Anytime a nonprofit sends a solicitation several different audience must be taken into consideration. The best solicitations will segment lists to help take some of these audience considerations into mind. But there is also a notable difference in how people read and respond to communications that your letter must address. Every organization probably has a mix of donors that read the entire letter and some that just skim the highlights.
Fundraisers challenged to do a lot of different things to reach a lot of different audiences. The result is a solicitation that’s becoming cluttered and unfocused. But with an editing eye, you can still achieve all these goals. Before your end of year solicitation goes to print or you hit send on any emails, take another read through and make sure it matches all of the potential reader personalities. I have identified four donor types and editing suggestions to get you started.
By Derrick Feldmann (Originally posted on Philantopic – a blog of opinion and commentary from PHILANTHROPY news digest.)
When I was working in development for a nonprofit, I was expected to provide my executive director with annual fundraising goals for my department — goals that were based on donor history, prior-year results, and the likelihood that a certain number of prospects would give for the first time.
In addition to our baseline goal, we always established a stretch goal or modeled a best-case scenario for our efforts. Early in my career we never seemed to hit the stretch goal, in part because I didn’t know our donors that well and because we based our predictions on what the organization needed, rather than on our donors’ willingness to give.
Over time I realized that to make our stretch goal, we had to alter our approach. And so, in addition to market research and data mining, we came up with three questions to help guide our efforts.
- What is causing donors to engage with us now?
- Which fundraising approaches are still relevant and why?
- What forces will influence donor behavior in the future?
In my opinion, these three questions should be the starting point for anyone trying to determine the long-term impact of their fundraising efforts (not to mention the future of fundraising itself). Recently I had a chance to sit down and revisit the questions, and I came up with the following eight trends that I believe will shape the fundraising industry and the relationship between donors and nonprofit organizations in the future.
Increasingly, nonprofits will look at communications and fundraising through the lens of the what I call the “technology trifecta”: Web, mobile, and social media. And as they do, they will test concepts across all three channels to determine the right mix for their own constituencies. Mobile will continue to gain traction as technology and mobile marketing techniques improve. Social media will open the door to better donor communication and stewardship. And the Web will be the go-to place for transparency and donor-interaction tools. Testing and experimentation across all three channels will be key to implementation. Organizations also will need to manage expectations and develop effective donor delivery methods that don’t simply ape other organizations’ tactics. The fundraising “shop” that doesn’t align its marketing efforts with all three channels will have a hard time maintaining its position in the nonprofit marketplace.
Donors will have the ability to control how they receive communications from your organization based on personal preference and interests. Improvements in communications technology also will make it easier for nonprofits to connect with donors who seek specific information about the impact of a gift and/or an organization’s health. In addition, organizations will allocate communication and marketing resources according to donor preference, rather than making assumptions about what donors want based on their content consumption.
Smaller Gifts, More Often
Donors will provide smaller gifts but will give several times over the course of the year. Organizations that provide small, impulsive gifting opportunities will be better positioned to strengthen their relationships with donors. In addition, donors will continue to drive smaller gifts toward projects where tangible results can be demonstrated.
Improved Transaction Times
Organizations will reduce the time between the giving decision and the actual transaction. One-click giving and other impulse-gifting technologies will gain in popularity. Giving will become a quick-and-easy experience that meets individuals’ impulsive need to serve the greater good.
Donors Will Rate Fundraising Appeals
Thanks to the growing popularity of consumer feedback platforms such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, we will see new platforms emerge that allow donors to rate their fund-solicitation experiences and share those ratings and experiences with their friends.
Donor Loyalty Will Reign
Organizations will focus on donor loyalty rather than the size of the gift. Hard to believe, I know, but organizations will spend less time worrying about the transactional donor and will focus more time and energy on the loyal donor who attends activities/events, reads their marketing and communications materials, engages with them on social media platforms, and regularly volunteers. This kind of loyalty also will drive ongoing peer engagement and support from donor networks and force organizations to develop loyalty stewardship programs.
Crowdfunding by Donor Networks
We will see more donor networks comprised of individuals who come together around specific causes, engage in volunteerism, and/or willingly promote the activities of the causes and organizations they support. Increasingly, fundraising staff will have the capability to track these networks as well as other peer groups and use that information to leverage their resources.
Visual Impact Reporting
Organizations will move from annual reports to real-time reporting of their impact in the community. Fundraisers will become more adept at using digital communications technologies and creative design to inform donors about the impact achieved by their dollars. For their part, donors will demand such reporting.
Of course, all these predictions are just that: predictions. And even if some (or all) gain traction over the next few years, they might not affect every organization. Still, I believe that at some point all nonprofit organizations will need to incorporate many of the practices outlined above or face the prospect of falling behind, in both their fundraising and impact. The future of fundraising is about donors wanting easy and accessible opportunities to support, learn, and serve. It’s up to you to get your organization ready for that future.
