Surprisingly, as highlighted in More Money for More Good, a free nonprofit fundraising guidebook developed by Guidestar and Hope Consulting, only a third of individual donors do research before choosing nonprofits to donate to. Nevertheless, there is an opportunity for your organization to attract new supporters if you can follow these steps:
Communicate in solicitations, on website and through other outreach where your organization has received recognition by sites such as Philanthropedia and Charity Navigator.
Connect with prospective contributors by selecting specific segments to target (but don’t focus only on demographics – e.g. age, sex, income, which don’t play a meaningful role in donor motivation).
More Money for More Good is worth a read, containing many interesting observations about how donors choose charities to support. Start by making sure your website demonstrates the impact of your work – its still the first place that prospective givers visit.
If you’re like me, you probably donate to many of the same nonprofits each year. But how do you evaluate whether to continue supporting a particular charity, and when to give to a new organization? Here’s some of my criteria:
Which causes do you feel most passion for? For me, I believe strongly in promoting tolerance and fighting racism, so I support organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. I also like to help nonprofits that feed the hungry like Mazon and who provide services for seniors like Dorot.
Does an organization take the time to report back on how your donations have been used? Charity Water does this especially well with its video reports.
Are your communication preferences respected – and are you asked by what channel and how often you would prefer to be contacted? I make almost all of my contributions online, yet continue to receive frequent direct mails which I often ignore.
Does the organization keep its website current, as well as its social media channels to highlight its achievements?
Is the only time that you receive solicitations when the organization wants money, especially during the year-end fundraising season? Smart nonprofits keep in touch year-round and don’t always include an ask.
Does the organization have clear, consistent messaging in its online and offline communications?
Do you get asked for another donation shortly after you’ve sent your last contribution (when you usually give only once a year)?
Is your contact information current (and if not, is it easy for you to correct it?)
Does organization assume that you want to make a large donation even though most of your gifts have been in much smaller amounts?
What other tips would you ask for evaluating whether to continue supporting a charity – or to give to a new organization?
For an example of a wonderful nonprofit I’ve recently become familiar with through their consistently upbeat and informative communications, visit Mitzvah Circle.Foundation, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. They ‘support individuals and families through difficult times, collect and provide essential supplies to people living in poverty, and assist people who can’t find help elsewhere.’
eTapestry introduced their ‘software as a service’ product in 1999, long before many others realized the benefits of a web based interface. (eTapestry was acquired by Blackbaud in August 2007.) This week I had the opportunity to attend a session given by CEO Jay Love who offered some interesting insights.
Social media is on everyone’s radar lately; Jay described the value of monitoring comments about your company / brand and described a recent experience where eTapestry was able to respond quickly to a negative tweet by a customer. Read about the happy ending.
It’s often frustrating when our donors stop giving, but sometimes the problem is hidden when the number of new donors more than make up the difference. If we can find ways to re-engage lapsed donors, what a difference this can make in our list growth! Here’s some recent Guidestar tips on how to reduce donor attrition rates.
Two important questions to ask:
How do you welcome new subscribers? (Common Knowledge has also done considerable work on developing a welcome series of communications.)
How do you manage relationship after opt-in?
Jay described the importance of having a donor database what everyone uses to document constituent interactions, also detailing a personal experience where he is considering discontinuing support for a charity which ‘asked the same questions’ that he had already answered in a past meeting. In my experience, organizations that have a fully functional CRM often have difficulty getting staff to use it. In response to my question, Jay recommended that nonprofits demonstrate that those who are the biggest ‘note takers’ are the most successful in fundraising – and publicize this information to all staff.
Another point which may seem obvious but isn’t always applied – make sure you direct constituents to specific landing pages so you can track where they came from, not to your general home page.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year since it encourages us to stop and think about what is already wonderful about our life. No matter what is happening (or not happening) in your life, feeling grateful is probably the best way to bring more good things to you. I hope this weekend has given you an opportunity to focus on what is already good, not on what you don’t currently have. Everyone is blessed in different ways, although sometimes we are too ‘busy’ to recognize it.
Answr.net is an interesting new resource which offers best practices in nonprofit technology. The first ‘channel of focus is email outreach – read some questions submitted so far.
As a follow up to my previous post about going forward with online communication despite the financial meltdown, Robert Weiner offers links to several articles about how nonprofits can survive the economic downturn. Guidestar also has released a recent survey which offers comparisons between 2007 and 2008 giving levels.
Guidestarsummarizes recent Giving USA online fundraising survey:
while Internet giving is widely used, it still represents a small portion (under 5%) of overall fundraising
most common way organizations raise money over the web is through an online donation page
best results come from organizations that combine an online donation page with email appeals
Overall, social networking tools aren’t contributing much – yet, but an organization that utilizes online ‘communities’ is likely to improve results.
Care2′s FrogLoop blog interviews Phillip Artez, President ofArtezonhow to choose an eCRM. Phillip says that successful nonprofit fundraisers “aren’t afraid to share brand, content and promotion with their supporters” and reminds us that a large portion of funds will come from a small group of fundraisers so we should “treat them differently.” He mentions three areas where nonprofits should especially pay attention to: potential of social networking sites such as Facebook, donations originating from mobile devices and more organizations utilizing SalesForce (which has excellent connectivity to other systemsandprovides up to 10 free licenses to nonprofits).
Finally, the Nonprofit Times explains the importance of using multiple channels sincemany donors will visit the web before making a donation- even if it’s offline and, surprisingly, even more so for constituents 65 and older. PerDonordigital‘s Nick Allen, “more people are online, more people are doing research online, checking out charities they support or are thinking about supporting.” ButNPAdvisor‘s expert Rick Christ warns that “nonprofit’s Web site should try to support direct mail, but not replace it.”and that direct mail is still how many first hear about a nonprofit. Convio‘s Vinay Bhagat adds that while blogs and social networking are getting more attention, the core web site is still the main way constituents will evaluate a nonprofit.
Many contributors to the Nonprofit Times article, includingNten‘s Holly Ross stressed the importance of integrating the web site with email appeals.
How to make sure readers pay attention to enewsletters? Perhaps featuring articles with numbered lists helps; Guidestar’s recent enewsletter featured the ‘20 Biggest Fundraising Mistakes.’ Some highlights:
Thinking your organization will attract supporters because it’s a good cause. There aremanygood causes, and multiple nonprofits, some which promote a cause similar to your’s
Thinking that people will give even if not asked. When I participated in a pledge based event for my organization two years ago, I was a bit reluctant to ask my friends and family for help. When I got over my reluctance, I raised almost $1000 despite fundraising for only a few weeks before the event.
Thinking that wealthy people are more likely to give. Usually, “people make gifts, substantial gifts, that is, only after you’ve reached out, informed them of your work,andmeaningfully involved them in your organization.”
Interestingly, Guidestar only listed 10 mistakes, asking that you read the next enewsletter for the final 10. (another great technique to sustain interest). One tip I would add to the list:thinking that online fundraising is not worthwhile. More and more constituents are becoming comfortable with online givingandonline gifts are almost always higher than offline gifts. In addition, offering a way for constituents to give online doesn’t take a lot of money or resources. So why not take advantage?