow them: Twitter, Facebook, and Google+
Why they’re so awesome: From the name of the organization to the information they share, No Kid Hungry does an awesome job of communicating their mission in a clear way. On social media, they vary the content they share to provide a wealth of value to those interested in ending childhood hunger in America. Despite their sizable following, they take the time to engage with individuals, responding and thanking supporters publicly. No Kid Hungry sets a great example for all types of organizations.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Where I follow them: Twitter and Pinterest
Why they are awesome: They do a wonderful job creating unique content for their site and promoting it on social networks. For example, in October they really captured the macabre spirit of Halloween. They had a great post on people who had claimed to see Washington’s ghost through the years. Thanks to their activity on Twitter, I recently discovered a detailed post on how Mount Vernon looked when Washington lived there in the 18th century. Finally, Mount Vernon doesn’t restrict their content to text. They also have an active YouTube channel. Check out this video on Washington’s dentures! As a guy who follows and loves history, Mount Vernon really makes it come alive!
Want to improve your organization’s social savvy? Download our free social media guide.
If you’re a fundraiser who is struggling to get your executive director or board to understand why you should launch an online fundraising program or invest more in online giving tools, try these talking points to help plead your case.
Online giving boosts individual giving.
You might have experienced push back on launching online fundraising because your leaders want to focus more on grants and major gifts from foundations. Remind them that individual giving is the biggest slice of the fundraising pie, and online fundraising is a key way to help diversify your funding. Having an online presence (and a way to give online) will help you recruit and retain donors who are likely shifting away from writing checks.
We’re pleased to announce the release of our new guide, Engaging Millennial Employees. While the guide focuses on helping companies understand how social good can help them win over young talent, this ebook is packed with facts that nonprofits use to better engage Gen Y supporters, staff, and volunteers—as well as strengthen their value proposition to corporate sponsors.
Here’s a tip from the guide that can help your nonprofit effectively integrate Millennial employees into your culture and fundraising goals.
When I talk with groups of nonprofits at conferences and training events, I often hear the same common concern from fundraisers and marketers: how can we cover our expenses and expand our programs when we rely on shrinking, restrictive, or difficult to manage funding sources? To become truly sustainable, many nonprofits need to diversify funding sources and supplement the support they receive from grants, loans, and charitable contributions. One way to do this is with a social enterprise model. Nonprofits that apply the best practices of businesses and explore earned income strategies can open up new opportunities for revenue streams through fees for service, production of goods, or for-profit enterprises. Examples of organizations using a social enterprise business model include Goodwill Industries, DC Central Kitchen, and Habitat for Humanity, through their home improvement ReStores.
Kevin Lynch, president and CEO of Social Enterprise Alliance, will join us tomorrow (February 18) for a free webinar to show you how you can apply these tactics and boost your bottom line. He’ll explain what social enterprise can do for your organization and how to get started. This session is a must for any nonprofit professional who wants to move their organization forward in 2014. Check out the details below.
Free Webinar: Transform Your Nonprofit with Social Enterprise
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 | 1pm EST
(Can’t attend the live session? Sign up anyway—we’ll send you the slides and recording so you don’t miss it!)
Today at Network for Good, we’re celebrating a major milestone: 1 BILLION dollars processed for charity since our founding in 2001. We’re incredibly proud of this big achievement and we are even more honored by what it means. This milestone represents an amazing outpouring of generosity from millions of donors to thousands of nonprofits—and an incredible amount of good being done in this world.
Network for Good was founded to make it as easy to give online as it is to shop online. A lot has changed in the world of digital philanthropy since then, and we’re excited to continue to be at the forefront of this revolution.
Of course, this milestone is about much more than the mechanics of processing online donations. It’s about the hard work of nonprofits and the good they do each and every day, the amazing generosity of donors, and the creative thinking of partners who provide innovative opportunities for generosity. Thanks to each and every one of you for being part of this journey and we look forward to working with you to continue unleash generosity. Here’s to the next “Billion for Good” and beyond!
