Tue, May 12 2015

Our Top 4 Takeaways from the Millennial Alumni Study Research Update

Helene Kahn's avatar

Communications and Marketing, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Thanks to our friends at Achieve, we have valuable new insights into how Millennial alumni think, act, and support their alma maters and favorite organizations. Here are our key takeaways:

  1. Millennials need to feel truly connected to the cause. What does that mean? Millennials need to understand why their money or time is needed and what effect their involvement will have on something or someone. The best way to illustrate this: through vibrant, engaging, meaningful stories of impact from your organization. The millennial connection is established when they feel tapped into the impact of your organization. This could happen by getting to know a scholarship recipient, going on a tour of a new center or exhibit, or meeting the individuals who seek shelter at your organization’s establishment.
  2. Communicate effectively and efficiently. Millennials far and wide prefer to be contacted via email than any other form of communication. However, this preference means constant email overload. The Millennial Alumni report found that 73% of respondents said that they want to receive email from their alma mater at least monthly. Brief highlights and digests of news and happenings on campus or at your organization are what this group is asking for!
  3. The online giving process must be easy and meaningful, not just a transaction. As part of this new release, the study looked at 35 alumni who were first-time donors. Of those, every donor under the age of 35 gave their gift online. Not surprising. What is very surprising is that 89% of these donors received a canned thank you/tax receipt email within 24 hours, but only one donor received a thank you phone call within nearly a month of his donation. The first-time donor’s experience is crucial. Receiving an automated email with a “dear friend” salutation just does not cut it with this group.
  4. Engagement leads to donations. This study update reinforced the continued importance of involving millennials as volunteers first to truly connect them with your cause. For some organizations, organizing volunteers and finding meaningful work can be difficult, but there are many ways to get millennials involved without creating more work for your organization. Have some key messages you want shared through social media? Pre-write some posts and share them with your volunteers so they can be your social ambassadors!

Want to learn more about the findings from the Millennial Alumni Study and the Millennial Impact Report? Tune in tomorrow for our free Nonprofit911 webinar, Millennial Alumni Study: Key Takeaways for the Nonprofit Sector. Register here!

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Tue, May 12 2015

How to Turn Donors into Fundraisers

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Want to add new donors and more donations to your fundraising results this year?

One of the best ways to expand your reach and attract new supporters is by tapping into the networks of your existing supporters with a social fundraising campaign. Here’s why: people are more likely to give when asked by a friend or family member, and thanks to the multiplier effect, these supporter-fundraisers will increase their lifetime value to your organization by giving and bringing new donations to your cause.

So, how do you do it? How do you inspire donors to create personalized fundraising campaigns and raise money on your behalf?  Here are 11 tips for turning donors into fundraisers.

Make it easy.

First and foremost, you must make setting up a fundraising page and asking friends to donate dead simple to do. The same rules apply for getting donors to give as they do for getting supporters to ask their networks to give to your cause. The easier it is to do, the more likely they will be to do it. Focus on removing any roadblocks for your supporters-turned-fundraisers.

Offer portable outreach. Arm your supporters with pre-written emails and social media posts. Provide grab-and-go templates so your advocates can focus on reaching out to their friends.

Be clear. Make sure you are clear on what you’re asking your supporters to do when you recruit them to be fundraisers. Make your instructions short and simple. If there are too many steps or complex requests, they’ll get confused and give up. Simplify their part of the process as much as possible, and if you can do some of the steps for them, even better.

Be realistic. You want your goals to be exciting and motivating, but requests don’t feel do-able will just turn potential fundraisers off. Make your ask feel possible so your supporters can see they can succeed and make an impact for your work. If possible, share other fundraisers’ good results to illustrate that a successful campaign is achievable.

Have the right tools. Having the right software in place makes these types of social fundraising campaigns a lot easier for you, and your fundraisers. Focus on tools that empower supporters, offer built-in sharing options, and make your fundraisers look good. Don’t miss our free demo this Thursday to get a first look at Network for Good’s newest fundraising tool and learn how you can easily create campaigns that will extend your reach and attract new donors.

Make it relevant.

Giving back is often very personal, for both donors and fundraisers alike. Reinforce this important tie to your work by making the idea of fundraising for your organization tailored to your supporters.

Think about their connection with your cause. Some donors have an affinity for certain projects or programs, or they have a story that shares a unique perspective. When asking supporters to join as fundraisers, make sure you connect these preferences to the campaign you’d like them to help spread. If a donor has always supported your senior meal delivery program, tap them to start a fundraiser to help fund a new van to distribute even more meals.

Personalize your request. Use the details you have in your donor database to personalize your invitation to participate. Yes, start with getting their name correct on the emails, but also include relevant details about their history with your organization and how this makes them the perfect fit for your fundraising team. A request that seems generic or worse, disconnected, won’t inspire donors to get involved.

Make it about the impact.

Everyone wants to know they’re making a difference, and your fundraisers are no exception. Get your advocates on board by illustrating the impact that their efforts will have.

Show the big picture. Give prospective fundraisers a clear view of how their efforts will add to your bigger goal. What is the vision that your campaign will make a reality? Paint a picture of how your supporter-fundraisers will make a difference and include this in your recruitment communications.

But also get specific. Now that you’ve set the vision, break down what each campaign, donor, and donation can do. This will help fundraisers and donors alike understand how they can achieve the goals you’ve set, one step at a time. Will $20 help feed a family for a day? Does a $2,000 fundraiser goal equal a new refrigerator for your food pantry? Let supporters know exactly how their gifts will be used so they can visualize their specific impact.

Make it fun.

Social fundraising campaigns can create a deeper connection with your supporters ... and they’re fun! Don’t forget to use this fact when you recruit and motivate fundraisers for your projects.

Leave room for personalization and creativity. Give your fundraisers ownership over their campaigns and allow them to customize their communications and fundraising pages with their photos, stories, and video. Not only does this make their efforts feel more personal, these individual touches will make donors more likely to give as it evokes their recognition and relationship with the fundraiser.

Offer motivation.  Keep your supporters going with updates on how the campaign is going and how their contributions are adding up. Check in with encouraging words and tips for making their outreach more effective. Don’t forget: a little competition among your fundraisers is healthy and can drive extra participation. Consider offering an incentive for the best campaigns or when fundraisers meet certain milestones.

Create goals and deadlines. While you want your goals to be realistic (see above), you do want to set some targets and track milestones to help motivate your fundraisers and drive a sense of urgency. This helps your supporters stay engaged and can spur them on to encourage more donations.

This week we have a special introduction to our new social fundraising software that will help you do all of these things and more.  You can create beautiful campaigns that inspire donors to fundraise on your behalf and motivate their networks to give to your organization. Join our free demo this Thursday to get a first look at our newest fundraising tool and learn how you can easily create campaigns that will extend your reach and attract new donors.  Save your seat by registering today.

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Wed, April 29 2015

Your Storytelling Questions Answered: Q&A with Vanessa Chase

Liz Ragland's avatar

Senior Content and Marketing Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials •

Last month, Vanessa Chase, founder of the Storytelling Non-Profit presented a Nonprofit911 webinar on how to incorporate storytelling in email appeals. The webinar was amazing, and I highly recommend you watch the archived version. Because so many people listened in, there were tons of great questions, but we didn’t have time to answer them all during the Q&A portion of the webinar. I gathered some of those questions and asked Vanessa if she could answer them here on our blog. Read on to hear Vanessa’s tips on donor surveys and her recommendations for how to include visuals in your email appeals.

What was your inspiration for starting the Storytelling Non-Profit?

Vanessa Chase

Vanessa Chase: I’ve been a fundraiser for a number of years, and I absolutely love the profession! A couple of years ago, I was working as a development officer. As much as I enjoyed working directly with donors, what I really loved was donor communications. But I noticed how ineffective donor communications tend to be, so I started to research and test narrative in communications. It led me to find that using stories not only helped us raise more money, it deepened the relationships we had with donors. Shortly after that, I started writing on my blog about what I was doing and sharing my learnings about storytelling with other fundraisers. My main mission continues to be finding ways to help nonprofits improve donor relations through their communications.