Every year online giving rises a bit more, and while we still believe in our old friend direct mail, we urge every nonprofit to put their best foot forward in email.
3 Reasons Email is a Must During End of Year:
- Social media and mobile get the hype, but email continues to demonstrate results. According to the 2012 eNonprofits Benchmark Study email is likely where your nonprofits biggest online audience is.
- Those that prefer giving through direct mail might actually be doing so in response to an email you sent. Email can reinforce direct mail messaging and serve as a reminder so that beautiful mailer doesn’t get forgotten in the junk mail pile.
- The final days of the year are the biggest for online giving. Email is the best way to remind your donors of their last chance to make a tax-deductible donation in 2012!
3 Tips to Make Email a Success
- Timing is everything: Our formula for success is to send a direct mail with the hope it lands in mail boxes the end of November or early December. We include a consistent message to give in an already scheduled e-news update at the beginning of December. An e-solicitation follows that message mid-month to capture everyone’s giving spirit but not get lost during holiday festivities. Then we follow up with a final reminder to give over the last couple days of the year.
- Utilize a match donor challenge to boost giving and help you reach a goal. Ask one of your donors to give a match and share the donor’s story of support in the email to move others to give.
- Share compelling stories, impress with your accomplishments, and show a plan for use of donations to build upon those successes in the future. Ultimately, like direct mail, the stories and images you use to inspire others to give . Most people are visual learners, so utilize infographs to make complex ideas simple and don’t forget the power of a large photo of one or two individuals impacted by your program.
Do you have your own email success stories? Share them in the comments or feel free to ask questions.
Back when I was in school Facebook was known for its capability to successfully delay homework and to help pass the time. I would see students on it in class, lectures, and even their breaks. Sometimes they would even be as sneaky as to check it through their phones because they just couldn’t wait one more moment to see what ‘Johnny’ has written on their wall. The same thing applied to me, unfortunately. I thought that Facebook could only be used for catty gossip and meaningless ‘likes’ of statuses. However, as I entered the professional world my eyes were opened to the potential this social media tool actually had.
On my first day at Achieve a coworker asked me if I had twitter and I replied “no.” I had never felt compelled to share my nonsensical thoughts and wasn’t sure why the rest of the world would care. I was then recommended to create myself one because I would be using it for work. So I did.
As time passed I started to develop an understanding of the purpose of social media in the workplace and how best utilize it. I could see how politicians and celebrities had used social media to tell the world their thoughts, opinions, and just random information. If celebrities can use social media to educate their followers why can’t our business?
In early August I attended Blog Indiana, a social media and blogging conference. I was then addressed with the same train of thought as I attended the first session about how visual content and social media can work together. The speaker, Allison Carter, discussed how to tell your story through an image because images get higher traffic than just links. She made a good point that Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook are all incredibly popular due to the fact that images are constantly being posted. According to a PsychologyDegree.net infograph about 250 million photos are updates daily on Facebook alone. That is a lot of images!
As you can see in these two Oreo advertisements they both have the same exact objects in each image. The only thing different is the placement. Even though these two images have almost no text they still tell two completely different stories. The bottom makes me think of eating Oreos for breakfast while the top makes me dream of snacking on milk and Oreos on some exotic island. What does it make you think of?
She went on to discuss how businesses should not be afraid to show who they really are. She explained that you don’t have to just post things about what your business is doing but maybe some interesting links of some fun photos from around the office. I was very excited to hear her discuss this issue because just the week before I had started working on the Achieve Facebook page because I thought it was missing a touch of personality. I posted pictures from a company party and of our leaving interns just to let our clients and followers know that we are fun people and we are fun to work with. The point was to add a bit of a human atmosphere because it seemed very sterile and a bit serious prior to that. So, naturally I was excited when Allison discussed this.
Later that day I attended another session by Ryan Brock. He talked on a similar topic about how companies are afraid to look wrong in front of their followers so they filter themselves down way too much. He gave the great example of Kanye West and how he never filters himself. Even though many people don’t like him they know what he stands for and what he thinks. He has no filter! He shows his true colors and does not hide his emotions. I am not saying that you should tweet about that awkward dream you had last night or post a picture of you in your newest pair of jeans you got on sale at Kohl’s. But just don’t be afraid to show some personality in your posts and images.
As a nonprofit, you can take these lessons and show your donors and volunteers a more personable side of your organization. This way they can connect and relate with you through your pictures and status updates. Take advantage of this social media opportunity to appeal to your supporters in a different ways. You might find that once you become more personable, they will be more likely to show further support and share what you are posting with friends.