As we inch closer to Valentine’s Day, love is in the air. Beyond heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and overpriced bouquets, there’s an even bigger force in play—the kind of love that comes through generosity. Today, the nonprofit community is sharing examples of donor appreciation and tips for expressing gratitude in honor of Donor Love Day. You can follow along with the stream of ideas by checking out the hashtag #donorlove.
Here are three rules to keep in mind when planning your own #donorlove efforts:
Be authentic. Your donor appreciation efforts don’t have to be expensive or flashy, but they need to be genuine. This means connecting with your donors on a personal level. Donor love shouldn’t feel automated or mass produced. Think about the difference between a handmade construction paper Valentine vs. a preprinted stack of cards. Which one feels more sincere?
Be dependable. Of course, your donors should expect to receive a gracious thank you for each gift, and that acknowledgement should include details about their unique relationship with your organization. But that’s not all. They also deserve regular updates on the impact of their donation and how you’re fulfilling the promise of your mission. Can donors count on you for an amazing experience each time they interact with your organization? This is an important, but often overlooked way to honor and respect your supporters.
Be open. One way to show donors your appreciation is to let them know you are open to receiving their support as well as their feedback. This means listening to what your donors are telling you about why they support your cause, how they’d like you to communicate, and what they’d like to see as a result of their donation. Incorporate this knowledge into your outreach.
Need some more inspiration? Here are some more donor appreciation ideas from our learning center:
3 Special Ways to Show Donors Your Love
6 Keys to Donor Retention
How to Treat Your Donor Like a Superhero
How “Wow” Experiences Create Lifetime Donors
How to Combat Donor Fatigue
How Strong Relationships Increase Fundraising Results
Sample Donor Appreciation Certificate
How are you planning to show your love for your donors this year?
Photo credit: Caryn Stein
There have been several bits of juicy fundraising data released in the last few weeks, here’s a peek at the reports that caught our eye:
1. Blackbaud’s 2013 Charitable Giving Report is out and contains a lot of encouraging news for nonprofits. Blackbaud reports that overall giving grew 4.9% in 2013, while online giving continues to grow at a faster clip. For the second straight year, the report showed double digit growth in online fundraising, with a 13.5% increase in 2013 compared with 2012. Are you a small group wondering if you can keep up? Good news: organizations that raise less than $1M per year saw the biggest improvement in online giving with a 2013 increase of 18.4%.
2. Our friends at M+R have shared aggregated year-end fundraising results from 26 organizations. The “2013 Year-End Fundraising in Review” complements other recent reports, showing that, for these organizations, online giving also grew as did the size of average gifts. M+R’s Senior Vice President of Strategic Services, Steve Daigneault adds helpful insight on response rates and email revenue, plus offers some “time capsule” advice for fundraisers looking ahead to December 2014.
3. Lucy Bernholz noted that the great folks at DonorsChoose.org have released a massive amount of their data. Among other things, this data examines which types of projects are most requested through the education crowdfunding platform and shows how—and where—donors are giving back to schools. You can request access to the DonorsChoose.org data, or check out their fabulous summary infographic.
Which data points are you watching closely this year? How do you plan to use this information in your own fundraising strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments below or give us a shout out on Twitter.
No doubt you’ve seen the string of videos on your Facebook timeline—friends and family sharing their own social media time capsules. Facebook’s “A Look Back” movies offer personalized video montages to celebrate the social network’s 10th birthday. The videos are irresistibly sharable and have even struck a chord with the experts.
Here’s what makes these videos work so well:
They’re not focused on the organization. The folks at Facebook could have created something more focused on their platform and their accomplishments, but they knew that the real way to make us care about their birthday is by talking to us about, well, us.
They tug at our heartstrings. Above all, emotion rules. From the sweet background music to the heavy rotation of photos, the videos capture our attention and pull us in. These videos, while driven by an algorithm, are mirrors of ourselves and heavily feature the things that matter most to us.
They remind us of our progress. In keeping with the birthday theme, the videos allow us to look back and see how far we’ve come, whether we joined Facebook way back when or just last year.
They connect us to something bigger. The shared experience of posting the videos and the highlights they capture help us see how we’re connected to one another. The idea of Mark Zuckerberg and company inviting us to celebrate this big milestone together underscores this feeling of community.
