Donor stewardship is one of the most, if not the most, important activities a nonprofit does. That being said, it can be a tricky beast.
NonProfitEasy’s team has compiled advice from a variety of experts from the nonprofit sector on how nonprofits can perform effective stewardship for their donors.
Listen to your donors
You’d be surprised how much you can learn about your donors if you’re willing to listen! If you develop trusting relationships with your donors they’ll be the only focus group you ever need.
Amy DeVita, Chief Operating Officer at Third Sector Today and Top Nonprofits, says:
“Although I’m not personally involved in nonprofit fundraising, I’m very fortunate to get to interview some incredibly successful nonprofit leaders in my line of work! The best practice that I’ve heard time and time again: “Listen” to your donors.
At first blush, it may seem counter-intuitive that “listening” is more important than “telling,” “suggesting,” or “asking.”
But, by listening, you are letting your donor tell you how they want to be further engaged with your cause— and they will be charting the course to a successful and more meaningful relationship for you to follow.”
Vanessa Chase, Fundraising Consultant and Owner of The Storytelling Non-Profit, says:
“Survey your donors! If there’s one tip that I think can make a big difference for stewardship plans it’s to do a donor survey.
Send one annually that includes 5 to 7 questions about donor demographics and their overall satisfaction. It can provide non-profits with vital data points about their donor audience and how they can better steward their audience.”
Craig Linton, Founder of Fundraising Detective, says:
“Never miss an opportunity to get feedback from your donors. Not only does it strengthen your relationship, but it can identify common problems that you can solve to improve your donor experience.”
Quality over quantity of communications
Donors who have given to multiple nonprofits are likely inundated with follow-up communications. Make yours stand out by ensuring they’re high quality and meaningful!
Kivi Leroux Miler, President of Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com, says:
“So many nonprofits send bad thank you letters – if they send them at all! Nonprofit thank you letters need to be thought of as a very important, highly strategic piece of communication.
A thank you is NOT just a tax receipt. It should look like a personal letter from one friend to another. Ditch the predictable openings like “Thank you for your gift of…” or “On behalf of our organization…” Draw in the donor immediately by placing them front and center. Something as simple as “You made my day…” is much better.
A great thank you is the first step in creating a relationship with your donor that will inspire them to give again and again.”
Tom Ahern, President at Ahern Donor Communications, says:
“A prerequisite for above-average donor retention is a well-planned, donor-centric communications program that begins with a welcome.”
Jeff Schreifels, Senior Partner at the Veritus Group, says:
“It’s sad, but just like we’ve all become accustomed to bad or mediocre customer service and we accept it, it’s the same with donors who give large, multi-year gifts. They have come to expect very little of us.
This is where you can have an advantage over other charities. Your mindset should be that because they gave a gift, I’m going to do the unexpected and cultivate them so wonderfully that they can’t wait to make their next gift.”
True gratitude will make all the difference
It’s because of generous donors that your organization has the opportunity to make a difference. Make sure they know how important they are by thanking them early, frequently, and in a variety of ways.
Chris Moore, Executive Vice President of Innovairre, says:
“In today’s fundraising environment, where retention is the new acquisition, the days of having a revolving door of endless new donors are long gone!
The need to thank donors promptly and personally is more critical than ever.
After all, it’s not the first gift that’s most important – it’s the second, and first impressions count; you have to earn the right to ask again!”
Claire Axelrad, Principal at Clairification, says:
“Effective stewardship can be summed up in two words: gratitude and impact. Think hard about what you’re grateful to your donor for.
It’s not money; it’s the impact they’ve made possible. Tell them; show them.
It doesn’t matter how great your relationship is now. If you don’t demonstrate repeated gratitude and/or can’t show your donor their money is creating an impact, there won’t be much of a relationship for long.”
Joe Garecht, Founder of The Fundraising Authority, says:
“Your non-profit would not exist without your donors. So why not start treating your donors like the essential members of your team that they really are?
Your donors are the heroes of your work… your program staff and volunteers are important, but your donors are essential. Make sure they know that!”
Always connect donors with your organization’s mission
A charitable donation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Make sure your donors or potential donors know where their money is going and the difference that they’re making to your organization.
Marc Pitman, Fundraising Coach at The Nonprofit Academy, says:
“One of the most important things to do in donor stewardship is connect the donor to the mission. We need to bring donors into what my friend, Shanon Doolittle, calls these ‘mission moments.’ We often overlook these because they’re things our nonprofit is doing on a regular basis. But these are exactly what the donor is investing in. And since they’re happening on a regular basis, it doesn’t take a lot of programming or organizational inconvenience to bring donors in.
The best part? When non-fundraising staff see donors get excited about their work, the non-fundraising staff start willingly helping with the fundraising!”
Sarah Bernstein, Founder and Owner at Philanthrodata, says:
“I would suggest that in acknowledgements and reports to donors, that nonprofits emphasize what they can accomplish with and because of donors, what donors have made possible, rather than a litany of the organization’s achievements.
For example, they could talk about what it means to the people they serve to know that the community (of donors) believes in their potential and has demonstrated that by investing in their future. Also, they should pay attention to the people who pay attention to them, especially the donors who follow them in social media.”
Lomesh Shah, Founder and CEO of NonProfitEasy, says:
“Too often, nonprofits will separate fundraising activities from their ‘mission’ as an organization.
We try to encourage nonprofits to always link any monetary solicitation with a tangible outcome.
This is an easy way to show donors that their donation is making a difference and showcase process after a fundraising campaign.”
Remember to follow up, and follow up, and follow up!
Donor stewardship is not a one and done sort of activity. It’s an ongoing relationship with donors that your organization should constantly be looking to deepen, develop, and grow.
Julia Campbell, Principal at J Campbell Social Marketing, says:
“Donor stewardship does not mean just sending a thank you note and then contacting the donor again the next time you need money.
No. You need to tell donors how the gifts made an impact and continue to build the relationship with them.”
Eric Rardin, Vice President at Care2, says:
“Committing to year-round stewardship will retain current donors and recruit new repeat donors. Their funds are an extension of their faith in the organization and the missions, so remember: you’re not only stewarding their money, you’re stewarding their trust.
Care for your donors by investing in them — send a personalized thank you note; a formal, written thank you note; mid-year update; and a personalized ask the following year.”
Brian Dowling, Principal and Founder at SupportingFundraising.com and SupportingAdvancement.com, says:
“One of the most important stewardship activities are reports sent to donors on a periodic basis informing them about what has been done with their investment in your organization. “
Find ways to engage donors of all donation levels
Having industry leading donor stewardship means you are engaging potential donors at all giving levels, ages, and exposures to your nonprofit. Think about the different ways your organization can find opportunities to interact with organizations of all types.
Alex Saavedra, Digital Marketing Manager at Greater Giving, says:
“Young donors are hands-on and serious about helping. The common thing among young donors is the desire to be involved—especially when working on limited budgets, the amount they care and want to participate may not be matched by how much they can give.
A donor is a long-term investment—if these donors have a positive experience with your organization when they’re young, they’ll continue donating long into the future when they have more disposable income.
Provide opportunities for young donors to get involved in other ways besides donating (such as volunteering and hosting their own local events such as a 5K).”
Bill Tedesco, CEO of DonorSearch, says:
“Prospect research can help your front-line fundraisers identify which donors have the capacity to give a major gift and a history of past philanthropy.
This will enable your development team to ensure that those major donors receive excellent stewardship to keep them engaged for years to come!”
Brian Lacy, Owner at Brian Lacy and Associates, says:
“Annuals funds are a great way to cultivate a strong pipeline of donors who have the potential to make a major donation down the line. The secret to your success in this effort will be your organization’s donor stewardship program!”
Focus on stewardship, not solicitation
Soliciting donations is only one part of donor stewardship. Make sure your communications with donors are varied so they’re receiving a diversity of information about your organization.
Farra Trompeter, Vice President at Big Duck, says:
“Celebrate your donors and make them feel like heroes. Highlight your accomplishments as theirs!
Highlight what your donors care about. Not sure what that is or why they give? Ask them via phone interviews or surveys.
Don’t just ask donors to give. Make sure to book-end any appeal with non-donation actions, updates on results, and word of thanks.”
Erik Anderson, Founder & President of The Healthy Non-Profit, says:
“Donors are not ATMs, they are people with wishes and dreams. Your job as a fundraising professional is to help people realize those dreams. You are not a mugger lurking in the shadows trying to snatch a donor’s wallet or purse. If there is one guiding principle that is paramount to all other fundraising best practices, it is treat your best donors like you would your childhood BFF.
- Check-in with them from time-to-time.
- Care about what is happening in their life.
- Put their needs ahead of your own.
- Spend time with them figuring out what they want their philanthropy to accomplish and then show them how your organization can help them accomplish their goals and dreams.
The more personal you can make your cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship interactions, the stronger your relationship will become. Philanthropy done right can be enriching for all parties involved!”
Bond Lammey, Senior Associate at Bentz Whaley Flessner, says:
“Put as much effort into creating a stewardship plan for your donors as you do in creating cultivation/solicitation plans. Your best future donors are your current donors, and if you neglect to demonstrate how much you appreciate your current donors, you run the risk of losing them as donors.
On a slightly related note, I recently made a first gift to an organization. About six weeks later, I got a letter in the mail from them. While this was a long time to wait for a thank you letter, I was glad to see it in my mailbox.
I opened it up…only to discover that it was a solicitation!
I was being asked for another gift before I had ever been thanked for the first one!”
Eliza McNulty, Board Member at the Associaton of Donor Relations Professionals, says:
“To be truly donor-focused, donor relations and stewardship programs must find the sweet spot between developing policies & procedures, gathering donor feedback and exhibiting empathy.
We must step into the shoes of our donors, aim to understand their feelings and perspectives, and use that understanding to guide our actions.”
Mix up how you do donor acknowledgement
There’s more to donor communication than email and direct mail. Mix up how you interact with donors to separate your organization from the rest!
Joanne Fritz, Nonprofit & Charitable Organizations Expert at About.com, says:
“Multi-channel fundraising is a hot topic, though no one talks about multichannel thanking. Consider thanking by snail mail just another channel for your campaign.
Many people who receive your direct mail appeal likely respond by going to your website and donating. It’s a matter of convenience, not dislike of the mail.”
John Haydon, Digital PR and Fundraising Expert at Inbound Zombie, says:
“Social media empowers donors to share stories about the causes they care about. If they care enough about yours to make a donation, they’ll care enough to share your campaign on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
One of the best places to promote sharing is on your “thank you” pages. These are the first pages donors see after clicking “donate”, so the likelihood they’ll share the campaign is relatively high.”
Adam Weinger, President of Double the Donation, says:
“Make sure to include matching gift appeals in your donor acknowledgements. It’s an easy way to let donors know that they might be eligible to double their donation!”
Transparency and trust come first
If your organization is doing great work and making a positive difference in the world then don’t hide it! Be open and honest about how you’re using donations or where your organization is looking to improve in the future.
Larry Johnson, Founder of 8 Principles of Sustainable Fundraising, says:
“Seemingly counterintuitive, freely and openly admitting your mistakes, is one of the most powerful forces in renewing your donors. Total transparency—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
What does this do? It shows your respect for your investors and gives you the ability to continue making promises going forward. It’s one of those ironies of life.”
Erin Moyer, President at the Association of Donor Relations Professionals, says:
“To keep donors coming back, you must not only show them that yours is a quality organization with a solid reputation, but also one they can trust with their money.
After a first gift, each experience and touch you give your donor will help them further identify with your mission and ultimately strengthen your relationship.”
Use technology to make your donor’s lives easier
Technology is revolutionizing the nonprofit sector by making it easier than ever for donors to engage with causes they care about. Figure out how your organization can embrace technology to make the donation process and stewardship process as simple as possible for prospects or donors.
Meagan Nordmann, Digital Marketing Lead for @Pay, says:
“In order to keep an ongoing relationship with your donors so that they become repeat donors, organizations must be sure that the online donation process is as simple as possible.
Currently, most nonprofits require donors to visit multiple web pages, or remember a username and password, or download an app, or enter 57 keystrokes of payment information every single time they want to give.
There are express checkouts now that let donors give in just a few clicks, no matter what device they are giving from.“
Rafi Norberg, President of Helperful, says:
“Linking to your donation pages or including call-to-actions at the bottom of your virtual communications will encourage some percentage of the folks who visit your website to become first-time donors.
This is a simple, automated way to improve your inbound donation pipeline.”
I have previously discussed the importance of donor retention.
Keeping donors coming back leads to increased donations, stronger relationships, and more benefits that can help your nonprofit in extraordinary ways – but just because something can happen does not mean that it will.
Retaining donors is part science, part art. There are proven strategies and ideas to guide your retention efforts, but, ultimately, how you retain donors will be up to the creative, dedicated efforts of your staff.
Donor stewardship is how donors are retained. It’s the process by which nonprofits manage and care for donors in order to build relationships that last.
Forget the sugar coating. Stewardship is not easy. It requires effort from everyone on your nonprofit’s staff. There are multiple parts to the stewardship process, and only when they’re all working well together will your nonprofit experience the true benefits of a powerful donor stewardship program.
To get you started, here are five steps for how to create an effective donor stewardship program that will last.
Step one — Clean your donor database
Donor stewardship boils down to contacting donors at the right times and in the right ways. In order to do so, you need to know your donors through and through. The tough part is remembering the important details for a lot of donors.
There are three important fundraising steps that a clean database makes easier:
- Donor segmentation
- Contacting donors
- Engaging donors
These three fundraising strategies are also an excellent step-by-step guide around which your nonprofit can organize its initial contact with donors.
Donor segmentation is how nonprofits organize donors into manageable groups. Donors might be organized according to location, donation amount, age, and other factors. Groups might experience overlap, such as how a baby boomer donor might also be grouped with major gift donors.
A clean database helps donor segmentation in two ways.
First, donor data needs to be organized and easily accessible in order for staff to be able to sort donors into groups. Data such as age, previous donations, contact information, and other relevant data should be available in every donor record.
Effective organization saves time and effort that fundraisers can put towards other fundraising efforts, such as speaking with donors.
Second, segmentation does the work of grouping donors into manageable segments. In a clean database, it’s easy to access specific segments and figure out which segment(s) donors belong to. This makes stewardship easier when you wish to target a specific group of donors.
Have you ever called a wrong number? It’s not a particularly positive experience.
It’s useless to call donors at wrong numbers or to not be able to find their contact information to begin with. Stewardship is all about interacting with donors, so you need their contact information to be up to date and readily available.
It’s important to keep track of how donors wish to be contacted, how often, and with what information.
Whenever and however you contact donors, it’s best to vary what you talk about. If you’re always making fundraising appeals, then you’re building a relationship that’s contingent on donations. Make sure your donors know they matter more than that.
Maintaining a clean donor database is all about making stewardship as efficient as possible. Once you’re organized, a nonprofit CRM can help you get the most out of your donor database.
Step two — Define Stewardship at Your Organization
Stewardship has come to mean a lot of things. The term is tossed around pretty loosely.
With big picture concepts that lack specificity and a concrete meaning, like stewardship, it is extremely important that your team defines what your organization’s understanding of the term is.
As was mentioned earlier, stewardship is the process of providing donors with excellent care and service in the hopes of retaining them as supporters.
What needs to be defined on an organization-by-organization basis is what makes up the ‘excellent care and service’ of exemplary stewardship.
Numerous aspects of the donor-nonprofit relationship could fall under your organization’s stewardship umbrella.
- Formal donor acknowledgment
- Customized thank yous
- Phone calls from development staff
- Annual reports
- Social media shout-outs
Your organization might encompass all of those communications within its stewardship program, or only a few.
The important takeaway here is that your organization’s understanding of stewardship has clearly defined parameters.
Those parameters will be guideposts as you begin to lay out a stewardship plan.
