You really must! Because the world in which we fundraise is changing rapidly.
Keeping up is challenging.
Yet that’s not a good reason to pretend that time has stopped. I’m not suggesting you neglect the tried-and-true fundamentals, of course (direct mail, telephone, events, face-to-face).
You need them! And they still work. But you’ve got to leverage them with today’s tools, within the context of today’s marketplace.
This is your time. This is our time. But, these times are different and what comes next is difficult to grasp. How people communicate. How people learn and share. How people make decisions. Everything is different now. Think about this…you’re reading this article because it was sent to you via email. Yet more people spend their online time in social networks than they do in email…Technologies such as social, mobile, virtual, augmented, et al compel us adapt our story and value proposition and extend our reach to be part of communities we don’t realize exist.
The people who will keep you in business or running tomorrow are the very people you’re not reaching today. Before you continue to read on, allow me to clarify my point of view. My inspiration for writing this is to help you augment, not necessarily replace, the programs you’re running today. We must still reach those whom matter to us in the ways they prefer to be engaged. .
— Brian Solis, The End of Business as Usual
People use the internet more and more as a primary source for information. They use smartphones more and more to access this information.
It’s hard to stand out, because there’s so much competition.
Not just from other nonprofits, but from everyone.
Attention is a scarce commodity.
THE GOOD NEWS
Pre-digital ‘bigger’ ruled. Those with more money could grab attention more easily. They paid to “rent” or “buy” your attention. Print ads. Media buys.
Today, the likelihood those “purchase” dollars will pay off is less.
The world is big, and the options for grabbing attention share are seemingly endless.
But there are other, less expensive ways to acquire attention.
The best way is to build your brand and authority online. Social media. Referrals. Organic search. Your own website.
You win through trust and loyalty, rather than big money.
THE BAD NEWS
People will fight you. Your board. Your E.D. Your finance or marketing staff.
They like doing things the way they’ve always been done.
They don’t want to give up sacred cows. Direct mail. Gala events. Hard copy newsletters.
But… digital is here to stay.
More and more folks are accessing information online. They’re making purchases online. They’re communicating with their networks online.
People are online.
Your job is to lead your nonprofit, slowly but surely, to the places where there’s more money to be raised.
Your nonprofit must be where your people are.
4 Steps to Running a Successful Online Nonprofit Fundraising Campaign
1. Make a plan and set SMART goals.
People won’t give to your organization just because you’re a ‘good guy’ and it’s ‘the right thing to do.’ Today, there are too many good guys. And “goodness” is too vague an approach.
Donors today demand specificity.
Give them real data. Give them authentic stories. Tell them what things cost, and what their giving will directly accomplish.
Before sending any appeal, always ask: “Why should someone invest in this?” “What’s in it for them?” Then follow the ‘SMART’ paradigm to craft your appeal:
- SPECIFIC: How much do you need? How many folks will this help? How much do you want me to give?
- MEASURE: How many donors do you need? At what levels? How many P2P fundraisers do you need to reach your goal?
- ATTAINABLE GOAL: Seems realistic; within your organization’s and donor’s reach.
- RELEVANT: Perceived as necessary and meaningful by the donor.
- TIME-BASED: The campaign will run X days. Deadline is Y. This builds momentum and creates urgency.
2. Craft a clear, compelling appeal that resonates and stands out.
Remember to view the world through a transformational, not transactional, lens. Help your reader enter into the experience of being part of your mission. This is not a one-shot deal (hopefully). This is an appeal that will draw someone in… show them how they fit into your story… communicate with them how they can become directly involved… and then report back to them about the amazing impact they made possible.
It’s not a single appeal and single gift. It’s an ongoing tale, in which your donor becomes an active participant.
Appeal to the heart over the head.
Continue your storytelling across multiple channels, and ask for donor feedback and engagement as you go along. In fact, think of it as collaborative storytelling. Everyone adds a little piece to the thread, and keeps the story evolving and growing.
Build a personal, human relationship in everything you do.
3. Promote through multiple channels.
In a post-digital revolution world, promotion is challenging. But if you don’t intentionally promote your content, a lot of folks will never see it. And that’s a waste of your efforts.
Remember: Your job as a fundraiser is not just to bring in short-term dollars, but to bring in inspired, long-term loyalists. To do that requires creativity and out-of-the-old-box thinking. So… think! How might you best spread your message farther and wider?
Influencers really matter in today’s landscape!
