Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. Sherlock Holmes has Dr. Watson. Spongebob Squarepants has Patrick the Starfish.
Fundraisers have CRMs.
Nonprofits and CRMs go hand-in-hand.
To successfully execute regular, large-scale fundraising campaigns, nonprofits need the support and assistance that constituent relationship management software provides.
Nonprofit CRMs have three main uses, which are outlined below.
Use 1 — Data Management
This is both a slightly obvious and fairly extensive use. What kind of donor database doesn’t offer some level of data management?
Data management boils down to one thing — keeping donor records.
A nonprofit without donor records is like a car without gas. It may look the part, but it is not going to be able to do much of anything.
Data management is a sprawling category. It incorporates:
- tracking donors
- structuring solicitation strategies
- generating data reports
Let’s dissect those points one at a time.
a. Tracking Donors
A key component of fundraising is knowing your donors.
Learn about your donors. Study your facts. Refresh your memory. Lather, rinse, repeat.
A well-run nonprofit tracks donors over time, updating details as needed. Your CRM can be that tracker and house that information.
Tracked donor details can come into play at any stage of the fundraising process.
For example, one of your development officers may be meeting a major gift prospect for lunch and wants to know any donation history the prospect has with your organization. That officer can check the nonprofit CRM.
The significance of tracking donors actually bleeds into point b.
b. Structuring Solicitation Strategies
The data you collect on donors over time does not go to waste.
In fact, with all the information in one easy to access location, your donor database, your development staff can strategize how best to solicit donors for various fundraising campaigns, improving donor stewardship.
For instance, compare what happens when a fundraiser uses details from the database to solicit a donor who we’ll call Miguel versus using a generic solicitation method for a donor we’ll call Laura.
With Laura, you send out a direct mail appeal to her parent’s home, where she no longer lives. You make a standard ask, but don’t acknowledge that she’s already a supporter of your organization.
With Miguel, your records indicate he responds better to email appeals, so you send a letter over email, through your system. You include a thank you for his past contributions and cater the ask according to his past giving amounts.
Okay, I’ll admit that was an extreme example, but it was used to show what a possible contrast there can be.
That example was on the micro-level, moving out to the macro, with your CRM your development team can segment out all donors similar to Miguel and solicit them in a different fashion than the segment that includes Laura.
Without good, organized data, fundraising starts on unstable ground.
c. Generating Reports
Constituents want transparency. Reports provide that desired transparency.
Many nonprofit CRMs offer report generating tools that will save your staff time. Rather than have team members dedicate valuable work hours to building reports from the bottom up, a CRM will do much of the report creation legwork.
There’s also the added bonus that less human involvement means less human error. Technology is just more accurate.
Use 2 — Fundraising
If a nonprofit without donor records is like a car without gas, a nonprofit without fundraising is like a car without a driver. It’ll never arrive at its destination.
CRMs help with numerous aspects of fundraising, including:
- processing donations
- accepting online donations
- setting up monthly giving
- running crowd-funding campaigns
Running a nonprofit is a complex endeavor. You should aim to consolidate as many aspects as possible, and fundraising is no exception. Using one system for a variety of fundraising tasks makes life easier for your entire development department.
It also never hurts to have software that can essentially run the donation process.
If your nonprofit uses its CRM to take charge of fundraising, all the data input surrounding it should go back into the system as well. This loops back to the first use, data management.
Imagine running a crowd-funding campaign with a third party entity versus as a page designed through your CRM.
Both campaigns raise $15,000. Good news for both campaigns, better news for the one that was run through your CRM’s crowd-funding platform.
Let me explain.
With a crowd-funding platform through your CRM, you’re gaining the $15,000 in donations, as well as valuable donor data on those contributors. The CRM should be able to funnel the information from its crowd-funding platform back to your donor database.
Using a third-party option could result in some serious work for your employees at the end of the campaign. Once the funds are raised, if you want that donor data in your system, someone is going to have to put it there.
This will be easier if your CRM has a bulk upload feature, just beware of simple mistakes in the process that could result in transfer errors, like having all crowd-funding campaign donors’ names categorized as email addresses.
The more arduous option would be having staff input the data one-by-one. That task would take valuable time away from other important work your team could be doing.
Use 3 — Communication Management
Ready for the third car metaphor? Say it with me. A nonprofit without communication management is like a car without a steering wheel. Aimless and extremely unadvisable.
Communication is the foundation of donor-nonprofit relationships.
With appropriate communication strategies in place, nonprofits are going to increase both their donor acquisition and donor retention rates. Weaken the communication strategies and suddenly new donors stop coming in and loyal donors become less and less consistent.
CRM software can satisfy many communications needs, from direct mail to email to event correspondence.
The software makes starting email campaigns just a few clicks away. Your donor list has already been drawn in through fundraising, donor details have been filled in through data management, and now all of that information can be put to good use — donor-centric communication.
Capabilities vary. Find a CRM that suits your communication requirements.
Keep in mind, for all of this, but especially for communications, that the data the CRM has is only as good as what the organization puts in. Frequent database cleanings are needed to truly maximize CRM function.
Auto-filling a campaign letter template for a large group of donors only works if you have consistent details on all of those donors. You really don’t want to send out asks addressed to “donor name.”
When considering all three of these uses, your organization is going to have to rank the three in order of most necessary, and examine that list against what the CRMs that fit within your budget have the capacity to accomplish.
Ideally, you’ll be looking into an all-in-one CRM. In those nonprofit CRMs, all the different uses work in a self-contained system. Therefore, your data can be pulled into and pushed out in various ways, because all of the parts of the system communicate with each other seamlessly.
A strong alternative to the all-in-one model is finding a CRM with most uses built in that sources in outside tools to fill in any holes in the database. These are integrations.
Either way, you want a CRM that functions as a system, drawing together as many uses as possible into one fluid and dynamic donor database. Your CRM should enable you, not limit you.
CRMs are either CD-ROM-based or cloud-based. With cloud-based software you can use it anywhere, as long as you have access to the cloud. Cloud-based CRM software is often treated as a SaaS, or software as a service. The nice part about a cloud-based CRM is that it can scale with a growing organization.
No one CRM is right for all organizations, so the decision is going to be solely based on the nonprofit’s need and capacity.
If you’re looking to learn more, check out our Complete Guide to Nonprofit CRMs here.
And one more car reference for completeness’ sake, before you make any decisions, take a CRM out on a test drive.
Have you ever had something be a total letdown the second time around?
Imagine that you eat at an amazing restaurant. The host is friendly. The server is the perfect balance of personable and knowledgeable. The food is beyond tasty. Even the bathroom has cool sinks!
Fast forward a month. You’ve waited as long as you can. The day of your return to foodie heaven is upon you and you’re like a kid on Halloween.
Then the unthinkable happens, you hate it.
The host loses your reservation. Your waiter has an “I might spit in your food vibe.” Your steak is overcooked. And, you slip on a wet floor in the bathroom.
Don’t put your monthly and recurring donors through this psychological torture.
What’s the best way to keep donors happy and returning?
Exemplary monthly and recurring donor program management.
Monthly and recurring donor programs are great ways to improve yearly fundraising for nonprofits.
They provide consistency in a world of financial uncertainty.
To help your fundraising process, here’s an outlined 6 step guide to boosting monthly and recurring donor management proficiency.
STEP #1 PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
Plan as much as you can in advance and save yourself major effort down the road.
Truly think through how your program will work when establishing it.
- Who will manage the process?
- What communications will donors receive after sign-up?
- What thank-yous will you send donors?
- What will be the suggested pledge amounts?
- How are you going to be communicating with participants?
- What will the communications say?
If that list seems extensive, it is because it is. And it is likely that even more questions will come up in the pilot stage of your program.
Address these planning questions early and thoroughly.
