Tag Archives: Annual Campaign

The Donor As The Hero

Donor as hero - Photo by Pixabay @Pexels

In my 22+ years in development, I have seen a lot of “new ideas” in solicitations:

  • Send the same letter to everyone, some people will give
  • Buy mailing lists!
  • Send the same letter to everyone along with an incentive piece like a notebook, return address sticker, or even a coin!
  • Every letter should be personalized
  • Letters should be personalized and have a specific ask
  • Offer a gift with certain donation levels
  • Not only personalize letters, but include a specific ask and list the previous year’s gift
  • Every letter should be personalized, have an ask, list the previous year’s gift, and tell a story.
  • Did you forget to include a cute animal or child? Every letter has to be personalized, have an ask, list the previous year’s gift, tell a story, and include cute pictures
  • Only send emails to people who contact you by emails
  • Forget letters, send everyone emails!
  • Don’t send too many emails
  • Send a combination of letters and emails
  • What do you mean you haven’t been using Instagram for solicitations?
  • Send letters, no one sends them anymore so you will stand out
  • Send postcards, no one even has to open an envelope to give!
  • Use twice as many “you” references than “we”, “me”, “our”, etc. in your letter

I could go on but, you get the idea. Maybe you’ve lived through many of these ideas. And they weren’t wrong for their time and the world lived in. So, what’s the latest?

The Donor As The Hero

How has the donor helped your beneficiaries?

“Your gift helped provide 3,248 meals for our community in the past year”

“Your $5,000 gift helped create 198 after school job opportunities for disadvantaged teenagers

“Your gift of $1,000, along with your fellow donors in the Foundation Society, created a mental health space for every one of the 12,838 people who walked through our doors last year. We hope you will help us continue to develop our safe space with a gift of $1,500 this year.”

Using the donor as the hero can highlight your best statistics while making the donor feel great. A win-win.

Now, just sit back and wait for donations. And the next big fundraising idea.

Or, if you would like help with your annual appeal and annual campaign, click here to set up a 30-minute free consultation

Making stewardship, gratitude, or solicitation calls this fall? Read this first.

If you are like many nonprofits, you are thinking about making phone calls this fall. I know I have been asked to make calls this month as a volunteer. It is a great way to connect with your members, donors, and volunteers. 

Your nonprofit may decide to call:

making nonprofit calls
  • Your entire membership to thank them for being involved (stewardship calls)
  • Previous donor calls (donation encouragement calls)
  • Previous donor calls (solicitation calls)
  • Recent donations (gratitude calls)
  • Volunteers (gratitude calls)

But, as one client reminded me, asking board members to make the calls is easy. Ensuring that someone is systematically following up on the information, questions, and comments gathered from the calls is the hard part.

In other words, how you handle the information you gain during the next few months will impact donations and retention for years to come.

The easiest way to anger a donor is ask a question, get an answer, do nothing with it, and never provide feedback to the donor.

Consider these 3 different scenarios that require 3 different responses:

  • One person asks what happened to their book donation from last year (not about how their DAF distribution for $5,000 was spent – only the book valued around $54)
  • Another asks why their favorite program isn’t running now that people are back in the buildings
  • A third person asks whether they can start volunteering in the next couple of months but not for the gala

Obviously, we can’t know what the answers are or who should answer them.

Phone Calls will be made to ___(group)___ by ___(group/individual names) ___ during ___(start date)___ to __(end date)___

  1. Assignments
    • Who is assigning the calls (and providing the call information and sample script)?
    • Who is tracking that the calls are made?
    • When should reminders be sent?
  2. Tracking the questions
    • Who will track that a comment was made or a question was asked?
    • Is there a contact report that should be filled out?
    • How will you track that a contact report was filled out? i.e. is there a central document like a Google Doc, is it entered into the CRM, or is every report sent to one person to track?
    • Will development staff be told each time a response is necessary with any comments that might be helpful? How will they be notified? Or do they need to check the tracking document? How often?
    • Who will let the appropriate person at the organization know there is a question or comment that needs to be addressed?
  3. Who can be assigned to respond? Who decides who should respond? Responders could include:
    • Fundraising Staff
    • Executive Director
    • Programming Coordinator
    • Volunteer Coordinator
    • Admin
  4. Who will check that the person was contacted a second time? Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. It is stewardship. It is logical. It is also the only way you will retain a donor. Someone needs to know that they oversee this.
  5. Who will collect and track contact reports? Each interaction with a donor provides valuable information. Don’t assume the volunteer – or even staff member – will be there to remind you of the facts in a week, a year or 3 years. Turnover is high. And memories are short.
  6. Analyzing the results
    • Did the people called have a higher donation level or retention rate after receiving a call?
    • How much time did volunteers actually spend on the calling process?
    • Did everyone make their calls?

