Thu, January 30 2014

7 Ways to Make 2014 the Year of the Donor

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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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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