In your webinar, you mentioned that surveying donors is a good practice all nonprofits should do. Do you have examples of donor surveys that I can share with our readers?

VC: Surveying is one of the best things nonprofits can do to improve their fundraising programs. Through surveys, we can gauge donors’ satisfaction, identify ways to improve their satisfaction, and communicate with them more effectively.

Here are some sample survey questions, and here’s a copy of a survey I received from Union Gospel Mission.

If a nonprofit’s mission breaks out to three distinct program areas, do you recommend including stories on all three program areas in an appeal, or should you just stick to one area? Does that give donors the full story?

VC: This is a great question. One of the things nonprofits struggle with the most is trying to figure out which stories to tell, especially if they have a lot of programs. In appeals, I think it is always best to make a specific ask for a specific program. These tend to have the best conversion rates, because the asks are very tangible and donors can wrap their minds around what they are giving to. The trick is figuring out which of your programs garners the best response from donors, and then leveraging those stories for undesignated fundraising.

One of the things I recommend nonprofits do is create an editorial calendar for their storytelling over the course of the year. It’s helpful to know what your fundraising plan is, and then decide what stories you will tell and when. That way you can coordinate stories and messages across channels.

During the webinar, we had a lot of questions on the topic of using visuals in emails. There is no doubt that visuals complement stories. Do you have any recommendations for using photos versus using none in email appeals? Are videos worthwhile? Have you seen any research on this?

VC: I’m sure there is research on this topic, but unfortunately I haven’t come across it yet. You can think about the principles of direct mail here. We all know that what is "above the fold" is important. That can make or break the donor reading the rest of the letter. I think the same is true for emails. Once someone opens it, you want to make it easy for them to engage with. I have seen a number of nonprofits use an image above the fold of the email. But it is usually not just an image. They will overlay text on the image—typically the call to action—and hyperlink the image to the donation page. It kind of acts as a giant "donate" button right at the top of the email.

Do you have any suggestions on how to share stories that are specific enough to be moving but not so specific that they risk breaking confidentiality?

VC: Confidentiality is extremely important when you’re dealing with vulnerable populations and issues, so from an ethical standpoint, your organization should prioritize confidentiality. I recommend changing the person’s name and any details that could make them identifiable. Additionally, before you use the story, give the person a chance to read it to make sure they are comfortable with how they are portrayed.

Can you share examples of great email appeals that implement storytelling best practices?

VC: Here are two examples worth reading: This is from Splash, an organization that works to provide clean water to underserved populations, especially children, and this appeal is from Women Against Violence Against Women.

We’re partnering with Vanessa to see how nonprofits are currently leveraging stories in their communications. And we want to hear from you! Please fill out this short survey on your storytelling practices. Thanks! And thank you, Vanessa, for providing great examples and inspiration to help nonprofits tell better stories.

Storytelling for Nonprofits
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Tue, April 28 2015

Why Social Fundraising Works

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

How does tapping into the power of relationships transform a simple ask into a more effective, inspiring call to action? This week’s Nonprofit 911 webinar is all about leveraging the social nature of giving to grow your donor base and raise more money for your cause. Join us this Thursday at 1pm ET to learn how to create your own social fundraising campaign. Today’s post is a taste of what we’ll cover.

So, why does social fundraising work so well? Why can’t organizations get the same results just sending out direct appeals to their audiences?

Why Social Fundraising Works
While giving is a highly emotional and at times deeply personal act, at its core, most giving is social. Our personal experiences and social ties often drive our decision to donate to a cause. Giving is how we relate and give back to our community and how we seek to improve the world for our fellow man.

Giving is also social in that we are strongly influenced by our family, friends, and networks—as well as those we perceive to be our peers. When an appeal for funds comes from someone in our networks that we trust, we’re more likely to act.

Here’s why social fundraising campaigns can inspire a wave of new supporters for your cause:

Social fundraising is based on a two-way relationship.
Traditional fundraising appeals are often one-sided, broadcast messages. These promotions can move people to act, but they don’t easily capture the emotion or relationship that can drive giving on a massive scale. Social fundraising puts the message in the mouth of the person who is most likely to prompt a donation:  someone the audience knows. The experience of supporting a good cause becomes one that people can have together, which makes it even more powerful.

