Fri, June 26 2015
Filed under: Fundraising essentials •
It never fails.
When there is a large scale natural disaster, such as the Nepal earthquake, or an event that inspires charitable giving, my media alerts for Network for Good go through the roof. Many donors come to Network for Good’s giving portal to search for nonprofits and quickly make donations online, and reporters often list Network for Good as a way to easily give to charities responding to crises on the ground. We’re proud to facilitate giving to nonprofits across the country, including $1 million in donations for Nepal earthquake relief efforts.
In some cases, though, the press also features our giving portal as a good option for donors who wish to remain anonymous. Of course, there are many reasons a donor might want to remain anonymous, but the reason most cited in these articles is because these donors want to avoid getting on a nonprofit’s email list and being “spammed” by the organization, or worse, by other organizations who have purchased the list.
Friends, if this is a primary reason for our donors’ anonymity, we’re doing it wrong.
As you collect, grow, and manage your donor list, think about how you communicate with your donors. Are you welcoming them into a personal relationship with your organization or causing them to run and hide?
Let donors choose how and how often they hear from you. Give your supporters control over how they get information from you and the frequency of those communications. Many times, the fact that you are offering this control will make donors more likely to want to be on your list. And yes, if they decide to opt out or remain anonymous, you must respect that decision.
Let them know what to expect. When donors give or when supporters sign up for your newsletter, let them know what’s in it for them and what they can expect from your organization. These are important pieces of your nonprofit’s brand promise and will affect how people feel about your organization.
Have a strategic communication plan. Many nonprofits make communications missteps because they haven’t taken the time to think through their strategy for reaching out to their constituents. Before you send another email, sit down and figure out your organization’s rules around communication frequency, content, and segmentation. If it doesn’t meet your criteria, don’t send it.
Be mindful of your thank to ask ratio. This should also be part of your outreach strategy. Lynne Wester, The Donor Relations Guru, has a smart post about this very concept.
Keep donor information sacred. It’s not just good list hygiene and, in most cases, the law—it’s the right thing to do. Do unto others’ email addresses as you would have them do unto yours.
Being transparent and respectful in your communications will encourage more of your supporters to share more of themselves with you. Plus, you’ll help the rest of us look good, as well.
Mon, June 22 2015
Giving is social.
Study after study shows that people are more likely to give when asked by someone they know. Social connections and personal ties are strong drivers of behavior, and charitable giving is no exception. So how do you inspire your supporters to spread the word and raise funds on your behalf? Try these five ideas for recruiting passionate fundraisers who will help you reach new donors and bring in more donations.
Tap into your board. Help your board fulfill their give or get commitment by making it easy for them to launch their own personal fundraising page. Your board members are passionate about your work, and they likely have the most influence over a larger network.
Leverage your volunteers. Ask your volunteers to help you spread your message via social media and their personal connections. Their dedication to your work is the kind of inspiration that will make others want to join in.
Let donors do more. Once a donor gives, invite them to share your work with others and encourage them to create a personal fundraising page to help reach your goals. In most cases, the contributions they bring in will far eclipse their original donation. The trick is to make it super simple for them to do.
Turn your events into challenges. Whether you host a large annual event, an open house, or are just celebrating a milestone, give event attendees the ability to raise funds before and during the event. Everyone likes a little healthy competition: offer special incentives, recognition, or access to those who bring in the most dollars or donors.
Encourage personal stories. Most of your supporters have a personal connection to the work you do. Offer the opportunity for them to share what your cause means to them with a personalized fundraising page. These stories are likely more powerful than your existing marketing materials and will go a long way in breaking through the noise in a crowded inbox or Facebook feed.
Ready to put these ideas into action? I’ll help you make sure you have a solid plan in place in this week’s free webinar. Tomorrow, I’ll share more tips on creating an effective social fundraising campaign that will help you turn your donors into fundraisers.
Mon, June 15 2015
Filed under: Fundraising essentials •
When a potential donor lands on your donation page, you want to make it extremely easy for them to give. But if your donation page has a complicated form, too many ways to leave, or doesn’t keep the donor in the emotional act of giving, you could be missing out on donations!
We know you aren’t a Web page optimization wizard, and you shouldn’t have to be. However, there are a few things that you, as a nonprofit marketer or fundraiser, can do to make your donation page super donor-friendly.
Here’s what should always go on your donation page—and what you should leave off.
If you’re in a donation page mood (I mean, who isn’t?), check out even more resources on how to get your donation page in tip-top shape:
Mon, June 08 2015
This weekend some friends were passing through town on their way home from vacation and we had plans meet for dinner. A few hours before they were to arrive, we agreed it might be easier for them to stop by my home first, and then we’d decide where to grab a bite to eat.
One problem: my place wasn’t exactly “guest ready.” Yikes. Of course, my friends would never judge me for a little dust or some unkempt stacks of mail, but when it comes to your nonprofit’s website, your donors or a new visitor just learning about your work might feel differently.
Whether they give online or off, supporters will look at your website to understand more about your work, how their gift will make a difference, and they will form opinions about what they find there. So, it’s in your best interest—and of those you serve—to make the most of your website and ensure that it’s creating the right environment to inspire giving. Are you putting out a welcome mat that invites visitors in, or are you presenting a hot mess that will turn them away?
Here are a few key pages on your website to spruce up (then, join my free webinar tomorrow for more help!):
Your Home Page: Home pages are notoriously tricky, but most people researching your nonprofit will hit this “front door” to your organization. You need to have a clear statement about what you do, why it matters, and how they can get involved. Don’t forget a big, bold donate button!
The Why Give? Page: Ideally any “donate” link or button will go directly to your online giving page, but you should still have a “Why Give?” page on your site that outlines where the money goes, what the impact of a gift will be, and any endorsements or ratings you may have. Donors on the fence will use this information to decide to give, or to move on.
About Us Page: People give to people, and most people want to know who’s behind the good work you do. Share information about your organization, yes, but go beyond a dry mission statement and let potential donors into the passion and personality of your staff, volunteers, and board.
Information About Your Programs and Impact: Donors want to know that their gift matters. Give them the information about your programs, the impact you offer, and stories that bring these stats to life. Include rich details about your beneficiaries when you can, and offer testimonials from other donors to illustrate that others are supporting your work.
Your Online Giving Experience: I’ve saved the best for last, because if you’ve done everything else right and still haven’t nailed your online donation page, you’re losing donors. Period. Your online donation page should reflect the emotional message you’re trying to send to your donors, and make it incredibly fast and easy to give to you without putting up roadblocks.
Need some help with your organization’s website? I’m here to help you clean it up and get it ready for visitors. Join me tomorrow for a free Speed Consulting Webinar. I’ll share some tips for optimizing your online presence for fundraising, and I’ll even review sites from selected attendees! Register now to save your seat and submit your site for consideration. (Can’t attend? Go ahead and sign up, and we’ll send you the slides and recording.)
Tue, June 02 2015
If you missed our webinar with Rachel Muir, vice president of training at Pursuant, I highly suggest you download the archived version and get ready to take lots and lots of notes. Rachel gave us some amazing insights on how to motivate your board and how to turn them into fundraisers. Because we had such a great Q&A with her at the end of the webinar, I wanted to share some highlights and ask a few more questions that we didn’t have time for.
How do you motivate/engage a board that is appointed?
Rachel Muir: Identify what motivates each board member. What do they love about what they do? When do they feel the most alive? What part of your work are they the most passionate about? Find out what are they best at: speaking, networking, being a thought leader, etc., and how can you leverage that talent to best serve your cause. That might look like a cultivation event, a press conference, or the board member playing a behind-the-scenes role supporting your organization.
If you have not made board giving clear from the start, how do you approach it after the fact?
RM: Take responsibility that you failed to make this requirement clear. Own that, and apologize for it. Next, explain why board giving is critical. It is a healthy sliver of organizational revenue, but perhaps just as or more important, how can we ask someone else to give when we have not? Point to grant applications demanding that 100% of the board has given in order for the organization to be eligible for support. Explain that funders do not want to give if the leadership of the organization has not also given. It’s important to note that giving is not limited to the board. Staff members can and should make their own gifts to the organization at a level they feel comfortable giving.
Can you provide tips on “retraining” an existing board and setting new expectations for veteran board members?
RM: Your board chair plays a critical role in setting new expectations for board members. The chair sets the tone for how the rest of the board responds. If fundraising expectations for board members were not properly set, the chair needs to own that and apologize for it. They should share that they have stepped up to embrace the role philanthropy plays in supporting the organization by making their own gift. Ideally this is a stretch gift, and they can share that they’ve “dug deep” because of how much they care and believe in the cause. They need not share the amount of their gift. The idea is just that they make a gift that is personally meaningful to them. Some organizations set the same minimum “give or get” gift amount for all board members. Others ask that board members make a gift that is meaningful to them. Still others might target board members for unique gift amounts based on their individual capacity. It is not “one size fits all.” Decide which works best for you.
Additionally, your chair should share the other ways she or he is stepping up to the plate to support fundraising, whether that be hosting a cultivation event, bringing in key individuals to the organization for a private tour, going on donor visits, writing thank you notes, and/or calling donors to thank them.
