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Showing posts from 2014

Survey says...

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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,…

Planned Giving FAQs - Part Two

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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 a…

Planned Giving Programs FAQs - Part One

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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 p…

Asking Volunteers for More than Time

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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…

Cultivating Monthly Sustainers

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Key objectives of cultivation are to increase donor retention and maximize donor lifetime value. A monthly sustainer program not only accomplishes both of those goals but also lowers your cost of fundraising - netting more revenue for your mission.


Becoming a monthly sustainer is also more convenient for both the donor and your organization. A regular donor fills out a remit slip every time a donation is made, which then has to be processed and entered by your staff. A monthly sustainer fills out a one-time remit slip with either credit card or electronic bank transfer (EBT) information, and the donation is processed automatically each month. Your organization also saves money by removing monthly donors from certain mailings (but not
all
of them).

You never stop communicating with your monthly donors. You still need to steward your sustainers; otherwise, they will just feel like an automatic transaction every month. Newsletters, quarterly/annual reports, event invites, VIP tours and s…

Give Your Website a Facelift: 7 Ways to Digitally Renovate

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In today's world, the fastest way to get information is to simply go online. Type your organization's name in a search engine, and within milliseconds, you have a list of results, including a link to your website.

Your website serves as a first impression, an educational resource, an engagement tool and a donation method. Keeping your site updated and user-friendly should be a digital priority, especially if you're driving people to your website.

Here are 7 ways to renovate your organization's website:

1. Pull the "donate" button out of hiding
Potential donors don't want to work to make a donation, so they shouldn't have to hunt for your "donate" button. A "donate" button should always be positioned on your homepage before the fold - scrolling to find the button is a no-no. This doesn't mean throw the button smack-dab in the middle of the screen, but it should appear toward the top of the homepage.

The button itself should cont…

4 Steps to Better New Donor Retention

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Congratulations - you've got new donors! Now what? You've made it past the first major hurdle of securing the first gift, but what about the second gift? Currently, the national median first-year retention rate is 27.3% - so roughly three out of every four new donors won't make it to year two.

This is a disheartening stat for any organization, especially when you've invested valuable time and money into acquiring these new donors. But rest assured - there are easily implemented strategies that will help you retain more new donors and get that crucial second gift. Acquire better donors
It's simple - if you want to improve your first-year retention rate, start by bringing in higher quality donors. These are the folks who are not only more likely to make a second gift, but will also pay back their cost of acquisition faster. Yes, it is important to have revenue now, but bringing in a ton of donors at low giving levels (think under $25) doesn't help long-term value …

Donor-Centric Fundraising

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Dear Supporter,
Here at Anycity Nonprofit Organization, we're pretty awesome. We achieved a lot this year, but we still have more work to do. We need your $50 donation, so we can continue helping our community. Sincerely,
CEO at Anycity Nonprofit Organization
Would you make a donation to Anycity Nonprofit Organization? Who would really ask their donors (or potential donors) for a gift this way, right? But, unfortunately, a lot of nonprofits approach their supporters and prospects this way, focusing on the organization instead of its constituents. This is a bit of an extreme example, but nonetheless, illustrates organization-focused fundraising instead of donor-centric.
So, what exactly is donor-centric fundraising? Basically, it's focusing on the wants and needs of your donors, not your organization. Donor-centric fundraising is finding that sweet spot of balance between relationships and results. 101fundraising said it best: it's not relationships vs.results, it's about r…

5 tips for donor acknowledgments

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Saying "thank you" is a habit that has been ingrained in all of us since we were children - probably as soon as we started talking. So why do some nonprofits still struggle with telling their donors "thank you?"

