Thu, April 16 2015

The Key to More Effective Donor Communication

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials •

To truly connect with donors and inspire them to become a part of the work that you do, you need to speak to them. Really speak to them. This means getting extremely clear on the message you’re trying to send, and making it incredibly relevant to why they care about your mission in the first place.

This is why the key to more effective communication is specificity

When your emails and other communications are specific, they can be more relevant, interesting, and authentic. Your job as a marketer or fundraiser is to definitively answer the question, “Why me?”  You can’t do that with broad and generic messages. Generic messages are not just typically boring; studies have shown that vague statements can introduce skepticism among readers. Definitely not the feeling you want to evoke!

How do you make your message more specific, and in turn, more relevant? Think about the unique stories your donors have when they relate to your cause. Group donors into meaningful categories based on:

  • their giving history/habits.
  • the programs they support.
  • how they came to your organization.
  • their ongoing relationship with your organization.


When you can segment your supporters into specific groups that speak to these qualities, you can tailor your messages just for them. A personalized, relevant message will make it much easier for you to break through and hold their attention.

For best results, your comprehensive communication plan should include:

  • a list of key segments for your organization
  • how your organization defines each segment
  • the historical and projected fundraising results from each group
  • the specific tactics and messages that will help you build relationships with each type of donor

Map out how each segment relates to the rest of your audience and which triggers move someone from one group to another. If you don’t have this data, start by talking with your most loyal donors to find out what has them giving year after year. Then, put a plan in place to regularly collect and track this information. 

How do you make this happen? The right tools can transform your communications approach. A customer relationship management (CRM) system, such as Salesforce, or a donor management solution, like DonorPerfect, can help you organize and track these crucial details about your supporters and enable you to segment and communicate with your donors more effectively, strengthening their relationship with you and improving your fundraising results.

Want to find out how to combine your online fundraising efforts with better donor management? Learn how Network for Good’s platform integrates with the top solutions and see how you can boost individual giving for your nonprofit.

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Mon, April 06 2015

Increasing Your Monthly Gifts

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Recurring Giving •

The Recurring Giving Challenge is in full swing and our top contenders are on the leaderboard. Check out the campaigns in the lead to get inspiration for your own monthly giving program. The challenge runs through April 30, so there’s still time to join!

Monthly donors are so valuable because they give more over the course of one year vs. one-time donors, and they’re more loyal, with retention rates of 80% or higher. They’re also more likely to build on their investment once they’ve seen the impact their gift can have. The good news is that by upgrading monthly donors even by just a few dollars per month, you can raise 20-30% more from per sustainer each year.

So, how do you do it? Here are four tips on increasing monthly gift amounts from existing recurring givers:

1.  Have a solid stewardship plan in place. Before you even think about asking a monthly donor to upgrade, you must have regular communications going out to thank your sustainers and tell them how their gift is being used. In addition to a great thank you letter, celebrate your monthly donors in your newsletters and reach out to them to show them how they are helping you accomplish your mission. They need to know their gift is making a difference before they’ll give more.

2.  Illustrate the impact. Be sure to answer the question “What for?” in your upgrade appeal. What more will be accomplished if they increase their contribution? How many more meals can you serve or patients could you treat with the additional contribution? Remember: be specific and show the human impact that will result from the increased amount.

3. Show your social proof. Donors are more inclined to take action if they see that others doing the same. Let your donors know how many others have already upgraded and offer a testimonial from another donor who has increased their gift. You’ll establish a social norm that signals to the donor that the action you want them to take is one that is seen as the right thing to do.

4. Make it incredibly easy to do. Just as with the initial set up of the monthly gift, you want to remove every roadblock that might get in the way of your donor and the path to increasing the monthly contribution. Make it easy for them to upgrade with clear instructions and a system that will allow them to log in and update their monthly amount, as well as any contact or payment details that may have changed. Have a plan to follow up with donors who have indicated interest in upgrading, but have not yet done so. They may just need a little help or personal encouragement.

How soon?