Step three — Set goals
Maybe you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or pen the next great American soap opera or set foot on the moon. Goals keep people striving towards greatness, and they’ll keep your nonprofit on the right track, too.
Some goals can be largely unobtainable, in an attempt to keep your staff striving to be better, but it’s important to institute accomplishable goals. Positive reinforcement will keep your staff motivated, and they’ll get positive reinforcement when they complete important tasks that you set forth.
Good goals for a nonprofit stewardship program include:
- Retaining a certain percentage of new donors from a specific campaign
- Receiving increased donations from a certain percentage of donors
- Reaching a higher number of donors through your stewardship program
Achieving these broader stewardship goals will likely entail accomplishing smaller tasks, such as sending communications at the proper times and in the desired proportions to specific donors.
Rewarding staff could be the key to a successful stewardship program. People work better when they’re happier, and when your staff knows that achieving certain standards might result in desirable rewards, it can help to motivate them on those slow days when the inspiration is running low, but you still need them to deliver the same exemplary service that makes your stewardship program so successful.
Step four — Create a budget
There are a lot of moving parts to a donor stewardship program:
- Data attainment and organization
- And more
Stewardship doesn’t come free, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive.
The cost of donor stewardship will depend on the size of your organization, the amount of donors you have, and the budget you have to begin with. You might also consider the ways in which you reach out to donors, how much staff you need focused on stewardship and other factors.
It all boils down to one question: How much can you afford to spend on donor stewardship?
Stewardship shouldn’t bankrupt your nonprofit, but realize that it is a strategy geared towards raising more money. Whatever you invest into donor stewardship, you should expect to get back, and then some, through donations from the donors that your efforts help you to retain.
Step five — Assemble a Stewardship Team
Once you have a budget in place, you’ll have a realistic idea of how many people and who specifically should be on your stewardship team.
Like with anything, in order to be successful your stewardship program needs a dedicated group of individuals running it.
It’s likely that your stewardship team will consist mostly of members of the development department, as these are the fundraisers already acting as the faces of your organization to donors.
Let’s say you currently have a standard thank you template for email and direct mail, and phone calls are few and far between. Soon, as part of your stewardship program, you’re planning on moving to more customized thank yous and implementing “check-ins” with major donors.
Those strategy changes are going to need additional manpower. You might need to add a development staffer or reapportion tasks.
As you are planning, get the team together and outline stewardship job descriptions.
Step six — Create a communication plan
How you contact donors matters. You don’t want to bombard people with too many emails, but you also don’t want to call so infrequently that they forget about you.
Ways to contact donors include:
- Direct mail
- Social media
- Carrier pigeon
- And more
NonProfitEasy does not encourage the penultimate option, but we’d hate to hinder your creativity.
Creativity matters! It might sound simple to contact donors, but it’s not. This donor likes one phone call a month while that donor prefers two emails a week. It could be that simple, but a good communication plan will contact donors in multiple ways.
A variation of communications lets donors know that you care. Emails can be a good way to remain in passive communication, while the occasional phone call can reinforce a strong relationship thanks to a needed verbal conversation. Contacting donors might sound mundane, but a creative mind can tinker with the options and keep donors engaged by contacting them in multiple ways, while obviously sticking to donors’ preferred communication methods for the most important conversations.
Contacting donors might sound mundane, but a creative mind can tinker with the options and keep donors engaged by contacting them in multiple ways, while obviously sticking to donors’ preferred communication methods for the most important conversations.
In addition to how you communicate with donors, it matters what you say. I mentioned before how only talking to donors about donations sets the precedent that the relationships don’t matter beyond monetary gifts. A donation-focused mindset won’t create the types of long lasting relationships that your nonprofit wants.
I mentioned before how only talking to donors about donations sets the precedent that the relationships don’t matter beyond monetary gifts. A donation-focused mindset won’t create the types of long lasting relationships that your nonprofit wants.
In addition to fundraising appeals, your nonprofit can share other information, such as:
- Upcoming events
- Volunteer opportunities
- Program information
- Relevant stories
Varying the information you share is another way to get creative with donor communications. You don’t want donors to dread your phone calls, because they know that every one is another ask for money. Instead, make donors hopeful that they might answer and learn about either a fun event your hosting this weekend or a great way to get out and help the community.