Create a formal process from start to finish. Keep it simple. But make it an essential part of calling. 5 minutes to make the call. 5 minutes to write the call report. Or one minute and one minute if you just leave a message.

This seems to be a lot of work for a few phone calls, doesn’t it? The good news is once you create your system you may only need to revise it from time to time. So start assigning those calls.

We can’t guarantee the calls will make a difference. But, we are so confident in this follow-up process that we encourage you to use it anyway. Try it. You will raise more money and retain more donors. You’ll see.

Want to read more about End-of-year strategies? Here are a few from our archive:

Five End-of-year Segmentation Strategies

Which is Easier? Getting a Teenager into College or Getting New Donors in December?

Want to Learn a New Fundraising Trick?

Want to Learn a New Fundraising Trick?

It’s true. I am about to reveal the best new fundraising trick for your organization. Read on, it’s in Step 2.

Step 1: Start here:

  1. Have a strong case for support – Why is your organization is worthy of the donor’s philanthropy?
  2. Be creative. You are not the only nonprofit in your space – Know and share what makes you unique.
  3. Determine institutional priorities – what you want your donors to fund.
  4. Research your donors – understand your current trends (increased donor retention or decreased first time donor lapses).
  5. Decide which segment you want to focus your energy on this year.
  6. Research why this donor segment funds your nonprofit
    1. do they have a persona?
    1. what are their priorities?
    1. how they want to be reached? email vs mail vs social media.
  7. Thank them. Again and again and again and again and again and again and again.
  8. Keep in touch with them throughout the year – more than just solicitations

Step 2: Use the best new fundraising trick:

Dedicate time to do each one of the steps listed above.

Before you dismiss this (or think this is an old trick) consider:

Many of you know what needs to be done. But something else always takes priority. For example, there is something that you need to send out this week or there is one major donor who takes a lot of your time.

Just as you need to schedule vacation time, or doctors’ appointments, you need to schedule time to do the work—the right work. And don’t let other work—the urgent but unimportant– become a priority.  

The real trick knowing what is your priority, what provides the greatest return on your invested time. Know what you want and stay with it for the long haul so you get the expected and best new results.

If you, or anyone in your organization, would like to talk to us about how we can help you with the proven methods and the best fundraising trick this month, email me.

It’s Nonprofit Fundraising Crunch Time – 17 Ideas You Can Still Do This Year

Director of Individual Giving - Temple Emanu-El
It’s Nonprofit Fundraising Crunch Time 
Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

The next 7+ weeks may make up 30 to 40% of your annual revenue. Here are ideas to help this fundraising crunch time!

#GivingTuesday There are many ways to encourage giving on this day – it is the unofficial start of the giving season so don’t let it pass you by.

  • Use social media to create a campaign
  • Create a match to encourage giving
  • Use it to thank donors who have already given this year
  • Highlight impact
  • Find more ideas by clicking here or Googling #GivingTuesday ideas 2021

Make calls (From you, your board, or your development committee)

  • Call LYBUNTS who gave last year above a certain level
  • Make thank you calls. It’s never too early to start stewardship for next year

Send emails (From you, your Executive Director, CEO or board chair)

  • Solicitations
    • We are all busy during fundraising crunch time but removing donors each time is best practice. If you can’t be consistent about updates (most CRMs will help), acknowledge that if they have already given, it might not have been recorded in the system yet.
  • Updates on the organization
    • Send these to everyone – especially those who gave earlier in the year. This will help with stewardship and offer another way to donate this year (always include a way to give in any email to your list).
  • Updates on giving this year
    • List your fundraising goal.
    • List the number of days until you reach the end of your match.
    • List their previous gifts and what you hope they will give this year.
    • List anything such as what a gift of various amounts will mean or anything you think will encourage someone to hit that donate button.
  • Send reminders
    • Many people wait until the last minute to give. Don’t hold it against them – make it easy for them
  • Send Thank you videos. What you do now will impact how your donors will feel in December.

Send letters

  • You can still squeeze in 2 letters by the end of year. But start planning today.
  • Tip: Use all the ones you are receiving as a template for what you like, what you don’t like, and what yours should look like.

Fundraising crunch time will be busy, but done correctly, it can boost your results significantly.

Five End-of-year Segmentation Strategies

End-of-year Segmentation Possibilities

This week, I have been considering the importance of end-of-year segmentation for the next 2+ months of Daily Table solicitations. I don’t mean personalization which should always be used to highlight previous giving and specific asks. I mean separating out different segments of a nonprofit’s donors and prospects to send tailored letters.

How many ways should an organization segment their end-of-year campaign? Is segmentation just for letters? Emails? Social Media? What is the time trade-off in this all important and extremely busy season? Which way should I go?

I thought I would share the potential end-of-year segmentation strategies I am considering. Possibilities include:

  1. At the minimum, use the CRM to separate current, recurring, lapsed and recent donors. This is a no brainer and will only require minimal changes to the letter. It is a bit more work than sending the same letter to everyone, but well worth the effort.
  2. Should my emails have the same or alternate end-of-year segmentation strategies as my snail mail? Segmenting is easy in email if your CRM is set up well. And probably even if it’s not set up that well. You can take out previous donors prior to each email. You can add special incentives or matches on the fly. You can encourage one group over another – i.e., if you realize that your LYBUNTs are not responding at the same rate as in previous years, you can alter the message for the rest of the campaign. NOTE: This means you must build evaluation and campaign restructuring into your timeline. Marketing and approvals can take hours or days. And do you want a few days delay in December?
  3. Can you segment social media? Yes. Cross posts between Facebook and Instagram or LinkedIn and Twitter are easy enough with a few clicks. But should you just do it automatically? While you can’t send different messages to different Friends on Facebook without groups, you can consider the specific audience on each social media platform as a different segment. If your audience is younger on Instagram – what would they like to hear vs the parents and grandparents on Facebook? What do you want to say to the business-focused crowd on LinkedIn? Would additional stats help? In other words if you are going to use social media – use it well.
  4.  Pull donors who have recently given during November and send them an additional thank you instead of an additional solicitation. This may seem counterintuitive when we are all focused on asking donors and prospects multiple times in our end-of-year campaigns. But development is a long game. We need funds for this year, but we never want to compromise donations for next year (see #5, below). Ask yourself whether a solicitation within weeks of a donation is more likely to get you another gift or an annoyed donor. Note: If you do decide to use this strategy for segmentation, let them know that they are receiving the thank you instead of the solicitation. And in the P.S. offer a way they can donate if they want to give again.  
  5. Add a cumulative giving to my end-of-year segmentation. If a donor has given for 5, 10 or 20 years – at any level – an organization can list their lifetime giving in communications. Lifetime giving is a key measurement of donor value. Someone who gives $50 for 5 years can be worth more than a $250 donor. Of course, Daily Table hasn’t been around 10 years. But that doesn’t mean cumulative giving shouldn’t be considered for the loyal supporters who helped get us off the ground and continue to give.

Want to look at it by type of donor or prospect? Check out our previous article on 17 Ways to Segment Lists For A Year-End Appeal

If you have additional strategies that you have used successfully (or you are considering this year) let me know. I am always open to learning from the MJA community.  

December Appeal Strategies – Should you follow best practices?

December appeal strategies are on every nonprofit’s mind at this time of year. Questions keep popping up like:

  • Should your annual appeal letter be a one page or two?
  • Is it better to have one, two or three mailed letters?
  • What is the best time to send the letters?
  • Are there certain envelopes or return address features we should be considering?
  • What –and how many–categories should we use on the response card this year?
  • Should you send six follow up emails or three?
  • Is a letter more impactful if it comes from the nonprofit’s executive director, a beneficiary or a board member?
  • How do you incorporate social media beyond #givingtuesday?

And this is a list of generic questions.

If you don’t have a nonprofit consultant on retainer (let’s be in touch if you would like to change that), there are different ways you can answer your questions.

December Appeal Strategies Due Date

Best Practices for December Appeal Strategies

I find that best practices have to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. An international health NPO may not be dealing with the same type of supporters as a community religious organization.

Rely on your board, your staff, your beneficiaries, and your donors for advice.

Calling donors to thank them may not increase future donations for Public Television stations who outsource their calls, but may increase donations for your organization. How will you know? Ask the people making the calls if they are getting through to people? If they are getting through, are they having conversations? If they are having conversations, what are the recipients saying?

Those six emails may be expected from a large organization, but if you know the person sending the emails, it feels different. I have heard a donor wonder whether the sender will be insulted if they delete them all or don’t respond.  Will sending that many emails increase donations or simply increase “unsubscribes?” 

Can you afford to send your entire list 2 mailings? Your organization’s budgetary needs have to be considered as do previous response rates. Can you segment the list to major donors, those with highest upgrade potential and those who have responded via mail in the past and send it only to those individuals? We know that some people get the letter and then give online. But, that also means you will have an email address for them and can potentially take them off the (snail) mail list altogether.  How will you know?  Ask them.