Once your donors have committed to recurring gifts, when should you ask them to up the amount? Here’s what we learned from Erica Waasdorp during one of our Nonprofit 911 webinars:

An upgrade ask between nine and 12 months is ideal. First, make sure payments are coming in regularly and that your communications plan is in place (thank you emails, tax letters, contact plan for things like expired or canceled credit cards, etc.). Then make the ask, and remember even small, incremental increases add up!

Want more tips on creating and maintaining your monthly giving program? Check out the other posts in this series, or download our free Quick-Start Guide to Recurring Giving.

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Thu, April 02 2015

Going Viral: A Small Nonprofit Gets National Attention

Laura Tubesing's avatar

Director, Customer Success, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Nonprofit leadership •

Estella's Brilliant Bus

How does a small nonprofit go viral and capture attention on the national stage? I set out to learn the answer from a Network for Good customer that has achieved the biggest exposure opportunity any business, organization, or individual could hope for: a commercial spot during the Super Bowl.

Estella’s Brilliant Bus was featured in Microsoft’s Super Bowl ad this year. And the Super Bowl was just one appearance from the past 18 months: Estella has appeared on Dr. Oz and Oprah and was named a CNN Hero of the Year.

I talked with the organization’s founder and sole staff member, Estella Pyfrom, to understand the story behind the exposure. Going in, I thought I might find a replicable strategy around networking, PR, and elevator pitches, but after talking with Estella, I realized what I should have been expecting all along: It starts with mastering your nonprofit basics.

Find your special sauce.

Estella started with an idea, a bus, and her life savings. As she started researching how to make her organization operational, she found that she wasn’t the only one delivering technology or education to underserved communities—but her delivery mechanism was completely unique. Estella’s Brilliant Bus was the only self-sufficient mobile technology teaching facility in the world! It’s important for your staff, constituents, donors, and volunteers to understand what’s unique about what you do. To be noticed, your work must be noticeable.

Tell your story to others.

At first, Estella was suspicious of the media. Local and national networks approached her several times after people in her community starting talking about Estella’s Brilliant Bus, but she turned them away. It wasn’t until she turned to some resources at a local college that things changed. Estella’s contact at the college told a friend about Estella’s work, who told her husband, who happened to be a producer for CNN. The producer got in touch with Estella right away. With the promise that she could review the story before its broadcast, Estella agreed to some media exposure. After the CNN spot, Estella was booked for more media appearances, and the passion and excitement around Estella’s Brilliant Bus grew. Small nonprofits like Estella’s can be hesitant to relinquish control over something that feels so personal out of fear of judgment or providing misinformation. But when we arm our supporters with the right to tell the story, that’s when “viral” happens.

Be a business.

When I asked Estella about the keys to success, her immediate answer was that planning has made all the difference. The past two to three years have been about refining the model for delivering technology in a mobile facility to children in underprivileged areas. She knows where the bus will drive each day and how many kids they’ll serve, and she has backup engagements if a school or community has a last-minute cancellation. Delivering unique services with flawless execution has ensured that Estella’s Brilliant Bus maintains its positive reputation. The message is clear: Over-deliver your mission’s promise.

Continue to do good work.

Going Viral Quote

Estella never stops moving or gets caught up in her own success. When we discussed how she feels about all the attention, Estella quickly responded, “I haven’t had a chance to be nervous or realize how big this has become. I’m too focused on achieving the vision I have for this business.” Her actions are true to her words: When presented with the 5,000 Points of Light award, she refused to fly cross-country to accept the award and drove her bus instead. Along the way, she stopped in cities to provide services to children. To date, Estella has served more than 61,000 children. She has no plans to slow down until Estella’s Brilliant Bus is a movement that puts a bus in every major U.S. city, and then worldwide. It’s a good reminder that landing big media attention is not the goal—it’s a means to touch more people and expand your reach.

So, the next time your executive director asks you how to land that big media attention, reply:

  • We need to find what’s unique about our organization and let our work, communication, and story revolve around that concept. Let’s make sure everyone understands why we’re different.

