12 Friends You Absolutely Need to Boost Online Fundraising, Part 2
In part one of this two-part series, we talked about six friends you absolutely must make if you want to increase your online fundraising results this year—and sustain and grow them over time.
Today, we look at six more.
7. Technology is your friend.
Configure your CRM so it works for you. Your CRM can be your best friend—if you’ll let it. But it’s your job to get it in optimal running shape and keep it healthy. Your CRM supports you. It holds you up. Just like you exercise your body to stay healthy, you must exercise your CRM so it supports your campaign.
Map everything ahead of time so you can find it later and evaluate how you did. Assure you have policies about data entry, so that multiple users enter the same types of data into the same fields. Fund, campaign and appeal codes indicate what campaign your donor responded to, and how they allocated their gift.
Pre-launch tests assure your email templates, donation pages and so forth will display correctly and be user-friendly. A/B tests let you know which appeal worked best. Plan ahead to test different elements (e.g., subject lines, photos, tag lines, donate buttons, etc.)—but only change one variable at a time.
8. Gratitude is your friend.
Plan ahead to say thanks. Send a special email right away—as soon as the gift is made. Not just a generic auto-responder, but a genuine, heartfelt thank you that feels personal.
Make it tied to the campaign, and the purpose for which the donor gave. "Thank you" sets the stage for your donor’s next gift. It shows you got the gift, it was appreciated and it will be put to work the way the donor intended. It reassures the donor that they can trust you, and it gives them a warm glow that is the reward for their philanthropy.
One of the main reasons folks don’t give again is that they don’t recall being thanked. This may be because they really weren’t thanked, or because the thank you was so generic and meaningless that they didn’t even notice it! "Thank you" sets up your next gift. And per Dr. Adrian Sargeant’s research, a 10 percent increase in donor retention can increase the lifetime value of your donor base by 200 percent. Thanking donors is the first—and most essential—step to retention.
9. Reporting back on outcomes is your friend.
People really want to know they invested their hard-earned money wisely. They want to know they can trust you to follow through. So consider the different ways you can report back to donors on the impact of their philanthropy.
- Welcome series of emails to new donors
- Additional engagement opportunities for all donors (e.g., monthly giving, peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising, advocacy and ambassador opportunities and free events)
- Acknowledgment of folks who gave again or increased their giving
- Ongoing e-newsletters, blog articles or social media postings that thank the donor again and again, and show them how important they are to your cause.
Greg Warner of MarketSmart recommends a 3:1 schedule of thanking, reporting and engaging before you make another ask.
Board members and staff want to know which strategies worked, and which didn’t. Make sure you update your key stakeholders so they can help you evaluate what’s working/not working and plan for an even more successful future.
- Most effective channels?
- Most effective messaging?
- Most effective targeting?
- Most effective timing?
10. Planning is your friend.
Set aside time to plan. Don’t wait until the last month of the year to plan your campaign. Put this aside until you begin making your plan for next year. Then pull it out and heed this advice when it comes to next year’s end-of-year fundraising blitz.
I like to begin in the summer months.
- Think about the strategic priorities you’ll need to fund.
- Think about the stories you have (or will need to collect) to demonstrate these stories.
- Think about what you want the theme and messaging for this campaign to be.
- Think about your strategies—from September all the way through to December.
- Think about the different channels you might use. Mail, email and social.
Direct mail and email are one-way. You send out an offer and wait for folks to accept. Social is two-way. You engage with folks online, and they engage back. This gets them warmed up and ready to respond positively when you send your appeal. Sometimes they’ll engage their networks on your behalf, spreading your message beyond your own list.
Plan in advance to use social media to engage folks and really prep them to be predisposed to say “yes” when they receive your one-way communications. Maybe even think about P2P fundraising next year.
11. The big picture is your friend.
Vision where you’re going and how you’ll get there. Plan your year-end campaign within a year-long framework that targets your best prospects, connects with them meaningfully, converts them into donors and optimizes their experience so they stick with you. That’s the only way your fundraising will be sustainable. And sustainable fundraising is the point of all development, right?
So, when you prepare you annual fundraising strategic plan this year, consider strategies and tactics that will achieve the following:
- Target your mailings.
- Who are your best constituencies?
- Do you have enough of them? Where might you find more like them?
- Where are they?
- How do they access information?
One of the smartest ways to target mailings is to create personas. By putting together a comprehensive profile of your audience, your nonprofit is better able to create personalized content that speaks to your audience and drives them to action.
- Connect with your constituencies.
- How do they engage with information?
- How do you make it easy for them?
- What can you do that really connects, and makes your content relevant, interesting, important and compelling?
- Convert leads to donors.
- What do you want folks to feel when they get your appeal?
- What do you want folks to do when they get your appeal?
- How can you make your call to action clear and easy to respond to?
- Optimize your results.
- What can you do to keep these donors once they give?
- How have you planned ahead to heighten the experience for these wonderful supporters?
- What engagement strategies will you put in place?
- What gratitude strategies will you put in place?
12. Living in the present and the future is your friend.
What do you do if your budget is teensy and all of these recommendations seem out of reach? Focus on what you can do. Plan now for today. Plan ahead for an expansive future.
- Plan before your appeal.
- Consider what different market segments you have.
- Craft different messages for each.
- Find images to support your content.
- Put your content into the form of a story. People are wired to enter into stories, and it’s the strongest tool you have to effectively communicate and connect. Good content is king.
- Plan after your appeal.
- What will the thank you letter say?
- Will it be different for different types of donors?
- How will you keep the gratitude coming throughout the rest of the year so that donors are predisposed to give again the next time you ask?
- Plan for next year.
Finally, what do you need to do to get more resources committed to the technology and staffing that will support your fundraising efforts, ultimately raise more money, and make your life a whole lot easier?
It’s the 21st century. People are online. They’re connected. You must avoid becoming irrelevant in the digital age.
- Make friends with technology.
- Make friends with your donors—most of whom are online today.
You must connect with your donors and would-be donors. You can’t live out of a shoe box filing system or an Excel spreadsheet forever. Those are little systems that will result in little fundraising.
Think big. Think today.
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.