Thu, May 28 2015

The 4 T’s of Amazing Fundraising Appeals

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

At Network for Good we spend a lot of time analyzing what makes an ask more effective, as a really good fundraising appeal is so crucial for nonprofits to connect with supporters and inspire donors to give. Our CEO, Bill Strathmann, is a big fan of alliteration and recently shared four T’s for effective appeals. Here’s how they add up to a better message that works:

Timely: Your appeal needs to have a sense of urgency to move donors to act now. Let them know what will happen if they give immediately—or what might be lost if they don’t.

Touching: Effective fundraising taps into the emotional and personal reasons for giving. Your fundraising appeal must inspire your reader to feel something if you want them to take action. Compelling photos and stories help make your message come to life.

Trustworthy: Once you’ve inspired donors with emotion, they need reassurance to follow through with their donation. Build trust by including trust icons, testimonials, and sign your appeal with believable and relatable messenger.

Tangible: What will happen if someone gives? Show concrete results and the specific impact of a gift. Donors want to know that they can make a difference. Make it easy for them to see how their donation matters.

Want to take your nonprofit’s fundraising appeals to the next level? Our latest ebook will help you do just that. Download your free copy of “How to Write Amazing Fundraising Appeals” to learn how to take your fundraising letters from fizzling to sizzling. Plus, you’ll get a step-by-step template and cheat sheet that makes writing your next appeal a piece of cake.

amazing fundraising appeals

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Wed, May 27 2015

A Few of My Favorite Tools

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Fun stuff • Fundraising essentials •

Like many of your organizations, my business is basically a tiny shop. There’s never enough time and everything to do. Plus, as a working mom (and daughter of a 92-year-old), I’m multitasking day and night and always have too much on my plate. I think you see what I mean.

We all need help to keep things organized, timely, and moving forward. Here are some of the greatest helpers I know.

Right-now top tool: Google Developers Mobile-Friendly Test (free)

Fess up! When you’re looking for that specific resource or quote, you Google it. Everybody does it.

But Google just changed its search algorithm to emphasize the value of mobile friendliness. And that might mean trouble for folks trying to find your organization’s website.

If your organization’s website is mobile friendly, and you take the other steps necessary to improve your placement in Google’s search results (great guidance here), your site will turn up somewhere in those listings.

However, if your site is not mobile friendly, you’ll want to turn things around pronto.

Use Google’s free tool to find out. Simply plug in your website address, and Google will tell you the good (or bad) news. Test it, then create a doable, step-by-step plan based on what turns up in your results.

By the way, this is a tool to use both right now and periodically.

Keeps stuff keeping on: Asana (mobile app; free for up to 15 users)

A blend of to-do list and project manager, Web-based Asana saves me time and again. We all have too much going on to do it all, and that’s not even counting the unexpected to-dos that constantly crop up in the course of every single workday.

Asana helps you juggle it all—individually and with our teams—and be assured that nothing is falling through the cracks. Here’s what I suggest:

A smart email assistant: Boomerang (available for Gmail or Outlook users only; free and paid versions)

Shhh, don’t tell my husband: I’m in love with Boomerang. It makes my life easier and ups the probability with connecting. Here’s how:

  • It lets me work when I need to work. Believe me, that can be midday Saturday or Thursday at midnight.

  • It delivers my emails to people when they’re most likely to read it and act. You write an email at your convenience and schedule it to be sent automatically at the right time.

  • It reminds me to follow up on specific messages I’ve sent, so nothing falls through the cracks. I can set Boomerang to let me know if an email hasn’t been opened within a certain time frame or to nudge me to follow up if it has been opened.

  • When I can’t dig into important incoming email, I can select messages to be boomeranged back to me at a better time.

Let’s say I’m head down on creating a slide deck and want to work undisturbed. But life goes on, and I see a few important emails come in during that time. Instead of interrupting myself to review and respond, I can schedule them to be boomeranged back to me at a time when I’m able to digest them and respond.

I think you see what I mean. But still, don’t tell my husband.

What tools do you use to make your life easier, make sure things don’t fall through the cracks, or keep things moving forward despite the craziness?

Please share your favorites in the comments section, including name, price, and the value it delivers to you. Thanks so much. Always looking for new helpers.

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Tue, May 26 2015

How to Get Your Board on Board with Social Fundraising

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Looking for a new way to get your board involved with your fundraising efforts?

A social fundraising campaign can help make it easier for your board members to fulfill their “give or get” commitment to your organization.

Of course, the idea behind social fundraising isn’t new, but combining the age-old structure of board support and your fundraising assets with technology that makes it much easier to ask for a gift can amplify your outreach, resulting in more donors and more donations for your mission.

get your board on board with social fundraising

Make It Easy

Any time you want to turn donors into fundraisers (or get anyone to do anything, really), you’ll see more success when you make your desired action as easy as can be. This especially applies to your board members. They want to help, but they’re busy and they might not know where to begin. This is where a little planning goes a long way. Some things to consider:

Offer clarity: First things first—you’ve got to be crystal clear about what you want your board members to do, how they need to do it, and what you expect from each of them. Setting these expectations up front will save you a lot of headaches down the road. This means you’ll need to zero in on your fundraising goals, which projects or programs you want to fund with your campaign, and how many donors you think you’ll need to get there.

Give them scripted messages: Get your board members started with pre-written emails, fundraising appeals, phone scripts, and social media posts. They may want to customize these messages to underscore their own stories or connection to their networks, but offering a starting point will give them the head start they need to feel like a personal fundraising campaign is something they can do.

Set a timeline and send reminders: In a recent conversation with local nonprofits about board fundraising, I heard a common refrain, “My board members want to get involved, but they sometimes work on their own time frame, instead of ours.” Ok, you may not be able to totally get around this, but you can minimize this concern by being upfront about your campaign timing and deadlines. Have a timeline just for your board, and send reminders to keep them motivated and on track. Encourage them to set an example for your other donors and fundraisers by kicking off their campaign with a donation that can serve as a matching gift.

Equip them with the right tools: Having the right technology in place will make the entire process of setting up a campaign, organizing your board members, and collecting donations much easier. You’ll want a fundraising platform that allows you to quickly customize your message and launch your campaign, as well as built-in best practices and optimized pages, so you’re getting the most out of your board members’ outreach. The easier it is, the more your board members can do themselves, taking more of the burden off of you. (Pretty sweet, right? Want to see a platform that can help you make it easy? Register for this week’s social fundraising demo to learn more.)

Make Them Look Good

We all want to look good, don’t we? Your board members are influential people interested in growing their networks. Help them boost their reputation through a social fundraising campaign that underscores their passion for your work.

Let them personalize their outreach: People are more likely to give when asked by someone they know. When your board member’s campaign reflects their unique story and includes their photo, their networks will be more likely to join in and give to your cause. At the end of the day, giving is most often driven by personal ties and experiences, so encourage your board members to use their connection to your work to fuel their outreach. It will make them feel great and will ensure their outreach is more effective than a generic ask.

Offer a great giving experience: A powerful and personal fundraising ask is one thing, but the giving experience must back that up. Beyond the personalization, make sure that your giving pages are intuitive, as well as beautiful, and make completing a donation easy, fast, and fun. Don’t forget to include elements that keep the giving going, like recurring donation options, social sharing tools, and donation tickers to highlight generous donors to your campaign. These features help you raise more and make it more likely that others will share your fundraisers’ pages.

Let Them See the Potential

To get your board excited about your campaign (and get their sign off on your fundraising strategy), help them visualize the results of the campaign as well as their individual contribution. Give them a clear vision of your target that clearly shows the impact on your mission, as well as your bottom line.

Leverage the network effect: Work with your board members to think of how many people they can reach, and then think of the potential size of their network’s network. Show them how quickly their message could spread far beyond your existing donor base.

Help them see the return: A social fundraising campaign can be an affordable way to grow your list, recruit new donors, and raise money through just one campaign. By using your existing base as a megaphone, social media and word of mouth can power your outreach. With just a little support from email, paid advertising, and the right technology, you can raise exponentially more than your fundraising costs.

Underscore the impact: Each fundraiser and donor has a specific impact on your goal and mission. Outline how each fundraising page and donation gets you closer to the goal. Then, show how your board fundraising campaign fits into your larger fundraising vision. Once your board members see their potential impact on your work, they’ll be motivated to jump in and do their part.

Network for Good’s new social fundraising software will help you inspire board members to fundraise on your behalf and influence their networks to give to your organization. Join our free demo this Thursday to learn how our newest fundraising tool can help you easily create campaigns that will extend your reach, empower your board, and attract new donors. Ready to find out more? Register now to save your seat!

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Wed, May 20 2015

Half of Your Email Subscribers Are Ignoring You

Liz Ragland's avatar

Senior Content and Marketing Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   How to improve emails and newsletters •

New research from the 2015 M+R Benchmarks Study tells us that, on average, almost half (45%) of small nonprofits’ email subscribers are inactive. Yikes!

Inactive could mean different things to different organizations. Many organizations define inactive subscribers as those who’ve gone one year with no activity. (These don’t necessarily include lapsed or inactive donors. We’re simply talking about people in your database who haven’t opened an email in a really long time—donors and nondonors.) However you define your inactive subscriber base, I think we can all agree that you need a plan of action to reengage with people who were, at one point, interested in your organization.

Why do anything with inactive email addresses?

You’re probably thinking, “My list is really small as it is! Why would I want to make it even smaller by choice?” I hear you! I’ve worked with organizations that have email lists of around 1,000 names, and they are hesitant to do any deleting or suppressions. However, this dead weight is hurting your open rates, and if you continue to send emails to people who aren’t engaging with you, it will affect your deliverability rate.

Trimming and suppressing parts of your email list will boost your confidence the next time you’re testing subject lines. And it will more accurately reflect—and improve!—your open and click rate.

What should I do to reengage with inactive email addresses?

First, segment your list. I recommend pulling a list of people who haven’t opened any email in the past 12 months. Send them an email to let them know you miss them. Make the subject line snappy. Be sure to have a clear call to action in the email that asks people to confirm that they still want to hear from you.

You can even go a few steps further and send a drip campaign with the goal of getting this group to reengage. Karla Capers wrote a guest post on the blog Getting Attention! about how she reactivated $13,000 worth of inactive names with a simple three-email drip approach. I love the subject lines she chose and the careful approach she took to reengage with these subscribers.

Why are email addresses inactive in the first place?

Only your email subscribers can tell you for sure why they don’t open your emails, but here are a few common responses:

  1. You send too many emails. It’s easier to delete them all.
  2. Your sender’s name/subject line doesn’t make it clear the message is from you.
  3. It lands in my junk box, and I can’t figure out how to make you a safe sender.
  4. Your emails always come at bad times.
  5. I want you to send emails to a different email address (work/personal).

If inactive subscribers are a big problem for your organization, it might be worthwhile to survey those who haven’t shown interest in your emails and find out why they aren’t opening them. This can be challenging in itself: How can you get someone to open an email and take a survey about why they aren’t opening your emails? If you have the resources, it might be worth taking the conversation offline.

What do I do with people who didn’t reengage?

After your reengagement campaign has run its course, you need to honor your subscribers’ preferences. You will not hear back from every inactive subscriber. Some won’t make it clear if they want to hear from you again. Leave these people in your inactive list and suppress them from your mailings as you see fit, but make it easy for them to reengage if they want to. I wouldn’t recommend adding them to your unsubscribe list, because they didn’t explicitly tell you they wanted to unsubscribe. If they notice they’re no longer getting emails from you, let them subscribe again without making it too difficult to return them to your active list.

Want to get fancy?

If you’re open to testing with Facebook ads, you might try using a custom audience ad as part of your reactivation campaign. Although I would caution against spending too much on folks who aren’t engaging with your emails, Facebook ads can be very affordable. Facebook makes it really easy to import a list of email subscribers you want to reach. If the email address is associated with a Facebook account, Facebook will deliver an ad to their feed. If you want to just check if your donors use Facebook, John Haydon has simple instructions on how to upload your list without paying for an ad.

What if I don’t have time for all of this?

If you’re in a crunch and can’t manage a reactivation campaign right now, try simply suppressing inactive email addresses from your email sends for a few months and watch your open rate go up. I know you might be nervous about voluntarily sending an email to fewer people, but it’s just a test! It’s time to face the reality: These people haven’t opened an email from you in the past 12 months. Suppressing them from a few email sends as part of a test won’t do any damage.

For more stats and best practices on digital fundraising, download The 2015 Online Fundraising Report.

2015 Online Fundraising Report
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Tue, May 19 2015

Philanthropy Outlook Rosy, Reports IU Lilly School of Philanthropy

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Big Thoughts on Giving •

U.S. charitable giving predicted to rise 4.8 percent in 2015.

The tide may be turning!

Giving momentum is strong and getting stronger, according to research findings recently released by the IU Lilly School of Philanthropy and Martz & Lundy.

Here’s more of the good news reported in The Philanthropy Outlook 2015 & 2016:

Philanthropy Outlook
  • Contributions from all giving sources are expected to grow 4.8 percent in 2015 and 4.9 percent in 2016.

  • The bigger picture! Each year’s growth will exceed the average annual growth in total giving in the years following the Great Recession (3.1 percent) and the long-term average for the 40-year trend in total giving for 1973–2013 (3.8 percent).

  • Individual and household giving will see the slowest overall growth in 2015 and 2016, compared with other sources of giving.

  • Foundation and corporate giving is expected to be strong in both 2015 and 2016.

No surprises here, but a hugely important reminder: Broader economic forces will weigh heavily on individuals’ willingness to give and will significantly affect corporations and foundations.

Dig in for yourself: The Philanthropy Outlook 2015 & 2016.

P.S. I find this report more reliable than most because it’s based on rock-solid economic research methods. The researchers applied well-tested financial prediction models to philanthropic giving.

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