  • After that, let’s encourage and empower everyone we know to tell our story far and wide.

  • Let’s focus on every part of our process to deliver programs. Are our programs easy to understand? Where are the risks? Let’s spend time making ourselves a well-organized and program-focused delivery machine. We owe it to our constituents and those telling our story to be the best we can be.

  • Finally, remember that big media attention isn’t the goal. It’s an opportunity to get more volunteers, donors, and supporters, and the by-product is awareness about our organization.

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Mon, March 30 2015

How I Started My First Monthly Giving Program

Sandy Rees's avatar

Founder, Get Fully Funded

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Recurring Giving •

[Editor’s note: This week’s post in the Recurring Giving Challenge series comes to us from Sandy Rees, CFRE. ]

I didn’t know much about monthly giving until she called in late December that year.

She was one of my newest donors, and told me her family had just moved here from another state. She had given monthly to the food bank there, and now would like to give monthly to the food bank here. (That would be us).

Oooookay.

I didn’t have a monthly giving program and didn’t know how they worked, but I knew I had to think quickly—I could send her 12 reply envelopes so she could send in a gift each month. It would be simple for her and easy for me. So that’s what I did, and my first-ever monthly giving program was born.

I remember counting out the envelopes, and writing the month on each one. I thought that would help us both keep up with what she had given.

It was a simple beginning.

Looking back at it, I have to laugh. I had no idea what I was doing. I simply had a request from a donor, and was trying to honor it. Little did I know it would turn out to be a great thing for my organization.

I sort of knew how monthly giving worked, and I decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it as well as I could. I wondered if there were people already making monthly gifts to us, and I just hadn’t noticed it yet. I pulled a report from my trusty software, and I was thrilled to find six regular givers! How had I never seen that?

I pulled together a letter and sent it to those six, telling them that we were officially starting a monthly giving program, and inviting them to join, especially since they were already doing it. I heard back from all six—a resounding YES!

That Spring, I attended the AFP Conference and heard Harvey McKinnon speak about monthly giving. It turned on so many light bulbs in my head, that I’m surprised I wasn’t blinded from the light! I picked up his book Hidden Gold and read it before my plane landed back home.

I did a little research to see what other nonprofits in my area were doing with monthly giving, and I got a few more ideas for my program. I named it Hunger’s Hope and created a brochure to give to prospects to help them understand what their monthly gift would do, and to help them see how little it took to feed a hungry person. I was lucky – just $0.81 would cover a day’s worth of food, and $24.30 covered a month. So, I asked for $24.30 to feed one person for a month, $48.60 for two people, and $72.90 for three.

I sort of knew how monthly giving workedNext, I started to market the program. I put a piece in my next print newsletter about the program, and made it look like an article and a coupon that people would cut out, fill in, and mail to us. (Email wasn’t commonly used back then or I would have made that an option, too). I pulled a list of donors who had given three or more times in the previous 12 months, and sent them a special letter, telling them about Hunger’s Hope and inviting them to join.

Slowly, people signed up.

My finance guy laughed at me when I first started the program. He thought it was a crazy idea and a waste of time. But when the monthly gifts started to add up, I had the last laugh.

In about 18 months, I had signed up 110 people in Hunger’s Hope, with people giving anywhere from $10 to $100 a month. Even though I offered them specific amounts, I also gave them the option to choose the amount they wanted to give, which turned out to be a smart move because many gave more than I asked. The total annual value of the program was over $50,000, which was a revenue stream that made a difference for us.

Here’s what I learned from that experience of going from zero to $50K:

  • Start somewhere. It doesn’t have to be perfect to get started. The most important thing is to start. You can always tweak and improve later.
  • Work on it consistently. I never stopped looking for donors for my monthly giving program. I was always on the lookout for a way to let folks know how they could join and why it mattered.

  • The reason is important. Be clear about why people should make a monthly gift. Few people want to give monthly just to support your nonprofit. But many people will give to help you make a difference. When I shared that their $24.30 would help feed a person for a month, it was tangible and understandable, and it resonated with my donors. And they signed up.

