Thu, January 30 2014

7 Ways to Make 2014 the Year of the Donor

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials •

The good news is that giving continues to grow. The bad news is that donor retention rates aren’t what they should be. Think about the donors who came into your organization’s ecosystem during the past year. Will they give again?

You can improve the odds of keeping more of your supporters by declaring 2014 the Year of the Donor. What this looks like for your organization may be different than for your nonprofit peers, but here are a few basics to get you started:

1. Have a solid plan.

The biggest way to ensure your donors remain your top priority is to create a well-organized plan for cultivating your organization’s supporters throughout the year.

To do: Create a comprehensive donor stewardship plan that complements your overall marketing strategy and retention goals. Your plan should include a timeline, messaging guidelines, and who will be responsible for each component of your donor outreach. For more planning tips, take a look at Network for Good’s donor stewardship checklist.

2. Send an amazing thank you.

Of course you’re thanking all your donors. Right? (Right?) But are you making it an amazing experience of effusive gratitude? Is your thank you so awesome that donors will tell their friends all about it? Even tell strangers? If not, there’s always room for improvement. Your goal: Express to impress!

To do: Take the time to write a series of really great donor thank you letters. Make them personal, memorable, and full of gratitude. Your thank you letters should reinforce the projected impact of a donor’s gift and open the door for an ongoing relationship. If possible, hire a professional copywriter to polish your thank yous.

3. Keep the conversation going.

Your thank you note is really just the start of a new conversation with your donor. Keep this conversation flowing by updating your supporters on your work and how their gift has helped make it possible. Update supporters on what’s new in your community, your work, and how they can continue to be involved. As you build on this communication, you’ll have earned the opportunity to invite them to give again.

To do: Create an editorial calendar to plan your outreach and news you’d like to share. Use your email marketing tools to segment your lists so you can separate donors from those who’ve yet to give. Communicate to these two groups differently when sending updates to tailor your message to reflect donors’ special status.

4. Clearly articulate your impact.

One of the main reasons donors don’t go on to give a second gift is because they’re not sure how their money was used to create real impact. It’s your job to make sure supporters know exactly how their gift is being used and how it makes a difference. Get in the habit of making this a part of everything you do—from fundraising appeals to your monthly newsletter.

To do: Illustrate a donation’s impact through photos, testimonials, and quantifiable results that are easy for donors to understand. Incorporate these elements in every piece of donor communication you send. Build a collection of stories that are organized by program or locality so you can easily match these with the profiles of your donors.

5. Invite donors for their feedback.

More and more donors don’t want to just give and run—they want to be an active part of your cause. Because they’ve been moved enough to donate, they can offer valuable insight on what went into their decision and how you can continue to reach them and others in their network.

To do: Regularly invite your donors to provide you with feedback. Add this to your donor thank you phone script and conduct periodic donor surveys to collect their input on everything from your newsletter content to how you contact them. Making them feel more invested in your work will bring donors even closer to your organization.

6. Regularly test and improve.

It takes a lot of work to acquire new donors, so it’s crucial that you do everything you can to keep the ones you’ve got. One way to do this is to find and fix any leaks in your process. Once you’ve fixed the obvious problems, optimize your donor retention strategy by testing new messages and acknowledgement techniques.

To do: Track and measure every interaction with your donors. If you don’t have Google Analytics on your nonprofit website or donation form, that’s one place to start. Identify where donors may be falling off by looking at your website bounce rate, form abandonment, and email unsubscribes. Use A/B testing to see which calls to action and content types work best for your audience.

7. Create feel-good moments.

Everyone gives for different reasons, but we all want to feel good about our charitable gifts. To keep this positive vibe flowing, it’s important to create moments of connection and with your donors. Ronald McDonald House Charities does just that with this simple thank you video that puts the donor at the center of the experience and in the embrace of those who feel the impact of their donations every day:

To do: Commit to making your ongoing donor outreach unique and personal. Get creative with photos, video, and perks for your donors to help your cause stay top of mind. Recruit volunteers and beneficiaries to help keep your communications authentic and original. (Want more ideas on using images to stand out? Read these 10 ways nonprofits can use visuals.)

How will you make 2014 the Year of the Donor? I’d love to hear your plans, and I know your donors can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Wed, January 29 2014

An inside look at Fundraising with Businesses: An interview with Joe Waters

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Cause-related marketing • Fun stuff •

Joe WatersHave you ever wondered how your nonprofit could further expand its reach, win over new donors, and raise more money? One way is to explore cause marketing and collaborate with businesses to get new exposure for your cause. Partnering with businesses is not just for large organizations and nonprofits no longer have to rely on a sponsorship model to see results. Joe Waters, author of Cause Marketing for Dummies and writer of the blog Selfish Giving, recently released a new book that serves as a practical, how-to manual for creating successful fundraising programs with businesses. In Fundraising with Businesses, Joe offers 40 doable ideas, complete with examples and tips for getting started. I had the chance to ask Joe a few questions about the new book, and his outlook on the future of cause marketing.

Fundraising with BusinessesWhat inspired you to write Fundraising with Businesses? How does it differ from Cause Marketing for Dummies?

Joe Waters: I wrote Cause Marketing for Dummies to give people an overview of cause marketing. The challenge is that most people don’t know what cause marketing is and they define it in different ways. I tried to clarify this in my latest book by replacing cause marketing with fundraising with businesses. Compared to CM4D, FWB gives the reader a much deeper dive on the strategies for fundraising with businesses. So many nonprofits only think of two things: cash and sponsorship. I don’t even talk about sponsorship in this book. Nonprofits need to know that there are many creative ways to raise money with businesses—to be exact, there are 40!

Beyond the additional revenue a successful business fundraising program might bring in, what are some of the other benefits of doing a fundraiser with a business?

JW: A good business fundraiser gives you access to the largest group of givers: individuals. Think of your work with businesses as a conduit to the largest piece of the philanthropic pie. Of the dollars nonprofits raise, only 6 percent—on average—comes directly from businesses. 72 percent of monies come from individuals. Traditional corporate giving (e. g. grants) is like playing the slots in Vegas—long odds and small payouts. The 40 strategies I outline in FWB bring in consumers, employees and shoppers. That’s the real jackpot.

What is the biggest mistake (or missed opportunity) that nonprofits make when it comes to partnering and fundraising with businesses?

JW: A lot of nonprofits miss all the great things that are right under their feet! Many have existing sponsorships that can be converted into more lucrative fundraisers. If you’re working with a business that boasts lots of locations and foot traffic, sponsorship is just the tip of the iceberg for fundraising. You could be doing so much more. However, the biggest mistake is when nonprofits don’t even realize the potential businesses have for their organization. So often, effective business fundraising isn’t about finding the opportunity. It’s about detecting and acting on the partnerships you already have.

Of the ideas you highlight in the book, which type of fundraiser is your favorite to participate in as a donor? As a fundraiser?

JW: As a former fundraiser, it’s hard not to focus on the “money” strategies. These are point of sale strategies like pinups, register programs, donation boxes and roundup fundraisers. These programs raise hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Even local programs can raise five or six figures.

As a donor, I love any program where there is sincerity and engagement from the business. I want to know that the business really cares about causes. For example, last year after the Boston Marathon bombing the businesses on Newbury Street, a high-end shopping district just one street over from the marathon finish line, pulled together for a one-day shopping event. Their aim was to help a fellow stylist who lost both her legs in the bombing. They raised over $100K. It was great to see so many businesses coming together to support someone in so many ways. While I call my blog Selfish Giving, I love examples of unselfish giving best.

Look into the Selfish Giving crystal ball: What’s the next big thing for cause marketing/fundraising with businesses?

JW: Mobile, mobile, mobile. I’m bullish on how much mobile will impact fundraising with businesses. It already has from an engagement perspective since mobile is where most people are getting their cause news and information via email, the mobile web, and social networks. I have to remind nonprofits that people are now carrying their causes around with them in their pockets and bags. The future of nonprofit marketing and fundraising is engaging people where they are and where they care.

One technology that is making this future a reality is iBeacon. iBeacon is “micro-location” because it’s designed to work in a physical location (like a store) with your phone - specifically your retail apps. With an iBeacon transmitter businesses can better interact with smartphone-toting consumers in and near their stores. Sure, they can push coupons to them when they walk in the door, but they can also give them one when they linger in a particular aisle or over a specific product.

Companies can even push reminders to consumers. “Last time you were on our website you were searching for a blend of coffee that we now have in stock.”

Think about the possibilities for cause marketing. Companies can let customers know when they are supporting a cause, which products are eligible for a donation, and even ask you while you stand in line at checkout if you want to donate to a cause. iBeacon could also process that donation right from your mobile device.

I warn people that if people and their addiction to their phones drive them crazy, they may want to plan for a long nap. It’s only going to increase the next few years. But thanks to generous companies and nonprofits it won’t just be Snapchat, Facebook, and Angry Birds. People will also be using their phones for good.

Thanks to Joe for giving us the inside scoop on the book and what’s next for fundraising with businesses. For more of Joe’s thoughts on cause marketing and nonprofit trends, follow him on Twitter.


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Mon, January 27 2014

What you can learn from the Grammys

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Beyond the usual celebrity antics and costume changes, the acts that stood out at last night’s Grammys were ones that delivered favorite songs in unexpected ways. But what does a musical awards show have to do with marketing your cause?

When you have the opportunity to grab your audience’s attention, it’s important to rise above the background noise and deliver your message in a way that will stand out. How do you express your core mission in a way that people will remember? Here are three lessons from music’s big night.

Try an alternate melody.
One of the best parts about live performances is that you get to hear familiar tunes performed in a unique way. Rare is the musician who will play a song exactly the same way twice. Hearing a favorite song in a new way moves the experience from the background of our minds into focus, challenging us to pay closer attention to understand each nuance.

If your outreach is becoming less effective, it may be time to find new ways to express your key points. To catch the attention of your long-time supporters, avoid sending out carbon copies of the same missives that you send year after year. One easy way to do this is to leverage the different stories from all parts of your organization. Testimonials from staff members, donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries can give you the opportunity to tell your story from different, and often refreshing, angles.

Tap unexpected—yet relevant—partners.
Last night’s show relied on carefully constructed pairings. While longtime singer-songwriter Carole King’s duet with younger counterpart Sara Bareilles felt like an obvious no-brainer, teaming classical pianist Lang Lang with the heavy metal icons of Metallica may have seemed like an odd choice. However, the intensity of the song they performed was a perfect match for shredding guitars and booming piano, creating a memorable mash-up.

To add interest to your next campaign, consider recruiting new spokespeople for your nonprofit outreach. Not just any pairing will do—your messengers still need to make sense in the context of your work and your brand. You’re not aiming for pure novelty or shock value. Potential partners should have a connection to your target audience, cause, and local community.

Deliver it with style.
As usual, the Grammys’ producers took it over the top with pyrotechnics, aerial stunts, and a mass marriage ceremony officiated by Queen Latifah. While these tactics aren’t realistic (or recommended) for your nonprofit outreach, it probably wouldn’t hurt to add a little surprise to your next newsletter or appeal.

Look at your communication plan and identify ways you can change it up a bit. Do you always send an email newsletter? Try creating a short video that includes the same information. Thank you notes printed on your organization’s letterhead are nice, but a note printed on the back of a photo that illustrates your work is more likely to stand out and be shared.

How do you plan to jazz up your nonprofit’s outreach? Share your ideas and keep us posted on the results in the comments or give us a shout on Twitter.

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Thu, January 23 2014

Free webinar: Learn all about infographics

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Branding • Marketing essentials •

It’s probably no surprise that our brains process visual information faster than text. Still, how quickly this takes place is mind boggling. Recent research has found that the human brain can process an image seen for just 13 milliseconds. Online, visual information is typically more memorable and more likely to be shared than other forms of content. It’s said that over 80% of learning occurs visually. Including visuals such as infographics in your communication strategy can be an effective way to communicate with your donors and keep them updated on the impact of your work. These visual cues can also help you stand out and reinforce your nonprofit’s brand.

We have a special treat next week as Joe Cardillo of, a visual content marketplace, joins us for a free Nonprofit 911 webinar all about infographics. If you’ve ever wondered if an infographic is right for your nonprofit communications plan or how to create one, this is the event for you. Joe will answer your questions on creating effective visual content and how to find the right designer.

Free Webinar: Infographics 101: Show Off Your Data
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 1pm EST
Register now.

For more fun facts on visual marketing and infographics, here’s an overview from the community: 

The Era of Visual Mediation
by TheInfographist.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community - Visually.


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Wed, January 22 2014

New report: Are nonprofits missing the mark online?

Caryn Stein's avatar

Director of Content Strategy, Network for Good

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Online Fundraising Scorecard report coverThe new Online Fundraising Scorecard report from Dunham+Company and Next After points to some key areas where nonprofits may be falling short in their online campaigns. The study looked at 151 charities and rated the online giving experience in four main categories: email registration, email communication, donation experience, and gift acknowledgement. The full report is packed with interesting tidbits that should keep nonprofit fundraisers busy as they compare their own experiences to the benchmarks in this survey. Here are four tough questions that this study asks—ones that you need to answer as you evaluate the effectiveness of your online fundraising program:

Are you making it easy to sign up for your emails?
The Scorecard reports that 76% of charities made it easy to find their email sign-up form online, but 66% of those prompts offered little in the way of incentives for donors to sign up. To grow your email list and build relationships with potential supporters, make it simple for your fans to find your subscription box and sign up for updates. Be sure to frame your subscription options in a compelling way and make it clear to your readers what’s in it for them.

Would the average person want to read them in the first place?
Once they join your list, supporters expect regular, high-quality communications that fit their preferences. Follow up on your promise to your readers and offer email newsletters, updates, and alerts that have easy-to-read content and clear calls to action. Researchers found that 54% of emails from the nonprofits surveyed were not optimized for mobile, even though nearly half of email opens in 2013 were on smartphones. Even if donors could read the emails on their mobile devices, the study reported that 1 out of 3 organizations sent emails with multiple conflicting calls to action. For your emails to survive a crowded inbox, make them easy to read and easy to take action from, no matter where or how they’re being read.

Are you making it easy to give to your organization online?
Let’s make this simple: if you’re putting up roadblocks that prevent your donors from giving quickly online, you’re losing the battle. Sadly, only 16% of donation pages reviewed in the study were optimized for mobile viewing and 65% of organizations examined required 3 clicks or more to complete a donation (ack!). As donors have more and more options to give online, it’s critical that your donation process is fast, easy, and painless. (Tip: Download our donation page checklist for more ways to optimize online giving.)

Do you have an amazing post-donation experience in place?
We were glad to see that almost all (99%) of the organizations in the study thanked donors for their online gifts. However, researchers found that many nonprofits are still missing out on ways to further engage donors immediately following the donation. Just 27% of the groups in question offered donors a way to share the donation opportunity with their networks, and only 37% presented donors with more ways to take action and find out more about their impact once completing their gift. A donation confirmation is a great opportunity to keep that “helper’s high” going while the donor is feeling great about your work. Use this moment to reinforce that feeling and invite donors to become champions for your cause.

Thanks to the folks at Dunham+Company and Next After for such an insightful report and the useful tips included with the findings. At Network for Good, we are pleased to offer online fundraising tools that help nonprofits confidently answer all of the questions above.

Let us know: how do your organization’s online fundraising efforts compare to those reviewed in the study? Where could you use some help? Share your thoughts in the comments and we’ll offer suggestions and resources for your situation.


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