In the process of accomplishing all of these things, these videos endear us more to the whole Facebook experience. Think about how you can emulate these qualities the next time you update your supporters on the progress you’ve made together.
If creating compelling content can help you make the case for giving and hold the attention of supporters, exactly how do you come up with the best stuff for your nonprofit? Creating content for content’s sake won’t do much for your cause and may have a negative effect when done poorly. A lot goes into making and effectively distributing quality content, but ideally your nonprofit content should be URGENT:
Useful: This one should be obvious. As you plan content for your organization, ask, “Will our community find this useful?” Of course, educational content almost always fits the bill, but content can be useful in other ways, too. Information that allows supporters to feel empowered, in the know, or inspired is still incredibly useful.
Relevant: Publish stuff that means something to the people who you want to read it. Get specific and understand the identities you can tap into to make your content command your readers’ attention. Make it relevant to your cause, your community, and what’s happening right now.
Genuine: Any piece of content you produce should be uniquely and unequivocally “you”. Whether you create text-based stories or rich visuals, your supporters should be able to immediately recognize your organization’s voice. To ensure your content is genuine, clearly define your nonprofit’s personality by creating a brief brand guide that includes all of your key visual elements, core values, and your writing style.
Edited: This is an easy way to rise above the messages you’re undoubtedly competing against. Well-edited writing stands out. Make sure every piece of content you produce is edited and reviewed. Yes, check for grammar problems, spelling errors, and typos, but even more importantly, revise your pieces with these key ABCs in mind: authenticity, brevity, and clarity. If you can’t hire a professional editor or proofreader, establish an in-house “buddy system” for reviews. Your colleagues may not be English majors, but a set of fresh eyes will do wonders for your finished product.
Necessary: Each piece of content you create should tie back to your fundraising and marketing strategy. Ask yourself, “What are we trying to accomplish with this?” Whether you’re creating a thank you video or collecting stories to use in your next fundraising appeal, understand the real role your content is meant to play. Use an editorial calendar to map each piece back to a clearly defined goal.
Tested: And Tracked. These two Ts go hand in hand. As you send newsletters, social media updates, and share blog posts, continually test and track which types of content work best with your different audience segments. Use Google Analytics or your website platform’s internal reporting to understand which pages are most popular and how readers navigate your content. Keep an eye on your email reports and social media metrics to further inform your content planning.
Does your organization have a plan to improve its content in the coming year? What is working for you? Chime in and let us know in the comments.
Do you remember the 1993 classic film, Groundhog Day? Bill Murray’s character, Phil, keeps living the same day over and over and over again. Phil tries to break the cycle of endless February 2nds with extreme endeavors including kidnapping the official Groundhog Day groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil.
Can you relate? Does your organization seem to address the same fundraising or marketing challenges each year? To break the cycle of déjà vu, try implementing some of these best practices to solve these four common problems:
1. People continue to unsubscribe from your email list.
What’s your nonprofit’s email strategy? If you don’t have a strategy, you won’t get very far. To reduce the number of unsubscribes, make sure you are setting clear expectations for your supporters before they even join your email list. Let them know the type of content they will see and how often they’ll hear from you. Also, don’t make it only about the ask. Be sure that for every email appeal you write that you send at least four other messages that don’t explicitly ask for a donation. For more email engagement strategies, download our free eBook.
2. Online giving is flat.
Do a quick assessment of your online giving experience:
o How quickly can donors find your donation button on your website?
o Can donors securely make a donation and set recurring donation levels on a clean, branded, donation page?
o Does your online donation page have a compelling image and a clear call to action?
o How do you follow up with donors after they give?
Simple adjustments like placement of the donation button on your home page or refreshing your donation page to include branding, images, and a call to action can help boost online giving. For a more in-depth assessment of your online donation experience, check out The Donation Page Grader. It’s a simple quiz that can help you determine areas for improvement.
3. Social media is on the backburner.
A recent study from Pew found that 73% of U.S. online adults now use social networking sites, so don’t ignore social for one second longer! Short on time? A free tool like TweetDeck or HootSuite can let you schedule your posts and keep an eye on keywords and hashtags. Keep in mind that we always recommend having a good website and a solid donation page before diving into social media. But, if you’re ready to take the plunge, check out our Social Media Mini Guide and start tweeting!
4. I’m scrambling for newsletter content … again.
Quality content can be time consuming to create and too many edits and reviews can kill a piece quickly. The first step to stopping the cycle of the newsletter content crisis is to plan out your messaging. Start by creating an editorial calendar. (This will also help you plan out content for other mediums, such as your blog and social media.) Next: refresh your content. Your messaging should be relevant to your readers, interesting enough to share with a friend, and strategically distributed. Want actionable tips for a content makeover? Register for Network for Good’s next free webinar, all about content for nonprofits. Nonprofit expert, consultant, and author Kivi Leroux Miller will share how to get your content in order.
What are your organization’s “Groundhog Day” problems? How do you plan to break out of the cycle this year? Share your challenges with us in the comments below or chime in on Twitter with the hashtag #groundhogdayproblems.Image credit: Bill Murray and Punxsutawney Phil in Groundhog Day directed by Harold Ramis. Columbia Pictures, 1993.
The good news is that giving continues to grow. The bad news is that donor retention rates aren’t what they should be. Think about the donors who came into your organization’s ecosystem during the past year. Will they give again?
You can improve the odds of keeping more of your supporters by declaring 2014 the Year of the Donor. What this looks like for your organization may be different than for your nonprofit peers, but here are a few basics to get you started:
1. Have a solid plan.
The biggest way to ensure your donors remain your top priority is to create a well-organized plan for cultivating your organization’s supporters throughout the year.
To do: Create a comprehensive donor stewardship plan that complements your overall marketing strategy and retention goals. Your plan should include a timeline, messaging guidelines, and who will be responsible for each component of your donor outreach. For more planning tips, take a look at Network for Good’s donor stewardship checklist.
2. Send an amazing thank you.
Of course you’re thanking all your donors. Right? (Right?) But are you making it an amazing experience of effusive gratitude? Is your thank you so awesome that donors will tell their friends all about it? Even tell strangers? If not, there’s always room for improvement. Your goal: Express to impress!
To do: Take the time to write a series of really great donor thank you letters. Make them personal, memorable, and full of gratitude. Your thank you letters should reinforce the projected impact of a donor’s gift and open the door for an ongoing relationship. If possible, hire a professional copywriter to polish your thank yous.
3. Keep the conversation going.
Your thank you note is really just the start of a new conversation with your donor. Keep this conversation flowing by updating your supporters on your work and how their gift has helped make it possible. Update supporters on what’s new in your community, your work, and how they can continue to be involved. As you build on this communication, you’ll have earned the opportunity to invite them to give again.
To do: Create an editorial calendar to plan your outreach and news you’d like to share. Use your email marketing tools to segment your lists so you can separate donors from those who’ve yet to give. Communicate to these two groups differently when sending updates to tailor your message to reflect donors’ special status.
4. Clearly articulate your impact.
One of the main reasons donors don’t go on to give a second gift is because they’re not sure how their money was used to create real impact. It’s your job to make sure supporters know exactly how their gift is being used and how it makes a difference. Get in the habit of making this a part of everything you do—from fundraising appeals to your monthly newsletter.
To do: Illustrate a donation’s impact through photos, testimonials, and quantifiable results that are easy for donors to understand. Incorporate these elements in every piece of donor communication you send. Build a collection of stories that are organized by program or locality so you can easily match these with the profiles of your donors.
5. Invite donors for their feedback.
More and more donors don’t want to just give and run—they want to be an active part of your cause. Because they’ve been moved enough to donate, they can offer valuable insight on what went into their decision and how you can continue to reach them and others in their network.
To do: Regularly invite your donors to provide you with feedback. Add this to your donor thank you phone script and conduct periodic donor surveys to collect their input on everything from your newsletter content to how you contact them. Making them feel more invested in your work will bring donors even closer to your organization.