  • Be ready to manage the back end. I realized quickly that I had to keep up with the details of who had joined, how much they pledged monthly, and who hadn’t given recently. I got into the habit of checking at the beginning of each month to see who hadn’t given in the past two months, and calling those folks. I had some of the most amazing conversations with those donors. They’d tell me how they’d lost their job and needed to stop giving for a while, but as soon as they were able, they’d start again. Or they’d tell me about a family member with an illness. I’d thank them for their past support, show true concern for their circumstances, and offer any help I could. Most of them came around and re-joined later in the year.

  • Be creative in thanking them. My monthly donors didn’t want a monthly thank you letter. They’d tell me “please save the postage.” So, I got creative. One month, I’d send a hand-written note. The next month, I’d call them. The next month, I’d have a volunteer call them. And so forth. It kept things fresh, and they seemed to enjoy it.

  • Offer multiple ways to give. One of the things I learned from Harvey is that people who put a monthly gift on their credit card give longer and more consistently than folks who pay by check. And those who give by electronic bank draft are best, because they don’t usually stop or change the gift unless they change banks, which is uncommon. At that point, we had the ability to take credit cards, but I had no idea how to do automatic bank drafts. I called our bank and told them what I was trying to do, and they agreed to set it up for me with no fees as part of their support of our work. It was nice to offer a payment choice to donors so they could pay by check, credit card, or automatic bank draft.



Since then, I’ve helped start numerous monthly giving programs. They’re a great way to create a predictable revenue stream for the nonprofit and make giving easy for the donor.

And I won’t ever forget those humble beginnings.

How did you start your monthly giving program? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Sandy shows passionate nonprofit leaders how to fully fund their big vision, so they can spend their time changing lives instead of worrying about money. She has helped dozens of small nonprofits go from “nickel-and-dime fundraising” to adding 6 or 7 figures to their bottom line. As a trainer, she shows her students how to find ideal donors, connect with them through authentic messaging, and build relationships that stand the test of time, so that fundraising becomes easy and predictable. Sandy is based in Loudon, TN.  Find out more about her fundraising system at www.GetFullyFunded.com.

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Wed, March 18 2015

Rich Details for Record-Breaking Results (Case Study)

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Dizzy Gillespie

Image: Roland Godefroy

“When the new antenna went live, you’d swear that Dizzy Gillespie was playing right next to you.”

I can easily visualize this scene—and hear it. Can you?

In fact, this appeal excerpt from WBGO (New York City’s premier jazz radio station) made the listening-enriching value of the station’s new antenna crystal clear—by showing, not telling.

Compare this with the way another station introduced its new antenna:

Replacing the equipment and moving it to the higher elevation immediately improved the strength of the signal, says Tyron, increasing the broadcast penetration within the licensed area (approximately a 35-mile radius from Claremont); improving the signal reach for areas like Covina, El Monte, San Bernardino, and Riverside; diminishing interference with the signal; and resulting in fewer drops of the signal.

Blah, blah, blah. Beware the curse of knowledge. This writer has been cursed, forgetting that the people she wants to engage aren’t exposed to the specifics at the memorable gut level like she is. As a result, she (like so many nonprofit writers) writes in broad, vague strokes—or dull minutiae—that are forgotten in a flash.

Instead, pepper your fundraising messages with rich, memorable details to make them:

  • Authentic: The right details give a story a much greater presence, a feeling of real truth.
  • Unique: Getting specific is often the fastest way to make content rise above the average. The details distinguish your message from those that would otherwise sound similar. Shout out and shine!
  • Convey much more with fewer words: Specific words and images can clarify a message much faster than a long-form narrative explanation of the core point.
  • Transport the reader: Like a good movie or compelling novel, where you get completely absorbed in the story, rich details can draw your audiences into getting lost in your message. As a result, readers are far more likely to remember it, act, and spread the word.

How do you use rich detail to show (not tell), bringing your prospects and supporters into your organization’s story? Please share your experiences in the comments.

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