This article may have asked more questions than it answered, but that is because there is no one answer for all nonprofits. Call up a few donors at different levels and ask them how they feel about different types of solicitations. Send a quick survey to the nonprofit’s board as well as to a select group of donors. Ask the staff what they have heard in the past. Use your resources to improve your December annual appeal and you will see the benefit. It will deepen relationships, engage prospects, and, hopefully raise more money for your nonprofit.

For year-round annual appeal tips consider reading:

Or download 37 Nonprofit Tips to Ensure a Strong Year End

Can Nonprofits Turn Previous Failures Into Future Success?

Can Nonprofits Turn Previous Failures Into Future Success?Listen to any conference speaker, self-help guru or tech entrepreneur and you are sure to hear about their failures. Of course, they are speaking because they turned their failures into lessons that helped them succeed. Can you imagine going to a funder and telling them that you had to close down your last nonprofit due to lack of money but this time you knew how to handle their 7-figure gift? Can nonprofits turn previous failures into future success? Of course, saying you have changed the way you run your organization is not enough.  You need to “walk the walk as well as talk the talk.”

  • Show that you now have a strong case for giving and are only approaching the right people at the right time.
  • Prove you have learned your lesson by talking about your new and detailed focus on acknowledgements.
  • Demonstrate that you understand stewardship for each and every donor and each and every gift.

What are other areas that nonprofits ignore that can be turned around to prove success?

To some this list may seem overwhelming. To others, it will highlight areas on which to focus or tweak in the coming year. Either way, turning previously missed opportunities into growth and prosperity will sustain your nonprofit. And, it will be something positive to talk about to current and prospective funders. Showing that you are learning and growing is something everyone can get excited about.   Please let us know if we can help you improve your nonprofit by emailing Abigail Harmon.

The Key to Successful Fundraising is Stop Thinking About Your Nonprofit

Key to Successful FundraisingI have talked about this topic a bit when opining on annual appeal letters and solicitor training but after a recent conversation, I thought it should be said again. And said in a straightforward, no nonsense way.

The key to successful fundraising is stop thinking about your nonprofit. And start thinking about donor.

Consider

Finding out what motivates the donor to give.

Some people like their names on buildings. Others like the warm fuzzy feeling they get when they watch a video that includes the children who attend the community center thanking them for their support. Still others like to dress up and help create an extravagant gala. Very different motivations but all valid and all should be considered when soliciting a gift.

Discovering why the donor likes your organization. 

Is it because they feel that their child is having a good experience at your school? Or, because they think you are the best advocates in the area for animal welfare. Maybe they think their association with you is good for their image.  The key is knowing, what do they think?

Asking for the right gift

Someone who likes galas might not want to give to your annual fund. But, they may be willing to join the gala committee, increase their personal gift, and encourage their friends to join them. Another donor who gives to your annual fund may like to give to the December appeal, or they may be ready to learn how they can fund a new program.  Knowing your donors giving history/patterns, their interests, and how much they give to other organizations can help you craft the right ask.

Knowing the right time to ask

Your fiscal year end will not affect a major donor’s donation timing as much as their year-end bonus or their annual fundraising check writing session in December.  Your calendar is not as important as the donors.  No matter how much you wish it were different.

Thinking about who should make the ask

Your most successful fundraiser is not the best fundraiser for every donor. Consider who the donor knows, or might like to get to know. Create pairs of solicitors so that there is twice as much listening going on.  It is about the donor, and deepening their connection to your nonprofit.

Stewardship

If you want to retain donors and move then from entry level to mid-level, or mid-level to major gifts, stewardship is the key.  A planned approach that incorporates calls, emails, updates, invitations, thank yous, coffees, etc. takes time. But it is the path to a stronger relationship with the donor. Which, in turn, will help with donor retention and raising more money.

Refining your fundraising processes takes time. But if you start to considering fundraising from the donor’s perspective, you will understand it is a marathon, not a sprint. One bit of caution, if you wait another six months or year with excuses as to why you can’t start changing your fundraising yet, you are putting off your growth.  And probably losing quite a few donors along the way. Start considering the donors’ POV ASAP.   

Assessing Your Nonprofit’s Donors and Prospects: Annual Fund Segmentation Strategies

Annual fund segmentationSolicitation strategies start with assessing the current situation. Do you treat all your prospects and donors the same? Should you?

Now, more than ever, you should have a development plan for all prospects and a stewardship plan for all donors.