6. Regularly test and improve.
It takes a lot of work to acquire new donors, so it’s crucial that you do everything you can to keep the ones you’ve got. One way to do this is to find and fix any leaks in your process. Once you’ve fixed the obvious problems, optimize your donor retention strategy by testing new messages and acknowledgement techniques.
To do: Track and measure every interaction with your donors. If you don’t have Google Analytics on your nonprofit website or donation form, that’s one place to start. Identify where donors may be falling off by looking at your website bounce rate, form abandonment, and email unsubscribes. Use A/B testing to see which calls to action and content types work best for your audience.
7. Create feel-good moments.
Everyone gives for different reasons, but we all want to feel good about our charitable gifts. To keep this positive vibe flowing, it’s important to create moments of connection and with your donors. Ronald McDonald House Charities does just that with this simple thank you video that puts the donor at the center of the experience and in the embrace of those who feel the impact of their donations every day:
To do: Commit to making your ongoing donor outreach unique and personal. Get creative with photos, video, and perks for your donors to help your cause stay top of mind. Recruit volunteers and beneficiaries to help keep your communications authentic and original. (Want more ideas on using images to stand out? Read these 10 ways nonprofits can use visuals.)
How will you make 2014 the Year of the Donor? I’d love to hear your plans, and I know your donors can’t wait to see what happens next.
Have you ever wondered how your nonprofit could further expand its reach, win over new donors, and raise more money? One way is to explore cause marketing and collaborate with businesses to get new exposure for your cause. Partnering with businesses is not just for large organizations and nonprofits no longer have to rely on a sponsorship model to see results. Joe Waters, author of Cause Marketing for Dummies and writer of the blog Selfish Giving, recently released a new book that serves as a practical, how-to manual for creating successful fundraising programs with businesses. In Fundraising with Businesses, Joe offers 40 doable ideas, complete with examples and tips for getting started. I had the chance to ask Joe a few questions about the new book, and his outlook on the future of cause marketing.
Joe Waters: I wrote Cause Marketing for Dummies to give people an overview of cause marketing. The challenge is that most people don’t know what cause marketing is and they define it in different ways. I tried to clarify this in my latest book by replacing cause marketing with fundraising with businesses. Compared to CM4D, FWB gives the reader a much deeper dive on the strategies for fundraising with businesses. So many nonprofits only think of two things: cash and sponsorship. I don’t even talk about sponsorship in this book. Nonprofits need to know that there are many creative ways to raise money with businesses—to be exact, there are 40!
Beyond the additional revenue a successful business fundraising program might bring in, what are some of the other benefits of doing a fundraiser with a business?
JW: A good business fundraiser gives you access to the largest group of givers: individuals. Think of your work with businesses as a conduit to the largest piece of the philanthropic pie. Of the dollars nonprofits raise, only 6 percent—on average—comes directly from businesses. 72 percent of monies come from individuals. Traditional corporate giving (e. g. grants) is like playing the slots in Vegas—long odds and small payouts. The 40 strategies I outline in FWB bring in consumers, employees and shoppers. That’s the real jackpot.
What is the biggest mistake (or missed opportunity) that nonprofits make when it comes to partnering and fundraising with businesses?
JW: A lot of nonprofits miss all the great things that are right under their feet! Many have existing sponsorships that can be converted into more lucrative fundraisers. If you’re working with a business that boasts lots of locations and foot traffic, sponsorship is just the tip of the iceberg for fundraising. You could be doing so much more. However, the biggest mistake is when nonprofits don’t even realize the potential businesses have for their organization. So often, effective business fundraising isn’t about finding the opportunity. It’s about detecting and acting on the partnerships you already have.
Of the ideas you highlight in the book, which type of fundraiser is your favorite to participate in as a donor? As a fundraiser?
JW: As a former fundraiser, it’s hard not to focus on the “money” strategies. These are point of sale strategies like pinups, register programs, donation boxes and roundup fundraisers. These programs raise hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Even local programs can raise five or six figures.
