Julie Dietz, Higher Logic
This is the season for giving, whether it’s children’s toys, holiday galas, or advocacy groups. For nonprofits and charities, that makes the holidays a great time to focus on fundraising. You’re probably already leveraging the giving season to improve your campaigns and help meet year-end goals.
New and repeat donations are important during the holidays (and year-round) but is your fundraising strategy missing a critical step?
Many organizations we’ve seen focus on getting new donations and thanking their donors, but they drop the ball when it comes to nurturing those donors over the long-term.
Failing to consistently and effectively nurture donors is the fatal flaw we see in many fundraising strategies. Why is it so dire? Because according to recent research, 88 percent of dollars raised comes from just 12 percent of donors and the average retention rate for first-time donors is only 23 percent. Repeat donor retention is better, but still tops out at just 64 percent.
It’s not only critical for you to retain your top-tier donors who provide the bulk of your donations, but also means there’s plenty of room for improvement in donor retention rates. The best way to address both issues is with a great engagement strategy that keeps donors involved throughout the year. Create a strong community of supporters that fosters long-term relationships and nurtures donors into larger, repeated gifts.
Tips for Creating a Great Donor Engagement Strategy
Every organization acquires and interacts with donors differently, but here are three tips to help shape all donor engagement strategies. Use these tips to get started, then customize specific tactics to the needs of your organization and its donors.
1. Stop Asking for Money
We don’t mean you should never ask for money, you just shouldn’t ask for it in every email, letter, and phone call. Even die-hard supporters will be put off by a request for more money after they signed a generous check last month.
Show your donors they’re worth more to you than their wallets through regular, non-monetary communication. Start with thank you messages after donations, then build your relationship with helpful content such as industry news, project updates, and announcements on new donor or member benefits.
Personalize these messages whenever possible. Messages or photos from those your donors have helped with their contributions are a great way to start. Here’s a great example of a video from social innovation lab, Epic Change, about how their donor community made a difference. You can find more examples of great videos on Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog.
Expert Tip: When you do ask for money, make the ask as specific and emotional as possible. Does your donor give every year around the winter holidays? Remind and thank them for past contributions, then explain what another gift will help you do this year. How will your current project affect your donor? Their family? Their job? The more personal and emotional the ask, the more likely you are to win a repeat donation.
2. Communicate on Their Schedule
You’re counting on that fundraising email to bring in money for your project, but your donors are busy putting the finishing touches on a major presentation at work. They skip right over your message, unintentionally losing it in their inbox and draining your chances of getting the money you need.
This is an unavoidable issue that every fundraising professional encounters. Your messages simply do not always come at a good time for donors.
Switch up your communication schedule, making it less about you and more about donors by empowering them to get information at the moment they want it. You can do this through an online community or interactive website that your members can visit when they want to learn about your initiatives or make a donation.
Fill your site with important announcements, project updates, stories about where help is needed, and testimonials from successful projects. Start with written information that’s easy to put together, then branch out into photos, videos, and multimedia file libraries for a more compelling experience. Your top donors can access your content on their schedule, keeping up to date on projects that interest them and new donation opportunities – even if they miss an email or two.
3. Provide Non-Monetary Activities for Long-Term Engagement
Signing a check may be high-value for your organization, but it’s also a short-term activity. It takes little time and, especially for smaller donations, is easy to forget about once completed. To stay top of mind and encourage future donations, you need to build greater donor engagement that continues over time. When members are ready to give again, you want them to be so involved with your organization that they think of you first.
Expand the activities you offer members and donors to connect regularly throughout the year. Your interactive website and online community are great tools for this because they allow donors to connect with one another and access information about your organization. They also provide a range of activities starting from simple, easy tasks like reading an article to more involved actions like answering questions, emailing peers, and referring new constituents and donors. They can even host volunteer opportunities, making it easy for members to give without spending money.
A favorite non-monetary activity for many donors is giving input on what projects your organization takes on and how you use their donations. Invite top donors to a private online community where they can submit suggestions and discuss them with peers and your staff. Like a product advisory committee for businesses, this gets donors invested in your organization from a leadership standpoint as well as a financial one.
Expert Tip: Take engagement activities offline by providing in-person events such as mixers and meetings. It’s common to hold a thank you banquet for your largest or most loyal donors at your annual conference, but you can shake things up by taking your donors to a more active venue, such as a bowling alley or wine tasting. Choose activities your donors will enjoy but will also get people up, moving, and talking to more than just the person sitting next to them. These more active events help with networking and make it easier for you to build stronger, long-term relationships.
Tell Stories that Show Donors How They’re Making an Impact
People give to nonprofits and charities to make a difference. They want to help your cause or further your industry. It’s your job to show them that you’re using their money wisely before you ask for more.
Focus your donor communication around your projects, telling stories that create an emotional connection with members. Talk about who you’re helping or how you’re impacting your industry, making project updates available whenever donors want them.
By forgoing the usual ask for money, this type of communication engages and nurtures your donors. Combined with engaging non-monetary activities, it keeps donors involved with your organization in-between gifts, nurturing them into making larger, repeated donations. Over time, you’ll retain more of your biggest donors and add to their ranks, improving your fundraising you can make an even greater impact.