Maybe it's lack of a plan or person dedicated to doing acknowledgments, or falling into the trap of sending the same letter to every donor, or waiting too long to actually mail the letter. If your acknowledgment program is struggling to stay afloat or could use some help, here are five tips to improve your thank-yous:

1. Acknowledge donors By far, the number one, most important, necessary part of your acknowledgment program is acknowledging your donors. Did I mention how crucial this is? The current national retention rate is barely 50%, and donors are giving to fewer nonprofits. You cannot afford to slack on your retention strategies, including thanking every donor. If you don't bother to acknowledge a donor's gift, why would they continue to g…

Testing, Testing 1-2-3

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"If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep getting what you've always gotten."
Do you keep emailing the same subject line to supporters expecting a higher open rate? Do you mail a donor the same ask array every time expecting a higher average gift? Do you make the same social media post expecting a higher engagement? Test driving different strategies against a current approach can help you discover new ways to boost static or declining results.
So, what can you test? Direct mail packages
Multiple pieces on a direct mail package can be tested – the outer envelope, copy, photos, colors, call to action, ask arrays, letter length, type of package and premiums are just a handful of testable items. Email campaigns
Just like direct mail packages, multiple items on an email campaign can be tested, including subject line, send time/day, "from" name, donation landing page, copy, photos, length and the location of buttons and links. Segmentation
Segment d…

Creating a newsletter that works

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For many organizations, newsletters are a dreaded part of their mail program - and for good reason. Even though they only go out a few times a year, they can take a significant amount of planning, time and work. And, unless you're creating a newsletter that actually works, they're a drain on your resources (at best, breaking even).
But have no fear! Creating a newsletter that works isn't difficult - in fact, we have some super tips on how to compose a newsletter that not only is a vital component of your stewardship program but is ALSO a fundraising tool.
Set it up for success Consistently time your newsletters - three times throughout the year - and always include a personalized remit device and return envelope. Perhaps a donor is moved by a story in your newsletter and feels compelled to give a gift - make it easy for them to do so. If you aren't already including them, these two pieces alone will lift your response rate.
Don't forget to ask Just because your newslet…

Spring is here - and so are the benchmark reports

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Believe it or not, one of the first signs of Spring is all of the benchmark reports popping up like daisies. It's around this time of year we start to see a flurry of studies compiling nonprofit results from the prior calendar year. These numbers tell us the direction of nonprofit fundraising, areas on the incline (and decline) and what's on the horizon.

Most recently, Target Analytics, a subset of Blackbaud, released their 2013 Q4 donorCentrics™ Index of Direct Marketing Fundraising. This study compiles data from 76 nonprofit organizations representing 77 million gifts and $2.4 billion in revenue. Overall, it's a great comprehensive study of year-over-year changes if you want to see how your organization stacks up to overall and sector benchmarks. 

And you can download the full report right here.

But in the meantime, here are a few key findings from this year's study:
> Number of donors dropped another 2% from 2012
Thisdownward trend has been going on for several years…

Which numbers matter?

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So, your typical email open rates are at 12% and click throughs are at 1.5%... that's all fine and good, but numbers don't mean much to us in a vacuum. What we all want to know is where do we stand in comparison to other organizations our size or other nonprofits in our same sector. At what point should we really be alarmed by our unsubscribe rates?

Have no fear - the 2014 M+R Benchmark Study is here! Now in its eighth year, the Benchmark Study compiles data from 53 nonprofits to set the industry standards for online fundraising, advocacy and list building.

>> Download the study here - for free!

Here are our top 5 takeaways from the study this year: Online giving is up 14% - and more of that revenue is from monthly giving. Monthly giving revenue grew 25% in 2013 and accounted for 16% of total online giving.Churn (attrition) rates dropped 14% - which is good - but the reason is likely because open rates also declined. You can't unsubscribe from an email you don't op…

5 Ways to Cultivate Major Donors

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Cultivating major donors takes a whole different set of tools and strategies. From the appeals you send, to your follow-ups and ongoing stewardship, cultivating and retaining a major donor takes a more personal and distinctive approach combined with time and patience. Here are 5 ways you can cultivate major donors:

1. Segment, Segment, Segment
A great major donor program works to not only retain current donors but consistently grow their major donor group by identifying and appealing to prospects. The good news is your donor base can provide you with a solid list of potential major donors who already have a connection to your organization. Using data overlay, you can identify active donors who have the financial ability to give at a higher level, and include this list on your next major donor mailing.

2. Put a Shiny Bow on Your Appeal
OK, maybe not a bow, but your major donor appeals should be something a little more special. Handwritten appeals from your executive director or board ch…