As a donor, I love any program where there is sincerity and engagement from the business. I want to know that the business really cares about causes. For example, last year after the Boston Marathon bombing the businesses on Newbury Street, a high-end shopping district just one street over from the marathon finish line, pulled together for a one-day shopping event. Their aim was to help a fellow stylist who lost both her legs in the bombing. They raised over $100K. It was great to see so many businesses coming together to support someone in so many ways. While I call my blog Selfish Giving, I love examples of unselfish giving best.
Look into the Selfish Giving crystal ball: What’s the next big thing for cause marketing/fundraising with businesses?
JW: Mobile, mobile, mobile. I’m bullish on how much mobile will impact fundraising with businesses. It already has from an engagement perspective since mobile is where most people are getting their cause news and information via email, the mobile web, and social networks. I have to remind nonprofits that people are now carrying their causes around with them in their pockets and bags. The future of nonprofit marketing and fundraising is engaging people where they are and where they care.
One technology that is making this future a reality is iBeacon. iBeacon is “micro-location” because it’s designed to work in a physical location (like a store) with your phone - specifically your retail apps. With an iBeacon transmitter businesses can better interact with smartphone-toting consumers in and near their stores. Sure, they can push coupons to them when they walk in the door, but they can also give them one when they linger in a particular aisle or over a specific product.
Companies can even push reminders to consumers. “Last time you were on our website you were searching for a blend of coffee that we now have in stock.”
Think about the possibilities for cause marketing. Companies can let customers know when they are supporting a cause, which products are eligible for a donation, and even ask you while you stand in line at checkout if you want to donate to a cause. iBeacon could also process that donation right from your mobile device.
I warn people that if people and their addiction to their phones drive them crazy, they may want to plan for a long nap. It’s only going to increase the next few years. But thanks to generous companies and nonprofits it won’t just be Snapchat, Facebook, and Angry Birds. People will also be using their phones for good.
Thanks to Joe for giving us the inside scoop on the book and what’s next for fundraising with businesses. For more of Joe’s thoughts on cause marketing and nonprofit trends, follow him on Twitter.
Beyond the usual celebrity antics and costume changes, the acts that stood out at last night’s Grammys were ones that delivered favorite songs in unexpected ways. But what does a musical awards show have to do with marketing your cause?
When you have the opportunity to grab your audience’s attention, it’s important to rise above the background noise and deliver your message in a way that will stand out. How do you express your core mission in a way that people will remember? Here are three lessons from music’s big night.
Try an alternate melody.
One of the best parts about live performances is that you get to hear familiar tunes performed in a unique way. Rare is the musician who will play a song exactly the same way twice. Hearing a favorite song in a new way moves the experience from the background of our minds into focus, challenging us to pay closer attention to understand each nuance.
If your outreach is becoming less effective, it may be time to find new ways to express your key points. To catch the attention of your long-time supporters, avoid sending out carbon copies of the same missives that you send year after year. One easy way to do this is to leverage the different stories from all parts of your organization. Testimonials from staff members, donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries can give you the opportunity to tell your story from different, and often refreshing, angles.
Tap unexpected—yet relevant—partners.
Last night’s show relied on carefully constructed pairings. While longtime singer-songwriter Carole King’s duet with younger counterpart Sara Bareilles felt like an obvious no-brainer, teaming classical pianist Lang Lang with the heavy metal icons of Metallica may have seemed like an odd choice. However, the intensity of the song they performed was a perfect match for shredding guitars and booming piano, creating a memorable mash-up.
To add interest to your next campaign, consider recruiting new spokespeople for your nonprofit outreach. Not just any pairing will do—your messengers still need to make sense in the context of your work and your brand. You’re not aiming for pure novelty or shock value. Potential partners should have a connection to your target audience, cause, and local community.
Deliver it with style.
As usual, the Grammys’ producers took it over the top with pyrotechnics, aerial stunts, and a mass marriage ceremony officiated by Queen Latifah. While these tactics aren’t realistic (or recommended) for your nonprofit outreach, it probably wouldn’t hurt to add a little surprise to your next newsletter or appeal.