The more you know about the ins and outs of your program, the better equipped you will be to run it. You might need a monthly gift team, or you might be able to allocate duties to existing staff.
The only way to know is to plan. Then plan some more.
STEP #2 AUTOMATE THE GIVING PROCESS
If you have the capability of automating any part of this process, do it!
The rewards of a monthly/recurring giving program are plenty, but running one is not without its difficulties — one of which is the time it’ll take your staff to execute.
A great CRM software (like NonProfitEasy) has a pledge function within the donation process. This can save staff time and increase donor engagement.
A CRM can also identify expired cards, flag denied cards, and process recurring payments.
STEP #3 CONNECT THE PROGRAM TO SOMETHING CONCRETE
People like certainty when giving their money.
Donors who know what their money is accomplishing feel more secure in their decisions to give.
Give a few examples of what certain pledge amounts equate to in terms of mission fulfillment.
- $5 monthly pledge = the training for a new volunteer
- $10 monthly pledge = school supplies for a kindergartner
And so on and so on.
Solidifying the donation trail does more than comfort your donors, it can incentivize them.
If I’m a donor and I see that for just $5 I can help your organization train more volunteers, I’d sacrifice the funds I’d spend on one fancy coffee drink.
It is hard to say no to guaranteed results.
STEP #4 HIGHLIGHT MONTHLY GIVING
Do you know what frustrates me? Whispering. If you want me to know what you’re saying you have to make sure I can hear you.
Donors won’t know about monthly giving if you don’t noticeably tell them about it. They won’t learn through osmosis.
Take advantage of your organization’s preexisting communications portals to let your people know about the programs in place.
Use social media platforms, newsletters, director’s letters to donors, etc.
Vary how you address your prospects and donors about the program.
In one correspondence explicitly outline the details of monthly giving. In another choose a monthly donor to recognize and then briefly discuss how others could get involved.
By showcasing the benefits of monthly giving, you make it clear to the donor why you’re asking them for something other than a typical donation. By making your intentions clear, it helps both your organization and potential donors who are ready to give.
STEP #5 BRAND THE MONTHLY GIVING PROGRAM
Make monthly giving appealing by branding it as an exclusive club.
Name it what you want, but just make sure you treat the donors who participate like members.
The branding as an elite group can only go so far if you don’t back it up with some legitimate rewards.
Offer members-only rewards and giveaways from time to time. A little money spent will go a long way towards growing that recurring donor base.
STEP #6 PROVIDE STEP-UP OPPORTUNITIES
This step applies to the handling of one-time, intermittent, and monthly donors.
With care and attention to donor relationships, ask your donors to step-up their giving practices.
Effective donor segmentation will be a huge asset in this process. The better you know these donors, the more successful your asks will be.
For one-time and intermittent donors this ask will be about getting them to transition onto your monthly giving platform.
Send specific communications geared towards one-time or intermittent donors that offer an upgrade to your recently branded monthly giving program.
For those already involved in the program, wait a relatively lengthy period of time, make sure the donor is committed to the giving program, and then ask him to up his monthly pledge.
These asks won’t be about getting huge increases but pledge bumps across many monthly donors.
Don’t forget that your loyal monthly donors are prime candidates for major gift donations.
Members of your monthly giving club have already demonstrated a vested interest in financially contributing to your cause.
There’s a good chance they’d be willing to make the jump to a large gift if the funds were available and the opportunity was presented.
This is all about giving people as many opportunities as possible to join the recurring donation crew.
With monthly and recurring donor programs in place, you’ll be on your way to successful donor retention.
Want to see how a CRM can help run your monthly giving program. Try a free NonProfitEasy demo today.
Do you feel like you and your nonprofit are stuck in a rut? Are you looking for new ideas and can’t seem to find them anywhere?
I’ve got the perfect solution for you! Attend one of the many upcoming conferences next year.
Conferences are a great way for your nonprofit team to get out of the office and gain a fresh perspective on some of the toughest issues and problems that you face on a daily basis.