People give to people.
A personal fundraiser is often more persuasive it comes to evoking emotion and inspiring action. Messengers from outside an organization are often more credible than the organization itself. That’s why an outside messenger, such as a donor that fundraises for an organization, has the potential to cut through the communications clutter.

The message is based in story.
There is no more powerful way to move people to action than through a compelling story. Storytelling often comes more naturally to supporters, who may have a personal stake in the cause. Stories told by people we know feel more meaningful than stories distributed by an organization. The more authentic a message is, the more likely people are to act. The effect of these personal stories is a powerful recruiting tool when you are looking to spread your message and recruit new supporters.

Social norms are powerful motivators.
You may think that you left peer pressure behind in middle school, but what our friends, family, and colleagues do still holds strong influence over the actions we take. Humans tend to want to conform to the social norm—what we feel is the standard, accepted behavior. Social fundraising campaigns are a great way to establish a social norm of giving. When others see that friends, family, and their extended networks are coming together to support a good cause, it’s hard to resist joining in. Think of it as peer pressure for good.

So, tapping into social giving can make a big difference for your fundraising results, whether you implement some of these tactics in your next appeal, or decide to launch a more structured event.

Want more ideas? Download our new guide, The Secrets of Social Fundraising Success for more tips on how to get started on what to look for in technology that makes peer-driven fundraising easy and fun.

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Mon, April 27 2015

4 Thank You Musts for Monthly Donors

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Recurring Giving •

Editor’s note:  Our thoughts are with those affected by the massive earthquake and aftershocks in Nepal. You can help. To donate to the relief efforts, visit our disaster response page.

We’re in the last few days of our Recurring Giving Challengecheck out which campaigns are sitting atop our leaderboard and are in the running for their share of $20K in challenge rewards!

You’ve put a lot of work into recruiting recurring gifts from your supporters. Once you have monthly donors on board, you can just coast, right?


Even though they have set up and committed to a recurring gift, you still need to cultivate and build relationships with these donors. While thanking monthly donors isn’t much different than thanking donors in general, there is one big difference:  you have a lot more riding on monthly donors, as their lifetime value is likely to be much greater than your average one-time donor.

Use your thank you letter as an opportunity to show gratitude, but also to lay the groundwork for a long-term relationship. Donor gratitude is so important we have an entire guide devoted just to this very topic. Here are four musts for your thank yous to monthly donors:

1. Be prompt.
In addition to an immediate, personalized confirmation that their gift was processed successfully, you should thank your sustainers within a few days of setting up their recurring donation. Have a plan in place to make this happen quickly and make it a priority. Your goal is to keep that warm fuzzy feeling going as soon as possible after the gift was initiated. You may wish to send an email, a written note, or follow up with a phone call. It wouldn’t hurt to do all three over the course of those first few months once someone joins your monthly giving program.

2. Be personal.
In addition to addressing the donor by name, sign your thank you letters from a real person. Promise me that you won’t send thank yous that start out with “dear friend” or “dear supporter.” Not only is it boring and mechanical, it sends a signal of “we can’t be bothered.” Also, get creative with who signs your electronic and mailed letters–a board member, a volunteer, or a beneficiary can add significance to your acknowledgement. Make sure there is a real live human behind your stewardship efforts.

3. Be genuine.
Express your sincere gratitude and let your monthly donors know what their ongoing support will mean for your organization. Tell a short, emotion-filled story or share an example that shows the human impact of a recurring gift. Remind the donor what they are making possible. Tug at the heartstrings and bring your mission to life. This reinforces your donor’s decision to give an sustaining gift.

4. Be specific.
I covered the idea of specificity earlier this month, but it bears repeating because it’s so important. Include details about when, why, and what the donor is giving and which programs or results their recurring gift will support. All donors want to know that their gift is making a difference, and rich details help donors know their gift was noticed and appreciated.

Want more help thanking your monthly donors? Download our Recurring Donor Communication Guide and Templates for examples you can use today.

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