Friday, September 23, 2016

Building A Stronger Brand

Over the next few months, your organization will be sending numerous appeals, posts, emails, and messages into the world. It is vital that what you send your supporters reflects your mission and brand. The one simple tip in this blog post: check your campaign message before publishing.
Define Your Brand

To successfully execute consistent brand messaging, you will need to have a clear idea of what your brand is. This includes logo specifications, colors, tagline, fonts, slogans, mission statement, etc. It also includes your voice, target audience, how you tell stories, the kind of pictures you use, your programs, motivation for making a difference, and more. Your brand is how the outside world perceives your organization.

Do Your Homework

Below is a comprehensive tool to plan your brand messaging. (click to enlarge) You can click HERE for a worksheet version to fill out your own information. This plan is easy to follow and can be posted around the office to make everyone aware of the organization’s brand and brand attributes. 

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
Your furry friend,


Monday, August 29, 2016

Your Donor Retention Adventure Begins Here

Do you remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books? When the reader comes to the end of a passage, they must make a decision. Do they enter the dark cave or take the road that runs through the forest? Each decision takes the reader through a different part of the story and results in an unforeseen result. Donor retention strategies require the same decision making and risk taking. 
The Cave or The Forest?

According to the 2016 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report, the new donor retention rate for last year was a dreadful 26.6%. In a recent Gallup survey involving over 17,000 donors nationwide, 47% gave money to three to five nonprofit groups and 15% gave to six or more. Moreover, over 80% of donors say that they need to believe in the organization’s mission, and over 60% want to know exactly how their gift will be used. So the question is, what is your current retention rate and which path are you going to choose to improve it?

Choose Wisely...

By now, you know how important it is to engage donors on a level that helps build a lasting relationship. However, before you sprint into the forest to retrieve back your lost donors, ask yourself these questions:
  • Does your brand align with your mission and are your services consistent with your message?
  • What elevates your organization’s brand, service, or promise above the rest? Is this niche truly unique, or can it apply to any nonprofit?
  • How do you follow through on your promises?
  • Are you effectively communicating successes or needs and through which channels?
  • Do these channels resonate with your donors?
  • Do your staff members believe in the mission and believe it will create a better future?
  • Are they able to communicate that confidence through email, social media, direct mail, and phone calls?
  • Are your fundraising strategies encouraging further involvement and offering other giving opportunities?

The Light at the End of the Cave (or Forest)

Decision time. Be prepared to make phone calls, invite people to volunteer, organize events, explore new marketing channels and strategies, offer meaningful information, and open the lines of communication between you and your supporters. You should do everything in your power to make sure that you are relevant to your donors, honor their requests, answer their questions, and connect with them in every way possible.

Review your website and printed marketing pieces. Update all outdated information and include a name, title, physical location address, phone number, and email address to make it easy for your supporters to get ahold of you and, more importantly, feel welcome. Talk to an RKD Alpha Dog Account Services team member about other ways to improve the two-way conversation with donors. The holiday season is looming close, and you will need to choose the path that leads to the greatest results.

“Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Your furry friend,


Monday, August 15, 2016

Planned Giving Pop Quiz! How Do You Score?

Planned Giving is all about relationship building and gaining trust with your donors. It is an integral part of your comprehensive fundraising strategy that cannot be overlooked. Take the short quiz below to get warmed up, then find out how well you are tapping into this fundraising strategy.
True or False?
  1. A recent study found that fewer than 9.5% of people who donate $500+ a year to a nonprofit had a charitable estate plan.
  2. Planned Giving can be referred to as deferred giving, legacy giving, and endowment building.
  3. One part of a successful planned giving program is learning what motivates donors.
  4. reported that total bequest giving in 2014 grew by 8%.
  5. For most U.S. charity organizations, 70-80% of planned giving dollars come from bequests.
How Did You Do?
Wondering how you did? If you answered “True” to all of the above, then you passed! Yes, all of the above statements are true. A study that tracked 20,000 Americans over 50 years old from 1995-2006 did in fact discover that only 9.5% of those who donated $500+ a year included a nonprofit organization in their will and estate plans. On top of that, there is a significant amount of money being transferred through generations, which is resulting in the growth of planned giving. Think of the untapped potential!
As for number two on the quiz, there are many names and terms out there for planned giving. You can find a great glossary of planned giving terms here: When trying to build a lasting relationship with donors it is important to connect their own motivation for giving with the needs of your organization. Consider why a donor thinks your organization is worth giving to and each gift impacts the community.
It’s All About Communication
A majority of legacy giving comes from bequests. It is important to know how to ask for a bequest and to direct your donors to a financial or legal professional for any technical questions. A good place to start after your planned giving direct mail piece has been delivered to a donor’s home is to pick up the phone and call. To help alleviate the potential awkwardness of a first phone call, it’s a good idea to create a list of conversation starters. These talking points should discuss the donor’s loyalty, their inspiration for giving, what they value, or any memorable experiences. A legacy giving program will take detailed planning but we promise that it will pay off with long-term stability for your organization.