But, you should not plan on having the executive director “meet” with every donor. How can a nonprofit engage each prospect and donor when there are thousands? Annual fund segmentation.

Start annual fund segmentation by considering how they give.

  • Are they a Prospect or Donor
  • If a donor, are they
    • Current
    • Once-a-year Donor
    • Monthly Donor
    • Major donor
    • mid-level donor
    • mid-level donor you are trying to upgrade
    • 10-year donor
    • 25+ year donor
    • first time donor
    • LYBUNT
    • PYBUNT
    • Someone who gave to a
      • specific event
      • end-of-year mail or email campaign
      • other mail or email campaigns
      • sponsorship
      • special campaign donor
      • restricted gift donor
      • peer-to-peer campaign on behalf of a friend
      • also a volunteer
    • If a prospect or a donor, are they also a
      • Recent graduate or services beneficiary
      • 10-year alumnus\a
      • 25-year alumnus\a

Additional key points to keep in mind include:

  1. It costs 4.5 times as much for the nonprofit to find a new donor than retain one
  2. Donors don’t usually give a major gift in the first year they give to a nonprofit. Cultivation and stewardship over years (3-5 years minimum) is what will get you to the point you can ask for a major gift. *This assumes they have the capacity and had been stewarded properly during the time since they made their first gift.
  3. When you start accounting for lifetime giving, someone who gave $50/year for 20 years gave $1,000 to your nonprofit. How would you treat someone who gave $1,000?
  4. Break it down specifically for your organization. Should:
  • major donors get more personalized interaction than other donors?
  • monthly donors get a different appeal than once-a-year donors?
  • PYBUNTS or LYBUNTS get the same letter as new prospects?
  • members get the same email as non-members?
  • alumni get same event invitation as prospects?
  • parents get the same Facebook post as the students?
  • ____ get the same ____ as _____ (fill this in for your nonprofit)

Each organization will have its own set of segmentations.

And contrary to popular belief, segmentation was not created to give you more work.  Instead, it gives you more directed work. And a path to raising more money (which is the point, isn’t it?)

It may seem easier to send the same fundraising letter to the 1000+ people on your mailing list and move on.  But what are you moving on to? If you rely on your annual fund to support your organization, this must be a priority for your development team. Even if it is a team of one.

Fundraising Campaigns of One

Campaigns of OneDo you have that guy on the board who always wants detailed statistics for ever discussion? What about the woman who insists every fundraising piece should have cute kids (even though they are just one part of the population served?) Or, maybe you have somebody who thinks social media is the universal solution to all problems?

While these people may irritate you, they are not wrong to ask for what makes them more comfortable.

Assuming you are following best practices and have 100% board participation, board members are valuable donors of time and money. And, each donor will want something specific before they commit again and again. And you want board members to continue to give long after they rotate off of the board.

Fundraising and development is about creating campaigns of one.

This is true whether you are sending an annual appeal letter to thousands or having a one-on-one meeting with a $100,000 donor.

Each person reads a letter, sees a social media post or hears a solicitor and thinks the same thing, “do I want to give to this nonprofit at this time?”  One person will want statistics to understand the full picture.  Someone else will want cute pictures. And still another person will think Facebook is the best way for her to support the nonprofit.

As fundraisers, we have to consider how to appeal to people where they are, not where the organization is. 

Campaigns of One for Thousands

Campaigns of one may seem hard when you are mailing thousands of letters. It is more work, but it’s far from impossible.  Segments lists, whenever possible. Your database probably tracks whether someone has supported teen programming or attended Sisterhood events. See how many segments you can create. Then, write a letter that can change for each segment. You can change one or two sections of the letter to focus on a new mentoring program or a new service for the elderly. Something that might not have broad appeal, but appeals to those individuals.

If you have not tracked donor priorities in the past, change your systems to be able to track moving forward. Then, ask development staff, the executive director and members of the board to look at your top 50, 100, or 200 donors any relevant information.  You will be surprised how much knowledge you have that is not being collected in any formal way.  Then, segment those letters.

Individual Solicitation Meetings

It should be obvious that these meetings should be tailored to personal interests.  If you don’t know a prospect’s interests be prepared on a variety of fronts.  And then ask them.  Most people will be happy to tell you what they are interested in. Especially if they believe you are really interested in the answer.

It is ironic that donors who want to give to others are working in their own self-interest, but that is the way of the world. Consider everyone as an individual – a campaign of one– and you will strengthen your fundraising results.

Interested in changing the way you talk to donors? Email me and we can help you create an individualized plan.