Instead, make donors hopeful that they might answer and learn about either a fun event you are hosting this weekend or a great way to get out and help the community.
Of course, all communications cost money, so your communication strategy comes back to the budget you have in place for your stewardship program.
Sending too many communications that don’t ask for money might cost your nonprofit too much, so plan ahead and decide on a ratio of fundraising to non-fundraising communications that works for you.
Step seven — Put your plan into action
At long last! You’ve trimmed the bushes, swept the sidewalk, and shined the windows. Your stewardship program is ready for its big debut.
You deserve a pat on the back. It’s not easy to get a donor stewardship program up and running. Done patting? Good, because the hard work has only just begun.
Donors change. They change jobs, addresses, attitudes, and your nonprofit needs to remain abreast of it all. Strategies will need to be tweaked to stay up to date with who your donors are and what they want out of the stewardship experience. If you don’t maintain a mindset of constantly altering and improving your program to meet the needs of your donors, then your stewardship program could stagnate and fail to retain the amount of donors you need.
I know, donor stewardship is a never ending journey, but life isn’t about reaching plateaus and coasting. Life is about climbing, reaching a plateau, perhaps resting there awhile, and then forging ahead to the next far off peak. Always strive to improve your stewardship program, and you’ll never cease to amaze yourself at how incredibly much you can improve donor retainment.
The argument between donor acquisition and donor retainment is almost pointless. Both matter, and the one you engage in the most depends on your nonprofit and its timely needs. Nonprofits need to engage in both, and an essential part of donor retention is the stewardship process.
Organizations value acquisition over retention at every giving level. Larger nonprofits tend to balance acquisition and retainment, but many smaller organizations don’t have the money or staff to do so.
Smaller nonprofits focus on retention, but they know that acquisition must be increased in order to raise more money.
The following best practices can help grow your donor population and keep your organization well-funded for years to come!
1) Show potential donors how your nonprofit uses donations.
Showing donors specific evidence of how far their money will go can help to encourage donations from new sources.
City Youth Now dedicates an entire paragraph on their donation page to explaining how donations help them. This gives donors tangible evidence of how their money will be used, so they’re giving to something more concrete, as opposed to a nonprofit’s ambiguous overall budget.
Demonstrating the work your nonprofit does is a promotional act that can be performed through words, pictures, and other types of media:
- Share pictures of your work on social media.
- Send emails detailing what recent fundraising has allowed you to accomplish.
- Incorporate examples of your work on your website.
- Improve direct mail by showing donors exactly what their money goes towards.
‘Showing’ is about both citing specific evidence and showing that donations will go towards specific actions.
For example, showing a prospect that her money will go towards a specific event might lead to a donation. Being able to show that the money will go into a fund that’s specific to this discussed event assures the donor that her money truly is going to what you say it is going to, and not into an ambiguous or unspecified bank account.
2) Promote to donors online.
The internet provides a bevy of options to both connect with and promote to donors. Not all online channels serve the same purpose, but they can all work together to acquire donors:
- Search engine marketing (SEM) — Advertising through Google and others search engines requires money, but it’s hard to raise money if you don’t spend some. You want your ads to attract people to your website in an effort to raise awareness for your nonprofit. Additionally, Google can offer up to $10,000 dollars in monthly Adwords spending to organizations that qualify for their Google Grants program.
- Social media — People who follow you on social media are generally more engaged with your nonprofit, and you have the chance to share meaningful content with them. This content, such as that shared by Ceres Community Project, should educate them about your organization, how to donate, and other relevant topics with the aim of acquiring email addresses.
- Email — Donor conversion through email averages about 33%. That’s a far cry from everyone you reach out to, but 1/3 is a desirable amount. The trick is to send the right messages at the right times, as you don’t want to overwhelm donors, give them extraneous information, or seem spammy and get blocked by internet service providers. If you do email right then you’ve got a great chance of acquiring more donors than you would through any other online medium.