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” – Alan Lakein 

Your furry friend,

Sources: |


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

3 Things Donors Secretly Ask Themselves

Do you wish you knew what your donors are thinking? What did they think when they opened your most recent direct mail piece or email campaign message? It is practically impossible to break down what a donor feels about every single touch point, but we have a few insights that are helpful.
Will I make a difference?
In today’s world, donors have access to an unlimited amount of information about all nonprofit organizations and causes. Do not settle with publishing a communication piece that only talks about YOUR organization, YOUR programs, and YOUR achievements. An appeal that uses storytelling, compelling photos, donor-centric copy, interesting statistics, and a strong call to action will get the best responses and yield the best results. Think of every email, direct mail piece, or newsletter as an opportunity to have a conversation with each donor to deepen the connection and communicate how they have made an impact on your mission.
Did I donate to the right cause?
Unfortunately, a few organizations were uncovered that have not used donor funds correctly or truthfully for programs. Regularly reporting your funding, program services, and the impact that each donor has made will reassure your supporters that they made the right decision. Transparency transforms into trust for donors. If a donor knows that giving $50 to your group will directly result in a particular action, you will be more likely to get additional gifts. One strategy to answer this question and cement the next gift is through an acknowledgment program. Sending a letter or email after a donation is received will tell your donor that their gift made a difference and is being used for a greater good.
Why me?
Have you ever received an email, telemarketing call, or a piece in the mail and thought, “Why am I getting this?” Your donors could be thinking the same thing. Many donors believe that a small gift can’t make an impact or that they are just one of many supporters and they won’t make a difference. This is where your call to action shines! A clear and concise ask will let your donor know what you need from them. The appeal should state what they can do to help and even explain why they are the perfect person to change a life. Each donor wants to feel important to your cause.

“Behind the need to communicate is the need to share. Behind the need to share is the need to be understood.” – Leo Rosten

Your furry friend,


Friday, July 22, 2016

Treading Water in the Trending Topic Pool

You might be familiar with a new mobile game that has individuals walking around town to collect imaginary creatures. You also might be thinking to yourself, “How can my organization take advantage of this craze?” There will undoubtedly always be a new app or trending topic that gets individuals excited, so it matters how or even if your organization should jump on board to increase donations and support in the community.
Do Your Research
Once a trend has shown up on your radar, your first instinct should be to research the trend thoroughly before diving in headfirst. You should be sure that the game, app, or movement aligns with your organization’s mission. It may be a good idea to hang back for the first few moments of the trend to let others take any risks that may arise. (We’ve all seen social media posts of people walking into walls or tripping while looking at their phones!) Your organization would not want to be liable for someone’s safety.
Think Outside the Craze
What is the primary objective of the movement? Is there a way you can creatively connect the trend to your cause? For example, can you sponsor in-app purchases to gain donations, set up a joint partnership with another organization, or encourage others to spread your message? This is the perfect time to tap into the creative minds at RKD Alpha Dog to see how our team can help you make the most of a trending topic.
Staying Afloat
Keeping updated with new developments is key to a trend. If you take too long to jump in the pool, it may be too late. People are fickle and will move on to a new fad just as quickly as they grabbed onto the last one. You need to know about new features or events happening with the current trend to get the most out of it. Our tip: when in doubt, wait for the next trend to come along. It is more important to be true to your mission.

“If you are true to yourself, you can never go wrong.” – Frank Iero

Your furry friend,


Thursday, July 7, 2016

7 Mind-Blowing Direct Mail Stats

Even with the increased need to integrate marketing campaigns and incorporate digital strategies, the foundation of your fundraising plan should be direct mail. This tried and true strategy should not be forgotten, in fact, it should be continuously monitored, tested, and improved to achieve even bigger and better results for your bottom line.

Stronger Responses
  • On average, direct mail appeals garner up to 37 times more responses than email
  • 80-90% of direct mail gets opened - compared to 20-30% of email (on a good day!)
  • 98% of people open their mail the day it is received 

Decision Making
  • 40% of people have responded to a direct mail piece in the last three months
  • 92% of millennials are influenced to make a decision because of direct mail
  • 48% of people hold on to important mail for future use and decision making

Testing Leads to Better Results

At the end of 2015, one of our hunger relief partners sent an appeal to major and mid-level donors to test the effectiveness of using a post-it note inside the card. The test appeal with a post-it note revealed some surprising results! The test package saw an increase of 13.9% for the total number of gifts; an increase of 13.0% in response rate; a 28.3% lift in average gift; and a tremendous 51.0% increase in net revenue!


“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure." – Colin Powell

Your furry friend,

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

CAUTION! Database Cleaning in Progress

You’ve heard it from us before. “Clean up your database now while the summer months are slow and you are planning for the holiday giving season!” Did you clean up your database last year? If not, when was the last time you cleaned up your list of donors? We’ll say it once more: bad data creates an inefficient process, mails to incorrect records, and can cost you a lot of time and money.

The Slippery-Floor
Database cleanup may not be the most fun part of your job. However, not spending the time or focus to fix issues can hinder your fundraising efforts. Your donors and supporters are your most valuable asset so to send them duplicate pieces of mail or incorrectly spell their name can cost you more than you think. Take into consideration your acquisition mailings throughout the year and how hard your organization works to recruit fantastic new donors to your cause. Now think about how easy it is for someone to stop donating just because they were not asked for a forwarding address or they received three pieces of the same appeal. How would you react?

The Best Defense
Prioritize, train, backup, and evaluate. Rank and segment your records by major donors, volunteers, monthly donors, and other key groups. This will let you update the most relevant information efficiently and in an organized manner. Train personnel to enter new donor information correctly. If donor data is input the same way every time, it will make cleaning up files next time that much easier. Backup your database. Technology is not always our friend so keeping an extra copy of records will save you a headache later. Evaluate your data and donor files. Pay attention to individuals who are moving, going through life changes, upgrading, or lapsing. Knowing movement within your file will help you effectively communicate!

The Resources Available
No matter what database platform your organization is using, there is training available! Most database websites have a section filled with upcoming webinars, quick resource references, or basic training videos to get you started. For more cleaning best practices, such as dedupe and NCOA changes, check out a great webinar we did last year here. We also published an informative article about cleaning your donor files, which you can read here.

“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The realist adjusts the sails.” – William A. Ward

Your furry friend,