Look at your communication plan and identify ways you can change it up a bit. Do you always send an email newsletter? Try creating a short video that includes the same information. Thank you notes printed on your organization’s letterhead are nice, but a note printed on the back of a photo that illustrates your work is more likely to stand out and be shared.
How do you plan to jazz up your nonprofit’s outreach? Share your ideas and keep us posted on the results in the comments or give us a shout on Twitter.
It’s probably no surprise that our brains process visual information faster than text. Still, how quickly this takes place is mind boggling. Recent research has found that the human brain can process an image seen for just 13 milliseconds. Online, visual information is typically more memorable and more likely to be shared than other forms of content. It’s said that over 80% of learning occurs visually. Including visuals such as infographics in your communication strategy can be an effective way to communicate with your donors and keep them updated on the impact of your work. These visual cues can also help you stand out and reinforce your nonprofit’s brand.
We have a special treat next week as Joe Cardillo of Visual.ly, a visual content marketplace, joins us for a free Nonprofit 911 webinar all about infographics. If you’ve ever wondered if an infographic is right for your nonprofit communications plan or how to create one, this is the event for you. Joe will answer your questions on creating effective visual content and how to find the right designer.
Free Webinar: Infographics 101: Show Off Your Data
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 1pm EST
For more fun facts on visual marketing and infographics, here’s an overview from the Visual.ly community:
The new Online Fundraising Scorecard report from Dunham+Company and Next After points to some key areas where nonprofits may be falling short in their online campaigns. The study looked at 151 charities and rated the online giving experience in four main categories: email registration, email communication, donation experience, and gift acknowledgement. The full report is packed with interesting tidbits that should keep nonprofit fundraisers busy as they compare their own experiences to the benchmarks in this survey. Here are four tough questions that this study asks—ones that you need to answer as you evaluate the effectiveness of your online fundraising program:
Are you making it easy to sign up for your emails?
The Scorecard reports that 76% of charities made it easy to find their email sign-up form online, but 66% of those prompts offered little in the way of incentives for donors to sign up. To grow your email list and build relationships with potential supporters, make it simple for your fans to find your subscription box and sign up for updates. Be sure to frame your subscription options in a compelling way and make it clear to your readers what’s in it for them.
Would the average person want to read them in the first place?
Once they join your list, supporters expect regular, high-quality communications that fit their preferences. Follow up on your promise to your readers and offer email newsletters, updates, and alerts that have easy-to-read content and clear calls to action. Researchers found that 54% of emails from the nonprofits surveyed were not optimized for mobile, even though nearly half of email opens in 2013 were on smartphones. Even if donors could read the emails on their mobile devices, the study reported that 1 out of 3 organizations sent emails with multiple conflicting calls to action. For your emails to survive a crowded inbox, make them easy to read and easy to take action from, no matter where or how they’re being read.
Are you making it easy to give to your organization online?
Let’s make this simple: if you’re putting up roadblocks that prevent your donors from giving quickly online, you’re losing the battle. Sadly, only 16% of donation pages reviewed in the study were optimized for mobile viewing and 65% of organizations examined required 3 clicks or more to complete a donation (ack!). As donors have more and more options to give online, it’s critical that your donation process is fast, easy, and painless. (Tip: Download our donation page checklist for more ways to optimize online giving.)
Do you have an amazing post-donation experience in place?
We were glad to see that almost all (99%) of the organizations in the study thanked donors for their online gifts. However, researchers found that many nonprofits are still missing out on ways to further engage donors immediately following the donation. Just 27% of the groups in question offered donors a way to share the donation opportunity with their networks, and only 37% presented donors with more ways to take action and find out more about their impact once completing their gift. A donation confirmation is a great opportunity to keep that “helper’s high” going while the donor is feeling great about your work. Use this moment to reinforce that feeling and invite donors to become champions for your cause.
Thanks to the folks at Dunham+Company and Next After for such an insightful report and the useful tips included with the findings. At Network for Good, we are pleased to offer online fundraising tools that help nonprofits confidently answer all of the questions above.
Let us know: how do your organization’s online fundraising efforts compare to those reviewed in the study? Where could you use some help? Share your thoughts in the comments and we’ll offer suggestions and resources for your situation.