Wed, April 15 2015

Make the Most of Mother’s Day

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Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Fun stuff • Marketing essentials •

There’s no better way for your organization to get the attention of your supporters and prospects (and the media) than by piggybacking on what’s already top of mind. Your people are already thinking about this stuff, making them far more likely to connect with your campaign than at other times.

That’s “right thing, right now” marketing, and I’ve seen some fantastic Mother’s Day models from nonprofits like yours in recent years.

Because I’m a nonprofit communications nerd, I save great email models like these. Just look at these pre–Mother’s Day email subject lines from last year:

Mother's Day Subject Lines

Next, take a look at my two favorite Mother’s Day campaigns from years past:

Lettuce Celebrate

Lettuce Celebrate,” proclaimed Oxfam America in its joyful 2014 campaign inviting us to fund a vegetable garden in honor of our moms. It’s a wonderful—and affordable—concept clearly tied to the organization’s mission and impact. Oxfam America even extended the opportunity beyond the target date in case any Mother’s Day slackers missed it.

I was also struck by this 2008 Mother’s Day fundraising campaign from City Meals. The woman in the photo could have been my grandmother.

City Meals Campaign

City Meals educated readers that “70% of our meal recipients are women. Many no longer have spouses, siblings, friends, or children in their lives. That can make for a lonely Mother’s Day. Send meals in your mother’s honor or memory to elderly New Yorkers who would otherwise be hungry and alone. Mom taught you to care for others. Show her how much you learned.”

Beautifully done, City Meals. This campaign primes our empathy and guilt and motivates our desire to please with the encouragement to be “our best,” as Mom taught us. Hokey, but it works.

What makes this campaign truly effective are the supplementary components that make giving a participatory experience—including e-cards to send your mom (you “purchase” the card—that’s your donation) and the campaign mini-site.

Now’s the time! These are just a couple of the many inspirations out there to power up your organization’s Mother’s Day campaign. Search for more, brainstorm, and produce your Mother’s Day campaign.

How have you piggybacked on Mother’s Day or another holiday to more strongly connect with supporters and prospects? Please share your campaign details in the comments section!

P.S. Father’s Day is around the corner. Start planning now!

With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at

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Tue, February 03 2015

Delight Donors: Thank Yous + Donor Relations Wins

Liz Ragland's avatar

Senior Content and Marketing Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   How to improve emails and newsletters • Marketing essentials •

Last month’s post, 10 Thank Yous That Delight Donors, sparked many conversations about how to thank donors. Because this is such an important topic (and the first step in creating a positive long-term relationship with your donors), I wanted to offer even more ideas on how to thank your donors. That’s why I’m happy to share The Donor Thank You Mini-Guide.

The Donor Thank You Mini-Guide

Download your own copy, share it with your team, and start planning a 2015 that starts with getting stellar thank yous in donors' hands. Did you send a thank you that wowed donors? Please .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)! Your organization could be featured in our blog and newsletter.

But, don't stop there!

Thanking donors is just one part of your donor relations and retention strategy. Be sure to focus some of your efforts on creating an overall plan to keep the donor love alive. Here are some resources to help you go beyond the thank you:

  • I highly recommend bookmarking Donor Love Part One and Two from Nancy Schwartz. Nancy explains why it's important to R-E-S-P-E-C-T your donors. Her suggestions include creating a donor advisory board and listening to donors' wants even when they aren't what you want.

  • If you aren’t a Donor Relations Guru Blog subscriber, you should be. Lynne Wester gives specific examples of missteps in donor relations and ideas on how to avoid going down a wrong path. All her work is grounded in her four pillars of donor relations (which she just wrote a book about!).

  • Have you ever considered "upgrading" donors into a monthly giving program? Our own Caryn Stein is presenting a Nonprofit911 webinar on Tuesday, February 10th and will discuss recurring giving best practices and how donor retention rates can be greatly improved with a monthly giving program.


 And since showing gratitude is just a great practice in general: THANK YOU for reading The Nonprofit Marketing Blog!

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Thu, December 11 2014

Motivate ’Em Messages: What Secrets Can You Share?

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Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Branding • Marketing essentials •

When I saw this Facebook post from the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless (ECHH), my smile spread like wildfire.

ECHH Facebook Post

You see, we’ve been working with the ECHH team on year-end fundraising campaigns for a few years, and among the countless things I was surprised to learn when we started is just how many of the individuals and families they serve are working full-time (or more, holding multiple jobs) but still can’t make ends meet—68%!

Sixty-eight percent is a huge segment—almost two-thirds of those served by ECHH. These folks aren’t alone. Unfortunately, the “working poor” population is growing fast, but many people are still unaware of that critical detail.

In fact, there’s a common misperception that people without homes bring it on themselves through laziness (like not working or not trying to find a job), addiction, or other issues. Even though that’s untrue for so many of ECHH’s clients and for other families who have lost their homes, widespread misperceptions like this one often become so entrenched that they seem like facts.

Kudos to ECHH for opening eyes and minds to this crucial fact across its communication channels, including Facebook. It’s a potential game-changer and is likely to move some prospects from no to maybe or yes on the donate meter.

ECHH strives to correct misperceptions that stand in the way of a donation with stories that highlight the efforts those served are putting in to take care of their families. Similar stories that engage readers through likeable protagonists just like themselves were featured in a recent campaign letter:

Mom with girls

We helped Jeannie find extra work to supplement her salary from her full-time job (and build up some savings) and to get the full allotment of food stamps the family deserved.

With Martha and Renee now back to their happy selves and Jack busy in college, Jeannie is once again beginning to feel that her family is secure.

Your organization has stories and stats that are equally vital but unknown. Discover what your secrets are and unmask them asap! They may be the tipping point for your year-end fundraising campaign.

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Wed, December 03 2014

How Did You Handle…? 2 MORE Examples of Change Ups for 2014 Year-End Campaigns

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Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Read Part One

This post continues our new How Did You Handle…? series—specific how-tos based on your experiences.

There’s still time to make productive changes to your year-end appeal! Here are more year-end campaign change-ups, attempted for the first time this year by some of your fundraiser peers (with early results where available).

1. Change-Up: Launching matching gifts for first-time donors (including those coming in on #GivingTuesday).

We secured two donors—one who is an absolutely new donor—to offer a dollar-for-dollar match (up to $1,000) for all first-time donors. We are also offering a separate $500 match to new online donors on #GivingTuesday.

As director of development, I pushed the match approach and found supportive donors. I was thrilled when our executive director jumped on board and found a matching donor for #GivingTuesday.

But that’s not all. Our executive director pledged a $500 gift if all staff members contribute to the campaign. Great news: Our board is already at 100%!

Goal: I had used the matching challenge in other types of campaigns and found it highly successful in increasing the number of new donors and total gifts. We’re hoping to achieve the same value this year. We’ll keep you posted!

Results to Date: Just starting our year-end campaign (our executive director hand-signs all appeal letters and adds personal notes to many of them).

Source: Alan Gibby, director of development, Shelter Care Ministries

2. Change-Up: Revising our channel and format mix for year-end appeals to include direct mail for prospects who don’t read our emails.

After digging into our email database statistics, we noticed that many of our donors don’t check their emails. Direct mail is our best hope for engaging these folks; this way we know they’ll receive an appeal. We’re sending them our first-ever direct mail appeal.

Goals: We hope to strongly encourage our consistent donors to increase their gifts and reactivate our lapsed donors.

Source: Kiki Fornito, development associate, Build Change

Note from Nancy: Other fundraisers reported very different changes in their year-end channel and format mix:

· “We are moving to an 80-20 split between email and direct mail outreach to members in our fundraising campaigns; the goal is to convert members to donors. Early results are positive,” reports Laural Bowman, political affairs manager with the Ohio State Medical Association.

· “We are reaching out via phone to donors as a supplement to our direct mail year-end campaign. Of course, we’re tracking what impact these calls, which are low cost but labor intensive, have on results, and we’ll use that data to fine-tune next year’s year-end approach,” says Jayme Hayes, president of Junior Achievement of the Eastern Shore.

Whatever your organization’s mix, the crucial takeaways are to always look hard at response patterns to year-end and other fundraising campaigns and to do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t.

If one of these approaches makes sense for your organization—based on data and anecdotes, not just gut instinct—see if there’s at least some small way you can incorporate it into remaining elements of your year-end campaign. It just might make a difference!

With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at

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Wed, November 19 2014

How Did You Handle…? 3 Examples of Change Ups for 2014 Year-End Campaigns

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Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Giving Days • How to improve emails and newsletters • Marketing essentials •

This post is the first in our new How Did You Handle…? Series—specific how-tos based on YOUR experiences.Please watch for our requests to share your wins, challenges and recommendations. YOU are the best trainers there are!

Year-End fundraising tops most organizations’ “must do, every year” list, but it’s challenging both to figure out how to do it differently but better and to get approval for a fresh approach for a campaign that’s so vital.

But case studies from colleague organizations commonly work as a calming balm for anxious decision-makers afraid to deviate from the norm (even when that norm isn’t working so well). Here’s what some of your peers are trying this year, with early results where available:

1. Change Up: Revising campaign tone and content—to be more direct, frank and engaging. For example, we’re showing results of donor generosity (rather than talking about them) and sharing organizational changes in progress as a result of grant guidelines.

Goal: We’re hoping to open up an active conversation with donors and prospects by inviting them into our organization! Our goal is to have these folks contact us with questions or suggestions.

Results to Date: Many donors have already contacted me to share appreciation for the more friendly and inclusive messaging. Several of them requested permission to share content from our year-end newsletter in their own communities (thus increasing our reach).

Others got in touch to share ideas or offer their assistance to tackle some of our organization’s concerns. That’s exactly the kind of response we’re looking for—stronger, closer relationships!

Source: Todd McPherson, Inter-Faith Community Services

2. Change Up: Participating in #GivingTuesday for the first time plus, beefing up our online and monthly giving options.

Goal: I (the Executive Director) introduced these changes to my board. I became aware of #GivingTuesday last year at the last moment, so investigated and proposed to our board that we make an effort this year to use this to kick off our December campaign this year.

I also hoped to motivate other charities in the area to participate in #GivingTuesday, so we’d all get more attention.

Results to Date: I’m still trying to persuade other local charities to participate in #GivingTuesday with us but have not been able to get them to understand the significance. We have decided to lead by example and hope they join us next year.

TBD on the campaign itself.

Source: Bob Stephenson, Executive Director The Literacy Coalition

3. Change Up: Personalizing our year-end content (and segmenting our list accordingly)

We’ll feature the story of one of our beneficiaries in the same state as the donor or prospect receiving the direct mail letter, to strengthen the connection between that donor/prospect and our impact.

Goal: We have read that relevancy/segmentation will increase the number and dollar value of gifts.

NOTE from Nancy: Personalization/segmentation is powerful when you can connect with what’s top of mind for your prospect or donor. If you can discuss state specific challenges likely to be known of and/or experienced by your prospects and your featured beneficiary, that’s golden!

Results to Date: Drops the first week of December!

Source: Emily Behan, Development Coordinator Community Solutions

What are YOU changing in this year’s year-end campaign? Please share your new approach with us!

With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at

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