12 Friends You Absolutely Need to Boost Online Fundraising
Being online is a critical part of your donor’s life. It’s also a critical part of their experience with your organization.
So your year-end campaign must be online, too. In fact, to succeed in today’s environment, year-end campaigns must be multichannel — not just direct mail, but also email and social media.
And every campaign message must be integrated, so that your campaign has a consistent look and appeal. Make it known to the donor that it all comes from the same organization!
Now you may be thinking: Sure. I know this is important. We try.
But you’ve got to do better than to merely try.
To be successful, you need the tools that will make you so.
Not to worry. Help is on the way!
I’ve got 12 “friends” you can make that will assure your online fundraising efforts don’t go to waste. You’ll get six today, then six more in the second part of this series.
1. A Clean Database: Don’t Neglect Data Hygiene
You’ll want to do this with both your offline and online addresses.
Two important cleansing functions are:
- De-duping: This keeps data clean and assures you don’t tick folks off by sending them multiple copies of the same appeal. Most tech platforms have de-dupe functionality.
- Purging and Updating: This eliminates outdated and/or incorrect addresses so you don’t waste resources sending undeliverable appeals.
NCOA updating improves deliverability and decreases expense. Seventeen percent of the U.S. population moves each year. Just compare your own database to the NCOA’s and you will double a donor’s lifetime value. The NCOA database is a paid service provided by the U.S. Postal Service, and many CRM providers and mail houses will walk you through this.
You know you pay for undelivered mail, right?
The best practice is to run the database 90 days before you plan to mail, to assure your list is as clean as possible. NCOA will also update and correct your addresses (e.g., change “Street” to “Avenue”).
Did you know that donations made in response to emails accounted for about a third of online fundraising revenue in 2013, but that one in eight emails never reach an inbox? Per the 2015 Nonprofit Email Deliverability Study, nonprofits could boost email fundraising revenue by around 14 percent by reducing their spam rate.
Tips to achieve a cleaner email database include:
- Delete emails that bounce back more than a few times.
- Ask individuals to opt-in to your email list and send a follow-up message to confirm their address is correct.
- Remove addresses that remain inactive for over a year (i.e., do not open or click through).
- Work with your email service provider to get more information about your email deliverability, IP address reputation and other data that can help you fix problems and ensure your messages are seen.
2. Prioritize Data: Don’t Fall Into the “Garbage in, Garbage out” Trap
You must make data accuracy and timeliness a priority.
If you don’t, you won’t stay healthy. Your fundraising will be sluggish. You won’t be able to assess how well you did. You won’t be able to intelligently plan for the future.
Do you have a database CRM that enables you to maximize the potential of the data you collect? Do you have a staff person assigned to assure the accuracy of data input and reporting?
If not, research your options and commit to a data culture in the coming year.
3. Show Your Donors You Know Them by Segmenting Lists and Targeting Messages
Personalized, relevant content is what connects your supporters to you.
If you don’t connect, you’re sunk. If someone volunteers, they want to know you know this. No one wants to feel they’re part of an amorphous mass. They want to be special. They want to be important. They want to be known.
Find commonalities you can use to target segments of your constituency.
- Event attendees
- Giving behaviors (e.g., frequency, purpose, size of gift)
- Advocacy behaviors (e.g., participated in peer-to-peer fundraising, circulated a petition, retweeted your messages)
- Affiliation (e.g., volunteer, board member, parent, patient, subscriber)
Note: Another good tactic is to create segments of folks who open your email but do not follow through with a donation. Your database or email provider should make it possible for you to re-send your email to these folks. It often means they were thinking about doing so, but something interrupted them and they didn’t complete the process.
4. Multiple Emails: Send a Series
Sending your appeal once and hoping it will get opened is just dumb. And this holds true even if you’re a small to medium-size nonprofit — so don’t think size gets you off the hook!
Clickthrough rates and conversion rates tend to be under 1 percent. Per Salsa, only one in 1,400 makes a donation from any given email!
It’s similar to advertising impressions: Once is not enough. Folks need to see something multiple times before it makes an impression.
Send at least two to three emails that use the same message and design, with a slight variation. Most of the data indicates that organizations are sending more and more emails, and they are not having a negative effect on response.
It generally takes two to three days to be able to assess how well your email is doing. So you may want to space your emails to particular segments at least this many days apart so you can tweak your messaging if need be.
This applies nearly across the board — except for the last week of the year, when more is more. December 31st is by far the biggest fundraising day of the year. You may want to send multiple emails to different segments just on this day alone.
5. Storytelling: Tell a Story Your Donor Will Want to Hear
This isn’t just something you do in your offline appeal.
You don’t have much space in email, and a picture really is worth 1,000 words. Use a compelling photo. Try a video.
Show who you’re going to help, save, rescue, send to college or heal. Don’t be namby-pamby about this. A simple call of “Give to us” is insufficient.
People want to see how their gift will be used, specifically.
Your subject line should be part of your story — it introduces the protagonist and the problem.
Your call to action should be part of your story — it’s how the donor becomes the hero and saves the day!
6. The Phone: Mobile Responsiveness is Critical
Even a simple email template that renders appropriately on all devices is important.
Sixty-eight percent of all email was opened on a smart phone or tablet last year, according to Salsa (52 percent on Apple).
Meanwhile, only 32 percent of emails were opened on a desktop.
Make a donation to your nonprofit from your cell phone and/or tablet. What works? What doesn’t? What could be tweaked to make the user experience better? Remember, if it’s too hard to read, or the “Donate” button is hard to find or the form that must be completed is teensy-weensy, you’re going to lose would-be donors along the way.
Work with your IT staff. Work with your database or CRM vendor. Get this stuff fixed. Now!
Which of these six “friends” do you still have time to make before you launch your year-end fundraising appeal?
In Part Two of this series, we’ll look at six other strategies to use to improve your fundraising this year and years to come.
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.