Fundraising is the beating heart of non-profit organizations. It’s also a constant—a never-ending cycle of setting donation goals and donor outreach to meet fundraising objectives.
All non-profits want the same thing: to maintain a consistent inflow of cash. And they look across donor categories to make this happen, including new prospects, lapsed and one-time donors, and corporate charitable giving.
Donor outreach is a distinctive skill—one that takes practice and dedication. That’s why it’s so important to stay apprised of best practices. If you’ve ever asked yourself just one of the following questions, this article is a must-read for you:
- How do we get lapsed donors re-engaged to give again?
- How do we get one-time donors to become recurring donors?
- How do we attract new donors?
- How do we get corporate donors to give more?
Do these questions sound familiar? If so, dive into our list of best practices to help you raise more and reach more.
1. Evolve to Meet the Modern Fundraising Landscape
The world of fundraising has changed drastically over the past several years. Consider just a few major shifts:
- Donors are digital-first and always connected.
- Donors represent relationships and are recommendation driven.
- Donors have finite attention.
These shifts require non-profits to rethink their approach and move away from traditional, direct-response techniques—which come with higher costs and rapidly declining effectiveness.
The first major shift is a big one as it forces non-profits to think digitally. The majority of today’s donors are online. It’s where they live and breathe both professionally and personally because interacting online is frictionless and convenient. As such, it’s the place to be. It’s where you have to “meet” and communicate with donors.
Take today’s crowdsourcing apps for example. These solutions support community-driven fundraising that leverages the power of storytelling, word-of-mouth-fueled support, and peer-to-peer advocacy. They offer the convenience of a digital platform to promote events and collect money with ease via a dedicated donation page. Did you know that sharing a donation online via Facebook (or other social media channels) can increase donations by up to 350%? That’s the power of digital and why the days of “spray-and-pray” fundraising initiatives are limited. Learn more about crowdsourcing here.
The second major shift represents a change in mindset—from increasing broad reach (covering more territory) to building relationships. This shift occurred based on the need to build trust and loyalty among donors—ensuring ongoing engagement and recurring gifts. The old fundraising playbook had non-profits consistently working to increase reach (and spending more money to do so) while getting only a 5-10% return on investment.
The last major shift is the direct result of information overload. There are so many funding opportunities and so many organizations making promotional noise that it has shortened donor attention span. No sooner does one communication come in before another follows. With limitations on donor attention, it requires non-profits to come out of the gate with highly memorable and engaging campaigns.
2. Build Donor Relationships
Being donor-focused can be counterintuitive when you are deep into raising funds for your cause. The temptation can be to focus solely on meeting a monetary goal, so much so that you might neglect the very people helping your organization meet that goal.
To be clear, building relationships has always been a foundational element of fundraising. Non-profits understand the importance of nurturing relationships with donors who have an affinity for their cause. The unique issue is that relationship building tends to happen early on and is then forgotten. Being donor-focused is a life-long approach.
The key duty of non-profit staff and volunteers is to secure ongoing donations. This requires diligence in identifying people who have a passion for the work and then inspire them to become supporters, share the impact of their investments, and empower them to advocate and expand awareness.
With this in mind, donors have to be thought of as more than a number in a database. They’re the humans behind the cause and provide the fuel that drives positive impact. That said, it’s important to consistently listen to donors over the entirety of their involvement. This posture aids in building relationships because it allows you to see that each supporter is unique. This also leads to more involved conversations and the ability to identify supporters’ deeper interests as well as their personal impact goals.
A few things to consider as you move forward with developing strong relationships with donors:
- Adopt the art of listening: When speaking with a donor, make an effort to ask them questions and record their responses. Why are they passionate about a specific program or cause? What impact do they hope to have? What long-term impact do they envision?
- Connect regularly with donors throughout the year: This can happen via email, video updates, social media posts, and/or face-to-face interactions. Start to think in terms of how you can connect with donors on a consistent and frequent basis.
- Build a culture of inclusion: Make sure that your entire team feels empowered to connect with donors. The more people working on this aspect of the organization the better.
In short, nurturing relationships builds trust and loyalty. And in the end, this helps increase giving.
3. Get Laser-Focused with Messaging
Not all donors are created equal. As such, be mindful of your messaging. You don’t speak to long-time, repeat donors that same way you do to a cold prospect. Just as you don’t speak to a corporate donor like you do an individual.
Segmentation is the name of the game. This involves dividing up donors into smaller, defined groups. This helps to create custom messaging that speaks directly to a unique subset of your donor population. For example, you might segment your active donor list into:
- Corporate vs. individual
- Long-time donors vs. recent donors
- Large gift donors vs. smaller gift donors
By segmenting lists into defined groups, it makes easier work of message creation. It also shows your donors that you care enough to develop communications that deeply resonate with them.
You can target segmented audiences across communication channels, including:
- Social media advertising
- Email campaigns
- Personalization on donation pages or website
Segmentation also enables you to personalize follow-up communications and outreach to the context and state of relationships. Though communications cannot be 100% personalized on a one-to-one level, customizing touch points as much as possible can drastically improve click-throughs, increase message relevancy, and bolster response rates.
The following list provides more insight on how to cultivate strong relationships with donors through well-defined segmentation:
- The number of donations: Prospective donors, first-time donors, and recurring donors each have a different depth of relationship with your non-profit. Will the conversation be different on a first date versus a tenth wedding anniversary date? Of course it will. The same idea applies here. Your tone and level of personalization will be vastly different when speaking to a first-time donor versus a long-time donor.
- How donors were acquired: It’s essential to identify where donors came from. This will help you cultivate messaging to meet the donor where they are and bridge gaps with relevant information when needed. With this data in hand, you can alter how you tell stories, share specifics on donor impact, and present additional opportunities to give.
- Gift size or donor capacity: Understanding this element of a donor’s profile ensures that your message, tone, and medium align with the capacity of each donor. Just consider the difference in capacity between corporate and most individual donors. Once segmented, also consider providing gifts to higher-capacity donors. Even small gestures like branded swag (e.g., tote bags, sweatshirts, etc.) can keep these folks coming back. Gift donors are an important segment to identify.
4. Set Up for Recurring Donations
If you’re going to ask for a donation, why not also offer donors the ability to set up recurring gifts? Many apps allow for recurring donations and report higher giving levels when this option is available.
Think about it. You likely have developed numerous loyal donor relationships, and these are the donors that tend to give repeatedly. So, make it easy for them to do so. With recurring donation functionality, donors can click a few buttons to spread their generosity over a longer period of time.
5. Push Out Stories that Inspire
No doubt that you have numerous inspirational stories to share with donors. Put the proper level of effort behind getting those stories in front of your audience by launching them within multiple mediums. Consider written communications (letters, social media posts, emails, blog posts), video updates, and face-to-face interactions.
For example, plan a detailed social media strategy that defines the number of posts, the content, or impact stories, and the time span. Launch your social media series following a regular cadence—complete with compelling images of the people and communities where donations are being put to work. Make sure that your content is engaging and tells the unique stories of those affected by your work. And make sure you launch posts across all of your social media channels.
Non-profits should also be using supporters in a more direct manner. Good stories have the power to inspire, and many organizations have found that their supporters tell their story best.
This requires you to offer a platform where donors can share their stories directly to the larger supporter audience. This can be accomplished by:
- Inviting supporters to attend your events as speakers.
- Allowing supporters to write guest blogs or post guest videos to key
- Promoting independent story sharing by encouraging supporters to push out impact stories within personal channels.
- Encouraging supporters to facilitate events that expand awareness of your cause. For example, donor-hosted dinner parties, fun runs, or other promotional events that connect back to your cause.
Getting donors to take a more active role is a great way to elevate awareness and promotion.
Make Mastering Fundraising a Reality
Fundraising is a continuous loop of activity, always with a focus on increasing inflow of cash. To keep the money coming your way, adopting fundraising best practices and modernizing your approach is vital. This includes moving to a digital mindset, putting more focus on relationship building, segmenting audience lists, creating unique communications to make donors feel special, and leveraging inspirational stories to further fuel awareness around your organization and your causes.
Fundraising is an art that requires consistent refinement. Consider each of the best practices provided in this article to help you raise more and reach more!
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