However, you can’t just waltz through the venue doors and expect opportunities to fall into your lap. You have to properly prepare and strategize to get the most out of your conference experience.
Take a look at these top four ways to succeed at your next nonprofit conference.
1. Register early
Many conferences have different price levels depending on when you register. If you just walk up and register the day of the conference, you’re going to pay a lot more than if you registered a few months in advance.
Of course, all conference deadlines are different and the pricing across events varies.
But, registering early gives you the benefit of deciding which events you need to attend. Many conferences will have à la carte pricing as well which can help you decide which type of package you should purchase.
Registering early can save you both money and a headache. Make sure you start researching conference deadlines in advance so you don’t miss out!
2. Do research beforehand
Need a lot of help with donor acquisition but not so much with fundraising metrics? Take note of which sessions will be held during the conference and make a point to attend the ones that will provide you with the most information.
Conference hosts will usually post schedules and events on their websites prior to the big day. After you’ve registered (hopefully, early!), take a look at the schedule and see what captures your interest.
But don’t just plan for the sessions you want to attend. Map out your networking opportunities as well. Sometimes, conference hosts will publicize a list of confirmed attendees. If you need to bounce ideas off another nonprofit professional, make it a point to network with them during the conference.
Don’t feel like you have to follow your networking plan to the letter, however. Give yourself room for spontaneous interactions. You never know who you might bump into!
3. Network before, during, and after
You might be asking, “How can I network at a conference before it even starts?”
It’s simple! Many conferences have a Facebook page and a Twitter account with a corresponding hashtag that conference participants can use before and during the conference to connect with one another. You can ask questions, get advice, and get to know your fellow conference attendees before you even meet them face to face.
During the conference, do more than just hand out your business cards. Engage in meaningful conversations with your peers and colleagues.
You might end up making a meaningful and lasting connection!
Afterwards, make sure that follow up with the people that you met and had positive interactions with. If a fundraiser at another nonprofit had some really great fundraising ideas, follow up with him or her to get a new perspective for your next fundraising event.
Making the most of your nonprofit conference networking events is crucial to your success.
4. Be engaged
The above point spoke to your duty as a nonprofit professional to effectively network at your next conference.
But networking is just one part of the “Be Engaged!” puzzle.
Effective engagement at a nonprofit includes a combination of the following:
- Showing up early to sessions. Nothing says “I don’t really care” like wandering into a room after a session has already started. Get an early start so that you can talk to other attendees before the speaker begins.
- Attending the “optional” sessions. Going to unique events and sessions that you don’t necessarily have to attend can be a great way to relieve some stress and meet some new people.
- Knowing when to take a break. You need to get as much as you can out of your conference experience, but you can’t do that if you’re falling asleep in your chair during a session. Find a good balance and take a break when you need to.
These strategies will help you stay engaged during your conference and will allow you to make the most of the experience.
Conferences can be simultaneously exciting and nerve wracking. But with these four tips, you’ll be able to emerge from your conference on the last day well-informed and well-connected. Whether you need help with your nonprofit’s mission statement or you’re trying to boost your donor retention, a nonprofit conference can be just what you need!
Want to have your cake and eat it too? Start a monthly giving program.
Monthly donor programs are cash cows and cash chickens and cash horses and all the animals on Old MacDonald’s farm.
Consistent funding is key when running a successful nonprofit and monthly donors offer financial stability.
A donor who willingly gives a set amount each month without your staff having to re-ask each time? Yes, please!
The biggest challenge facing those wanting to start a program is just that, starting one.
It can feel like an overwhelming undertaking, but the fundraising benefits far outweigh any monthly donor program start-up difficulties.
There are so many more pros than cons.
Let’s look at the pros:
- set (loosely guaranteed) funding
- after the initial program development, it’s straightforward to maintain
- simple to track results
- long-term — theoretically, monthly giving never has to end
Still concerned about launch challenges?
Following the 5 steps below will let you rest assured that your monthly giving program will start strong and draw in those sought-after recurring donations.
