The new year (calendar or fiscal) typically comes with increased funding goals. However, this doesn’t always have to cause stress! Higher goals should boost your own confidence in your organization because it shows that you are passionate enough about your mission to want to grow.
Even though new donor acquisition is a common goal, increased revenue doesn’t have to only come from new donors.
When someone new donates to your organization, it marks the beginning of their engagement, which will hopefully continue for a long time. And that long-term relationship is the key to higher revenue.
Ramping up donations begins with having the best tech solutions for donor retention.
When you have a strategy in place to establish sustainable fundraising efforts, you’ll find that your outreach to past donors becomes more effective. This results in increased donation amounts without having to stress too much about cold outreach to new donors.
In order to ramp up your donations, we recommend using your nonprofit software to:
Nonprofit technology is designed to ease your nonprofit’s fundraising, stewardship, accounting, marketing, and other efforts. Make sure you are using your software to its full potential for more effective donation appeals and increased donor retention. Let’s get started!
1. Store and Interact with Data
As a nonprofit, one of your greatest resources is your constituent relationship manager (CRM). This handy tool enables your organization to save all the relevant information pertaining to your donors in a single location.
However, the best solutions have so many more functions than simply saving your past donor demographic data.
When you choose the best nonprofit CRM for your organization, your nonprofit can store all of each donor’s past interactions with you. Plus, some CRMs empower your organization to use this information to reach out more effectively.
For instance, with a donor database that really works for your organization, you can:
Segment donors into groups based on similar background information. For instance, you may segment donors based on their wealth indicators, professional affiliations, or giving history.
Create and send emails using built-in or custom templates. Use this feature to auto-populate the name of your constituents in these emails as well as the segmented list to appeal to different categories of donors.
Create website forms for your constituents to donate or register for events. When people sign up with these forms, their information flows automatically back into the CRM.
When a CRM enables your nonprofit to store and interact with the data in the system, you’ll open up doors to strengthen your overall fundraising cycle instead of simply one portion of it.
Many organizations focus solely on the identification portion of the fundraising cycle to find brand-new donors as opposed to strengthening the entire process. Make sure your fundraising CRM allows your nonprofit to focus on the cycle’s other steps as well: qualification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship.
2. Keep an Eye on Engagement for Future Outreach
One key part of your donation strategy should be building relationships with your current supporters. In order to build these relationships, you need an understanding of the current engagement status for each of your donors.
When you know the approximate engagement status for a donor, you’ll know if they are a good candidate for mid-level or major donation solicitation. Or, maybe you’ll find a donor who could benefit from additional stewardship.
The problem? It may take some digging through your CRM to even approximate an engagement level for donors, which takes time.
Luckily, the legendary fundraising expert Dr. Adrian Sargeant came up with a methodology to measure donor engagement. This score takes into consideration factors such as:
Frequency / Recency of giving
Social media interactions
As you can see, there are all sorts of factors that need to be considered when measuring donor engagement.
So we should count ourselves very lucky for an algorithm embedded in some CRM software solutions to simplify engagement metrics. This saves you lots of time that would have otherwise been spent digging through individual profiles.
To find out how to take full advantage of Dr. Sargeant’s engagement algorithm, check out this article explaining how Bloomerang’s donor database measurements take engagement into consideration.
3. Listen to Your Donors
One of the donor retention techniques that nonprofits too frequently forget about is simply listening. Donors have opinions about your organization and the part they play in accomplishing your mission.
Understanding your donors helps your organization unlock the factors that drive them toward greater loyalty to your organization.
Take the guesswork out of finding these important opinions. Just ask your donors how they feel!
It’s easier than ever to pull together donor survey questions to compile into a questionnaire and ask. Send these surveys directly to the emails of your donors for the highest response rate.
A lot of organizations make the mistake of just posting a survey to their websites, but this can invite feedback from non-donors and miss some constituents altogether. Instead of relying on responses through your website, send surveys directly to your supporters’ email inboxes.
Some of the survey questions you could ask your donors include:
Why is this cause important to you?
What interests you most about this organization?
How would you rate the communications we’ve been sending?
Were you properly thanked for your gift?
While these open-ended questions should be limited in your online surveys (think 1-3), the answers you receive can be key to your outreach strategy. For instance, if many donors say that they are interested in the stewardship events you host, you may consider adding a couple more to your calendar.
4. Practice Effective Communication
The more information you have about your donors, the better you can personalize the messages you use to communicate with them.
This rule of thumb is true for every step of the communication process. From writing fundraising letters to talking in person, you want to make sure you approach the message in a way that will catch the attention of your audience.
We’ll dive in a little deeper to three of the most common methods of communication: direct mail, email messages, and face-to-face conversation. Knowing how this communication ties into your fundraising techniques can help you make the best use of each messaging channel.
Did you know that over 50 percent of donors prefer to donate online with a credit or debit card? Use your emails to link your donors to your giving page where they can use their credit cards.
Some general best practices to remember while drafting emails include:
Include a button linking your donor to your giving page. This will bring them directly to the place where they can make a donation.
Don’t slack with your subject line. This is what convinces people to open the email, so put some thought into what will be most effective.
Personalize the emails. Don’t use a generalized introduction like “to whom it may concern.” Use your donor’s name to address them.
Emails, from regular newsletters to specific fundraising requests, are a handy tool because they are delivered directly to the inbox of your donor. Chances are, the donors who prefer to give through online channels also check their email frequently, which makes email a great marketing tool.
While it sometimes seems like donating online is the end-all, be-all of modern fundraising, direct mail isn’t out of style just yet!
Therefore, you need to be sure you also put some effort into your direct mail fundraising letters. Consider starting with a fundraising letter template, then customizing it depending on your needs.
Your letter may include an envelope for those who want to donate immediately; however, you should also include information to invite conversation. You may say something like “please send us your feedback” and provide an address with office hours, an email address, and a phone number for them to contact.
While many gifts are given through online or direct mail techniques, many of your largest donations are given after a face-to-face conversation. You should conduct extensive research before entering into one of these important conversations.
Be sure you frame the conversation around something that will interest the donor. Major and planned donations tend to focus on the impact or legacy a person can leave with your organization.
In addition to framing your conversation correctly, be sure that you also prepare for the conversation by taking specific notes about your donor. Conduct prospect research to determine an exact amount to ask for and a rationale behind that amount. Specificity is the key to face-to-face conversation.
5. Explore Matching Gifts Opportunities
One revenue source that is often forgotten by nonprofit organizations is corporate philanthropy. Many companies offer to match the donations made by their employees to qualifying nonprofit organizations.
In fact, according to the matching gift statistics by Double the Donation, 65 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer these types of programs. Between 4 to 10 billion dollars go unclaimed each year because employees are unaware of their eligibility for these types of programs.
Be sure your organization prioritizes telling your donors about the potential for their gifts to be matched by their employers.
You can share this vital information with your donors through a few different channels:
Include a matching gift database on your fundraising page.
Discuss matching gifts in your regular newsletter.
Create a social media matching gifts campaign with informative posts.
Tell your existing donors as well as your new donors about this opportunity. Some 84 percent of donors say that they’re more likely to donate if a match is offered. Therefore, informing existing donors can boost retention.
Matched gifts are a great way to boost your fundraising without ever asking for an additional penny from donors.
Ramping up your donations doesn’t have to mean recruiting more and more donors through cold outreach. Instead, you can boost your donations by solidifying an effective donor retention strategy.
Now that you’ve done your research, go out and use your tech to its fullest extent to retain your donors and, ultimately, ramp up those donations!
Jay Love is co-founder and chief relationship officer at Bloomerang. A 30-plus years veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman.