Monday, March 16, 2015

Challenging Donors with Matching Gifts

One effective approach to inspire an upgraded gift is to offer a matching gift challenge from another donor. It's a proven strategy to raise money by simply offering your donors a way to make their donation go further. With a clear message in your appeal and a deadline for the match, you can build a sense of urgency for your donors. Securing a matching gift from a donor or corporate participant is a great way to increase your average gift, lift response rate, and increase your donor base.

Be sure to include all of your major players by incorporating grants or challenging your board to commit to a match. One way to target the largest and most effective donor base is to build your match package around a specific project or closing of your fiscal year, and by all means, integrate your campaign. Matching vouchers on the direct mail appeal encourage donors to return their check and double their gift.

A strong call to action and a sense of urgency with a deadline date will lift your response rates. Donor’s need to know their help is necessary to your cause. If you are able to secure a donor or group of donors for the match, using a recognizable name in the community can lift your average gift by as much as 22%.

Let’s take a look at two case studies.  Espanola Valley Humane Society had a group of specific donors who matched dollar for dollar every gift over a 30 day period.  For 2015, they have one donor who has pledged to match every dollar over a 30 day period!  Houston Humane Society gathered several board members and donors to present a fundraising challenge.

Espanola Valley Humane Society
Comparing the Spring 2013 Animal Kindness Campaign to the Spring 2014 1+1 Matching Campaign the increase was:

Houston Humane Society
Comparing the Fall 2013 Save Lives Campaign to the Fall 2014 1+1 Challenge Match Campaign the increase was:


Matching gift challenges can lead to beneficial long-term relationships with companies, but it can sometimes be tough to find that big name partner. A great place to start looking is with your board members. Ask your board about the businesses they serve and if they would be willing to contribute in the matching program. Your local Chamber of Commerce will give you a starting point for which people to talk to in the brand-name businesses.
By working in advance, applying to local foundations for a match is also a winner because of the name recognition. 
It is a good idea to collect Annual Reports from other nonprofit organizations in your area to see who and where they receive support for their agencies. 
Challenge packages are a perfect platform for full integration. We strive to increase overall giving with a “surround sound” approach to integration. Use of social media, email, posters, billboards, voice broadcast/telemarketing and newspaper inserts will communicate urgency and saturate your message for significantly increased revenue. The larger the audience your message reaches, the greater the increase in donors’ matching gifts and additional gifts nearer the deadline. Online and offline communications complement each other and the impact in every channel.

Every dollar counts and matching gifts can be an easy strategy to increase the average gift and lift response rates. Your organization has already done the hard work of collecting a strong donor base, so why not take advantage of an opportunity to expand your efforts and provide an impactful, meaningful way for your donors to invest?

Monday, March 2, 2015


In today’s complex marketing and fundraising world, building a robust integrated strategy is critical to your marketing campaign. Integrating your marketing strategy will make a huge difference in your overall fundraising and awareness levels. This strategy is a way to reach potential and current donors through different media channels with the same content and creative. Each time your target audience sees your campaign message, it reinforces your cause and goals.
A combination of Digital/Traditional Media/Direct Mail campaigns will increase:
  • Website Traffic and Online Donations
  • White Mail Gifts
  • Revenue through Increased Average Gift
  • Reactivation of Lapsed Donors
  • Exposure and Awareness
  • Donor Loyalty
  • Number of Donations from Current Donors
  • Your Multi-Channel Marketing Opportunities to Provide Overall Lift
Direct Media
Direct mail packages come in all shapes and sizes and can serve many different purposes. The direct mail packages sent to your donors should reflect whatever your mail objective is for the campaign and include a strong call to action. This direct mail component is the meat of your campaign and should generate the most response. Other campaign messages based on the same theme can include outdoor marketing - like billboards, voice broadcast messages, radio and television ads, newspaper free standing inserts (FSI’s) and advertising, vehicle wraps, etc.  

Digital Media
Your digital strategy should match the direct mail and overall campaign message and creative. Our digital package has exceeded our partner’s goals by as high as 18%. This package includes creative and copy options for three emails, webslide graphic, donation page creative and copy, social media kit creative and guidelines, deployment per email, Google banner ads, retargeting, and full campaign performance analysis. When combined with other direct marketing messages that are circulating to your donors, we have seen a 2-5% lift in response rates from website lightboxes and a 13% lift in response rates from banner ads.

Performance Analysis
When the campaign is finished, it is crucial to conduct a performance analysis. We put together a comprehensive report on how your digital and direct marketing campaign performed. We will analyze how your organization measures up to the benchmarks for other similar sized nonprofits in your sector; then build the strategy to integrate your digital and offline communications. This will create a solid foundation for multi-channel communication that lifts the overall response of your file.


Friday, February 13, 2015

Get Your Donors' Stamp of Approval

Even the smallest elements of a direct mail package can make a big difference to donors. When putting together a campaign, it is crucial to use the most effective language, colors, components, and pictures in order to grab the attention of the donor and increase your gift averages. But what about the type of stamp, or stamps, used for your package?