My advice is to be humble and apologetic. You and your board chair are setting the tone for how the organization embraces philanthropy. Giving is the lifeblood of your institution. It’s your donors who make your important work possible. Supporting a meaningful cause is a joyous experience. Be thoughtful and respectful in how you recognize not setting expectations properly. Giving to the cause should not feel punitive to your board. It should feel like a personal, thoughtful, exciting, and rewarding expression of their love for your cause. You are not “hitting someone up” or taking something away from them. You are inviting them to share in a meaningful opportunity to move the organization forward, to be significant and solve the problem your mission serves.
Do you suggest scripting your thank you calls, or would you simply let the board member engage in a more organic conversation?
RM: I recommend providing a script for thank you calls to board members. Include the donor’s name, gift amount, history of giving—for example, is this their first gift, or have they been giving every year for five years?—how or why they first got involved (if you know), and a couple lines of copy they might use (see below). Most board members will not get the donor on the phone; they will get voice mail.
If they do get a donor on the phone, prepare them with a few sample discovery questions to take the conversation further. The board member might ask the donor what inspired their first gift to your organization (if you don’t already know), or what interests them most about your organization.
If the donor is responsive, the board member could go a step further to ask broader questions about their philanthropy. I like “What was the best gift you ever gave and why?” Or “What are your philanthropic priorities?” Start by asking the donor’s permission to ask questions. It shows respect for the donor, gets their buy-in, and, as long as they agree, it instantly gets them saying yes to you! Just a simple “Do you mind, [name], if I ask you a question?” will suffice. It also helps tee up more personal questions. It could feel awkward to just come out of the gate and ask a new donor, “What other causes do you support?” Introduce it with a question. Ask permission. “In order for us to get to know you better, [name], we’d like to learn more about your interests. Would you mind sharing what other causes you support so I can understand this better?”
Sample board member script for a donor thank you call:
“Hello, Greg. I have the pleasure of serving on the board of ______, and I want to personally call you to thank you for your generous first-time gift. [Introduce that you are a board member] We are so grateful. [Gush. This is a time for rejoicing.] Boy, if you could have heard the screams and squeals from the kids when they found out that, thanks to your generous gift, they would get to tour the nation’s capital, they were positively deafening! [Strive to describe how the gift was received or is important using descriptive language that makes a donor feel like they are there. Think virtual field trip!] I’d love to learn more about what inspired your gift. Can I ask you a question? What made you write this generous check? I’d love to learn more about your interests. Would you mind sharing with me which philanthropic causes are near and dear to your heart?”
What advice do you have for “managing up” to convince/inspire an executive director to see the importance of involving board members in fundraising?
RM: Shameless plug alert: Hire me to come do a training and get your executive director and fundraising team inspired! I would share the research with the board on how board engagement increases donation amounts and donor retention rates. According to a study by leading fundraising expert, author, and researcher Penelope Burk, first-time donors who received a thank you call from a board member within 24 hours gave 39% more than those who did not. Fourteen months later, they were giving 42% more than those who did not get a call. Plus, these donors had a 70% retention rate! Penelope’s 2012 report, The Cygnus Donor Survey: Where Philanthropy Is Headed in 2012, U.S. Edition, compares the impact of thank you calls from staff members versus board members on donor retention. Thank you calls from staff members increased the likelihood of donor retention by 10%. Thank you calls from board members increased it 25%!
If the positive impact of these results does not motivate them, then consider the consequences. Not having board members engaged in fundraising is a roadblock to your growth. Is a capital campaign in your future? In a capital campaign, very few foundations will donate if you do not have 100% board participation.
Some board members are participants, advocates, or great volunteers, but not connected to higher-end donors. Should they be replaced?
RM: Even without a fat Rolodex full of high-powered connections, a board member can support fundraising. Board members with few connections can support fundraising. Board members who are terrified of doing a solicitation can support fundraising. They can thank donors, join you for an ask, make an ask, host a donor cultivation event in their home and share their personal story of why they are involved in your organization, get assigned to cultivate two to three donors, write an article on why the organization is important to them, name your organization in their will, or take on a project to share client testimonials, or share how money makes an impact at your organization, or raise awareness about the organization.
I need to replace my board. Where should I start looking for new board members?
RM: Look at who the great board members are at other agencies and start cultivating them to consider your organization when their current term ends. As a trainer, I am shocked by how little organizations invest in providing board training. You want someone with prior board experience, who knows how great boards function, and what is expected of service. I am not saying you shouldn’t prohibit newbies to board service from serving, but if you do permit them to serve, you must invest in properly training them.
Rachel, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us. And again, if you haven’t downloaded the webinar that inspired these great questions, download it now. (It’s free!)
Rachel Muir, CFRE is Vice President of Training at Pursuant where she transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers. When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.