Step One: Get the Team on Board
Establishing monthly giving is going to be a large investment of time, resources, and money.
It is crucial that you get the key stakeholders within your organization on board.
Bring your executive directors, executive board, your database manager, and your fundraisers into the discussion. These are the people this program will affect, so they need to be part of its launch.
Gather these team members and use their input to design a launch plan (more on that in step two).
Like with any similar undertaking, you are going to want to appoint a point-person to lead the development and act as a liaison for the various team members helping with the project.
Although, it is important to have one person lead, the program’s launch will not happen unless key players within your nonprofit champion it.
Step Two: Design a Launch Plan
Prior to implementing the program, you’ll need a plan of attack.
You want to know what the campaign process is going to be like, so get a full picture, top to bottom.
First, brainstorm and decide what your campaign is going towards. Set a clear mission so you know what kind of messaging you’ll need
Make sure the program is funding something a donor would feel compelled to contribute to.
From there, choose what the monthly giving levels will be. This is an opportunity to be very strategic.
Most monthly donors are going to pledge anywhere from $5-$50 a month. The aim of these programs is to gain larger sums through a piecemeal approach.
The goal of any nonprofit when soliciting donations should be accessibility for all types of donors.
Maybe a college student will join the program if she can pledge $10 a month. Then she gets her mom involved and the mother becomes a $40 a month participant.
Curate your giving levels so that you reach the whole spectrum of supporters. Space the levels out by tens, by fives, by whichever seems most relevant to your donor base.
Don’t forget to include a “choose your own adventure” giving option where a donor can write-in his own amount and hopefully you’ll receive some larger, $100 or $200 a month, donations.
Next, brand your program. Donors will be inclined to join a “members-only” type club.
With an established club, you can then offer rewards to your members, maybe monthly or bi-monthly. Just something to show gratitude while driving further sign-ups.
Finally, you’ll need to plan your communication methods.
- The kinds of mailings you’ll be sending
- The frequency with which you’ll be sending them
- When to ask for donors to upgrade
- How often you’ll ask for upgrades
Once you determine how and when you’ll be communicating, you’ll then need to produce those materials.
Step Three: Produce Corresponding Communication Materials
You know the campaign’s mission, you have giving levels set, you’ve branded the program, now you need to pull that all together in your various communications templates.
Draft your initial ask letter for direct mail and do the same for email.
Are you going to do follow-up phone calls? It might be a good idea to write a phone script.
Don’t have the resources to do follow-up phone calls for everyone? Pull the higher-level potential participants and have staff call only those candidates.
At this stage you’ll also want to design a monthly giving page for your website.
Make sure that your branding matches across all platforms that you’re communicating with. Donors will react well to message cohesion.
Step Four: Check That Your System Can Handle the Challenge
Work with your database manager and/or donation processing tool to set up a monthly giving option.
Many CRMs will help automate the monthly giving process.
Having the technology ready to support your efforts will save you significant time in the long run.
There is nothing worse than spending all this time creating a campaign to then let old or outdated systems hold you back.
Proper use of your database will also help you streamline your record keeping, save you money on administration, and even potentially offer an automated upgrade process.
Don’t let such a valuable tool work against you. Get your database on board!
Step Five: Launch and Optimize
You’ve done the legwork, now launch your campaign and watch the donations come in.
Don’t rest on your laurels for too long.
Remember, the campaign is a living and evolving entity that will need to be adjusted as time goes by, so consider:
- various ways to acknowledge participants — sending thank you/update letters, calling out MVP participants on social media, listing donors on the website page
- monthly checks of who is still donating and who has left the program
- finding new prospects to solicit
- mentioning monthly giving across other communications platforms like in direct mail campaigns and newsletters
There is always room for improvement so don’t let a valuable program function at less than 100% of its capacity.
After Step Five, your monthly giving program should be a well-oiled machine. Relax and eat that cake.
Fundly is dedicated to providing you with the tools you need to raise money for whatever your cause may be.