The best way to analyze which combination of components will work best is to perform a test package against the control that changes one component to see which package gets the best response. We recently performed a test with several clients on remit envelope stamps for $100+ donors and got some surprising results!

Animal Welfare Test Package Results
Each test group contained 1,498 pieces mailed out to $100+ donors, 0-24 months. This test package used three stamps versus the control package using one first class stamp on the reply envelope.

Control Group: Envelopes with one first class stamp received 106 gifts for a 7.1% response rate and an average gift of $171.27.

Test Group: Envelopes with three stamps totaling $0.49 received 128 gifts for an 8.5% response rate and an average gift of $171.48.

The three stamps won by 20%!

Food Bank Test Package Results
Each test group contained 1,498 packages mailed out to $100-$499 donors, 0-24 months. This test package used one first class stamp versus the control package without any postage on the reply envelope.

Control Group: 75% of packages mailed without a first class stamp on the reply envelope and received 288 gifts for a 7.7% response rate.

Test Group: 25% of packages mailed with a first class stamp on the reply envelope and received 181 gifts for a 16.3% response rate.

The remit with a first class stamp won by 111%!

It has long been a belief that if you spend less on postage donors will appreciate the organization saving money. However, these tests have proven that placing a first class stamp on reply envelopes will actually increase both the response rates and the average gift.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Survey says...

Do you know WHY a donor decided to give to your organization? Do you know WHAT your constituents want you to improve? Do you know anything about your supporters other than just the basics? If you want to know the answers, you need to ask. And with multiple channels available to survey your supporters, it's easier than ever to ask questions and collect responses.

But before you create that online survey or send a mail piece, it's best to begin at  the end. Before you even begin to craft the questions and set up the survey, think about how you will use the collected responses. Every question you ask should have a use designed to help you better communicate with the responder or help you improve your organization.

How you format your questions is up to you. Multiple choice options allow you to easily group answers together and find the most popular response(s). Open-ended questions allow the responder to answer in their own words and provide options you may have overlooked. And, some questions such as "Why is our mission important to you?" will elicit a different response from each donor.

How can you collect this data? Your website is one of the most cost-effective options. As people join the email list, use the sign-up to gather extra information. Keep the sign-up form brief - if it's too long or asks too many prying questions, it may be abandoned. But a simple question, "How did you hear about us?" can gauge the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

Mailing a survey or including a survey in your mail pieces is another way to reach out to your donors, ask questions and collect responses. Include a survey in your welcome package as a way to learn more about your new supporter and what compelled them to make their initial gift.

Send your current donors a survey, asking why your organization's mission is important to them and what (if anything) your organization could improve upon. The responses you collect will guide how you communicate with your current donors and how to motivate more prospects to become supporters.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Planned Giving FAQs - Part Two

In part one of our Planned Giving FAQs, we answered why you should establish a planned giving program, who your prospects are for the program and what gift options are available. Now in part two, we address questions about implementing your planned giving program and helping it thrive.

How do we start a planned giving program?
First and foremost, you need to determine if a planned giving program will have long-term support, regardless of initial profitability. You need to have the support of your board and key staff, and your development team needs to have the capacity to take on planned giving.

Once the consensus is made to launch a program, there will need to be some internal planning and training of key staff and your board. Determine program policies, basic goals and objectives and program budget. Create a legacy society for planned giving donors to serve as a cultivation tool and to identify additional prospects.

After you've established the framework for your program, begin analyzing your database and identifying planned giving prospects. This is where data overlay can help you discover valuable missing information such as donor age. Then, draft a cultivation plan for these identified prospects and begin reaching out.

What is the best way to market our planned giving program?
Start by adding planned giving language to current communications:
  • Add a lead generation line to your direct mail remit slips that any donor can simply mark to receive more information about planned giving.
  • In your newsletters, add a space asking donors to remember your organization in their will or estate, and include planned giving stories and articles.
  • List legacy society members in your annual report and on your website, and consider special recognition for this group at events.
  • Create an area on your website dedicated just to your planned giving program.
Take advantage of any time you can offer supporters the opportunity to request more information about planned giving. Informational letters and brochures can be used to respond quickly and efficiently to these inquiries.

Postcards, mail packages and newsletters focused specifically on planned giving are great ways to reach out to your prospects, educate them about your program, give them the opportunity to request more information and notify you if they have already included you in their will or estate.

Just like any donor gift, you need to make a strong ask for a planned gift. Educating prospects about planned giving and your program is the best place to start, but don't forget to actually make a strong, clear ask for the gift. And, with only 22% of people over the age of 30 saying they have been asked for a planned gift, that leaves a lot of potential future dollars sitting on the table.

Show them the impact their planned gift will have on your organization and community, and they will want to leave a legacy for future generations.

How long will it take for our planned giving program to generate revenue?
As previously mentioned, your planned giving program requires long-term support and commitment from your organization because it takes time and dedication for the program the mature. Initial profitability (or lack thereof) should not be the make or break factor in the early stages of your program.

Your planned giving program is focused on building relationships and becoming part of the "family" when final or long-term financial plans are being discussed. This means making a case for how your organization will use planned gifts to advance your mission and benefit the future community and inspiring donors to take action. Plan on committing time to personally following up with and cultivating interested supporters.

Review your program, at least once a year, with your board and staff, and identify areas for improvement. Evaluate your short- and long-term goals and objectives, budget and marketing. Identify what's worked for you as well as the challenges you've faced and ways you can overcome them in the future.

If you start putting in the time and commitment now, you will build a strong, mature planned giving program that will continue to benefit and sustain your organization well into the future.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Planned Giving Programs FAQs - Part One

Why establish a planned giving program?
Planned giving programs focus on the long-term sustainment of your organization. Gifts made through planned giving are typically the largest gift a donor will make, and almost everyone has the ability to make a planned gift.

Even though most gifts are deferred for several years, they will provide substantial future support if you put the effort in now. Planned giving programs allow your most loyal supporters the ability to leave a legacy and support the future of your community and mission.

Who are our planned giving prospects?
When identifying your prospects, look to your loyal donors, not just your major donors. As mentioned, almost everyone has the ability to make a planned gift, so looking only at wealth indicators to identify prospects will hinder you from growing a strong, healthy program.

Instead, look at the supporters who have been loyal to your organization. Monthly and multi-year givers (even long-term volunteers) are a good pool of prospects. These are the supporters who are truly passionate about your mission and care about the future of your organization.

Along with falling into the wealth indicator trap, don't exclude potential prospects based on age. If you target only your older donors (above retirement age), your program won't reach its potential. Expand your program prospects to supporters 30+, and create different messages for different age groups.

For the younger prospects, focus first on educating them about planned giving and the different options. The average age of someone making their first planned gift is 40-50 years old, so educating and asking for planned gifts from supporters has to start before they hit retirement. Once your organization has been named in someone's estate or will, it is highly unlikely you will ever be removed.

What other planned gift options exist besides bequests/wills?
Hands down, bequests are the most common type of planned gift - about 85% of your gifts will be
bequests. But there are many other planned giving options:
  • Life insurance
  • Retirement funds
  • Stock
  • Gifts of real estate or personal property
  • Charitable gift annuitiies
Even though bequests can be very simple, it is important to educate your prospects and their professional advisors about other available options, so they can choose the vehicle that provides the best overall benefit to your organization and to them. Financial and emotional needs differ from donor to donor, so a bequest may not be the best fit for everyone.

Stay tuned for part two and the answers to starting a planned giving program, the best way to market your program and how long it will take for your planned giving program to generate revenue.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Asking Volunteers for More than Time

Your volunteers do everything from cleaning, to sorting donations, to fielding incoming phone calls, and everything in between. In fact, they are some of the most committed supporters of your organization - they're giving you free labor! So, why aren't you asking your volunteers to give more than just their time?

The most common response is the fear of offending a key stakeholder - "They're already giving their time; asking for money as well is asking too much." The problem is you're skipping over arguably the most loyal constituents of your organization. They've already proven they believe in your mission and want to help you. Volunteers already know about your organization, believe in your work, give their time to help your nonprofit thrive .... and you aren't asking them for a gift?

Now, I'm not saying to ask a volunteer for a gift the first time they set their foot in the door. But, at the very least, you should be offering information to your volunteers about how they can give more if they feel compelled. If your volunteers truly understand your mission and believe in your organization, they won't be offended by your asking of a donation. Worst-case scenario is a volunteer passes on making a donation, but it's highly unlikely you're going to have a mass volunteer walkout because you asked for a monetary gift.

Here are some ways you can go about making the ask:
  • Volunteer acknowledgments
    These folks are a special group, and they deserve special treatment. Just like donors, volunteers should receive acknowledgments. Whether it's an award, a dinner or banquet just for volunteers or thank-you notes, they should be shown they are appreciated, and their service should be recognized. If you have a volunteer acknowledgment program up and running, then you are in a great starting position to make an ask.
  • Volunteer newsletters
    If you mail a volunteer newsletter, consider including a remit slip and reply envelope. Or, if you send an e-newsletter, include a link to donate online. If you don't currently have a volunteer newsletter, think about starting one, even if it's just a once or twice a year thing. Or add them to your mailing list for your regular newsletter.
  • Volunteer packets
    Create a volunteer packet that includes more information about your organization and the impact of volunteers, a call-to-action and a response device. Make these packets known and available for volunteers to take.

The key is to ask for a gift and provide a way for your volunteers to make a donation if they wish. It all circles back to the number one reason why someone doesn't give to an organization - they simply were never asked. You never know - you may have a major donor sitting (or sorting donations) right underneath your nose.