3) Send direct mail.
The internet makes it easy to stay in touch with prospects, but some people crave a more intimate form of communication. Some fundraisers think that direct mail is out of date, but many older donors either don’t use or don’t respond to email.
Direct mail matters because older donors are often an organization’s biggest supporters.
An alternative to typical letters is to offer something for purchase that can be delivered through mail, such as the cookbook offered by Ceres Community Project.
Not only is purchasing the cookbook a form of donating, but it must be mailed to the buyer, the cost of which is already covered by the purchase. This is a great opportunity to include more information about your organization in an attempt to turn a cooking enthusiast into a fully-acquired new donor.
Selling items, such as cookbooks, requires upfront costs, but it’s okay because you’ll be able to make it back in the future. Not only will many of your new donors give future gifts and recurring donations, but the amounts of those donations can increase over time.
Spending money to acquire new donors through direct mail is an investment in future donations that will more than cover the price of those initial mailings.
4) Take your fundraising online with crowdfunding campaigns.
Crowdfunding makes it easy to run specific fundraising campaigns.
Most software allows you to create a handsome webpage, share pictures, video, and other media to easily articulate your campaign, and process payments through a secure online service. Nonprofits can run multiple campaigns at once and manage them all on the go thanks to mobile compatibility.
The beauty of online fundraising is that it can help you to reach new donors. Many donations may come from loyal donors, but online campaigns make it easy for them to share your cause with friends and family through social media and email, so you stand a good chance of landing donations from new sources.
Online campaigns are also easy for nonprofits to promote to new prospects through their own social media profiles, email, and other online channels.
5) Provide exemplary stewardship.
People prefer to give online. It’s a safer, faster, and increasingly more credible way to raise funds.
Online fundraising also extends the opportunity to interact more with potential donors. You can share pictures, videos, links, and other informative content that can educate people and build the sort of goodwill that could lead to donations.
Stewardship extends beyond promotion. On top of marketing, the chance to interact with more donors means that you may receive more leads who want more information on your organization before donating. Your staff will likely interact with potential donors, and it’s important to treat prospects well from the start.
While your nonprofit might provide a great service to the world, people will judge your organization according to their interactions with your staff, so you want those experiences to be positive.
Ceres Community Project exerts great stewardship on their website.
They use language like, ‘our actions’, ‘together’, and ‘Join us!’ to convey a sense of inclusion in their community. They do a great job of conveying that their mission depends on a team effort that extends to both its donors and the community. The language is simple, but the impact can be large in how it could encourage new donations.
Stewardship boils down to treating prospects right.
When prospects form a positive affinity for your organization, you can begin a conversation about major gifts or planned giving.
Planned gifts are major gifts given in wills that can make a big difference for your organization. Receiving planned gifts is a long game, and the key to success is building great relationships that take foundation in a dedication to exemplary stewardship.
There are a lot of great resources available if organizations want to learn more about planned giving. It’s important to come prepared if your organization wants to start soliciting major or planned gifts.
6) Get creative at special events.
BATS Theatre is nonprofit dedicated to improving New Zealand performance work. Let’s say they host a show and pass around jars in which the audience is meant to place donations during the performance. The response is fine, but BATS receives only money and no names.
At the same show the next year, BATS disperses programs that contain envelopes and pencils. The audience is meant to write their names and contact information on the envelopes and place their donations inside. This time, the theatre not only raises money, but they acquire a host of new email addresses, too.
It’s one thing to acquire new donors, and another thing to land new donors who you can ask for donations from again and again.
The concert fix is an example of a simple, creative solution that turns one-time donors into possible recurring donors.
Events of any kind are attractions that can bring new faces into contact with your nonprofit.
You can also implement fun activities such as raffles and games to help paint a positive image of your organization.
7) Focus on high-quality donors.
A one-time donor isn’t as valuable as a continual donor. Additionally, donors who give bigger gifts are more valuable than donors who give less.
Finding high-quality donors requires a focus on building relationships, as opposed to seeking donations. Money is what you want, but you’ll likely receive more money, and hopefully more than one donation, from people who feel a more intimate connection to your organization.
While major gift donors tend to be previous donors, and specifically mid-level donors, who, over time, decide to give more, you should try to predict which prospects might be apt to eventually become your major gift donors.
Pursuing prospects who won’t give as much or as frequently isn’t worth the time that could be spent talking to prospects who will give consistently, in large amounts, or both.
How do you know what to look for?
- Think about what characteristics your current loyal donors share.
- Find out if the prospect has a history of giving to other nonprofits.
- Look for wealth markers, such as real estate ownership, to gauge the prospect’s capacity to give.
- Ask questions that demonstrate if the prospect has an affinity for helping out causes like yours.
Your donation page can also do the work of encouraging people to become high-quality donors.
Mentor Me’s donation page has a few key features:
- A small button labeled ‘Monthly’, which gives donors the option to schedule automatic, recurring donations.
- A big blue button, which suggests that a nominal amount be added to the donation to counteract payment processing costs.
- Mentor Me requires that donors provide the full gamut of contact information, so that these new donors may be contacted to give future gifts.
The work of finding high-quality donors usually happens before someone lands on a donation page, but smart, subtle tweaks can help your donation page to encourage more people to give a little more or more frequently.
There’s not an exact science to knowing who will and won’t make a good donor, but looking for telling signs can help your nonprofit to dedicate its time to soliciting the right people, which should land you more high-quality prospects, more donations, and waste less of your fundraising resources.
8) Use surveys and use them a lot.
Many donors need to be provoked in order to speak up, and it’s an important responsibility for your nonprofit to seek what people think.
If you don’t know why people are giving, or why not, then you’re not learning how to improve fundraising appeals to new prospects.
Surveys need only ask the questions that your nonprofit wants answered, such as:
- What did you enjoy about the donation process?
- What could be improved or removed from the donation process?
- Why did you choose to give to our nonprofit?
- Why did you elect not to give to our nonprofit?
- How do you decide where to donate?
The questions on your surveys will be relative to your organization and timely needs. Request for people to participate in your survey after donating or send out the survey in a newsletter or its own email.
Try running a raffle or prize giveaway to encourage participation. Survey results become more statistically relevant with the more responses you receive.
Surveys don’t have to be forms, either physical or online. Mentor Me offers mentor roundtables to discuss the program, so they’re constantly learning what’s working, what’s not, and how the program might be improved.
Once you have your desired information, use the data to improve your fundraising appeals and who your fundraisers focus on.
Surveys should be used frequently, as your organization is always changing, people are changing, and the ways fundraising can be conducted are always being tweaked. Surveys supply the information to help your nonprofit stay ahead of the curve.
9) Give gifts in exchange for donations.
The people want tote bags, jackets, coupons, hats, pens, and anything that’s free. People love free stuff, and giving out nice gifts can help to encourage donations.
Many nonprofits give out gifts for a certain level of giving, such as a donor must give at least $50 to receive a free bag. Some nonprofits give out different gifts depending on the amount donated. What all gifts do is incentivize giving, as people are now not just helping a cause, but also receiving a nice gift in return for their philanthropy.
Raffles can be a type of gift giving to encourage donations, such as the wine cellar raffles held by Mentor Me. Not everyone wins, but the potential of winning encourages people to donate by purchasing tickets.
Not only does the winner feel good about being rewarded for a donation, but it’s fun for people to compete in a game of chance while knowing that, at the very least, their money is going towards a good cause.
Promote the gifts as part of your fundraising appeals, as some people might choose to donate to a cause that gives them something tangible in return for their money.
A gift might not only make the difference between no donation and a donation, but the difference between a small and large gift, as people may jump to higher donation levels in order to receive a free gift.
All nonprofits have a vast array of donor acquisition methods to choose from. Choose wisely, tailor the strategy to your organization, execute well, and never stop improving your tactics.
And don’t forget that great fundraising management can make your life so much easier. If you’re new to CRM software or want to learn more about how NonProfitEasy can improve all of your fundraising strategies, then schedule a demo with one of our dedicated representatives today.
Find out more information on donor acquisition with the following resources:
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