So… consider how you might best activate your influential supporters. Rally them to advocate on your behalf with:
- Emotional stories that resonate with their values and passions
- Clearly spelled out impact
- Urgent need and deadline
- Specific ask – amount and purpose
- Consistency of messages across multiple channels
OPTIMAL ONLINE PROMOTION METHODS:
1. Email: Elements for Success
– Target your audience. Begin with where you core supporters have come from in the past. Can you find more folks like them? Can your current supporters reach out to their networks? Also think about your core stories. Who would be interested in/care about those stories? People give for multiple reasons but, mostly, because they care (about supporting their friends… enacting their values… furthering the cause… fulfilling a moral or religious obligation… giving back… and so forth).
– Subject line (short, under 50 characters) and “from” line. Avoid capital letters. Consider posing a question. Personalize if you can. Your subject and “from” lines are to your email like the envelope and return address is to your direct mail.
– Content: Emotion evoking text and images
– Single, clear call to action. Easy to take.
2. Social Media: Tap into supporters’ networks.
The best platforms for you to be on are the ones where your ideal donors engage. Do they share short, sweet messages on Twitter? Are they a business crowd that shares on LinkedIn with their peers? Do they share photos on Facebook or Instagram? Find out, and experiment. Share stories they may want to share with their family, friends and colleagues.
3. Peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising: Leverage the power of your influencers
Relationships matter. 85% of donors report they prefer to be asked by friends than strangers (Mason Academic Research System). We are naturally inclined to trust recommendations from friends over advertising and promotional promises from businesses, organizations or nonprofits.
Leverage matters. When you empower your advocates to fundraise on your behalf you benefit in three ways: (1) You’ll raise new dollars. (2) You’ll raise more from existing supporters. (3) You’ll add new fundraisers.
4. Social advertising
Consider Google nonprofit ad grants. This is a big missed opportunity for most nonprofits, so it’s really something to explore. Did you know you’re leaving up to $10,000/month in free in-kind advertising on the table? Check out the pros and cons here.
The biggest con is there’s a high learning curve. Were I still working in the trenches, I would hire someone on retainer to help me take advantage. I’d then track the results to determine whether it made sense to continue.
Did you know you could partner with businesses and/or influencers to get your message out? When I worked at the San Francisco Food Bank, we partnered with both food bloggers and Mommy bloggers to share our posts and tweets. We also partnered with business sponsors, who sometimes were willing to send our communications out to their network through their own email server (this is called a ‘chaperoned’ email). Our messages resonated with their values, and made them look good. Who are your natural partners?
4. Consider purchasing software to facilitate online fundraising
This is where the rubber meets the road. You now know what to do, but how are you going to actually do it?
Way too many nonprofits suffer from a technology gap that’s creating a chasm between today’s donor and the organizations they’d like to support. It’s keeping you stuck.
One way to get unstuck is to bite the bullet. Get some expert help! There are numerous excellent tools you can buy. Determine what functions you need most (I highly recommend adding P2P functionality).See here and here for reviews of different options.
Why not pay the experts, who do this type of work every day, so you can spend your limited resources on the things that play to your personal strengths?
Be sure to read reviews, ask for a demo and ask for references so you can talk to folks who are actually using the platform that interests you. They’re an expense, but well worth it IMHO.
With the right resources, you can then easily set up campaigns, DIY fundraising pages your supporters can use to create their own campaigns, thermometers, personalized content (design, images and copy), dashboards, donation forms, connections to payment processing, follow-up emails and blog posts, polls and surveys, interface with your donor database, interface with social media, and more. These tools make it easy to rally folks to get involved, and then keep in touch so they stay involved.
You know what they say: It costs money to make money.
Stop trying so hard to do what you don’t know how to do and hate doing!
Get the help you need. Systemize. Streamline. Brand consistently.
In the long run, your investment will pay off.
- Be human. Personal. Inspiring. Rallying. Activating. Passionate.Interested. Everyone involved should really put themselves out there, sharing their passions, learning about their supporters’ passions, and then asking others to act on their shared values and passions.
- Tell stories worth sharing. Design your communications so they’re clear, resonate with the target audience and are easy to share.
- Empower action on your cause’s behalf. People want to do something. Tell them what to do and how to do it. Make their lives easier, and more meaningful.
- Keep building personal relationships. When people know you, they’re more likely to help you. Get out there and try to meet personally with top donors and key influencers. If you work at an organization with broad geographic reach, consider “meeting” folks via Skype. It helps to put a face to a name.
- Embrace technology. You can’t avoid it forever. Keep learning. Purchase the tools you need to stay current and keep pace with today’s rapidly changing realities. It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish to do anything else.
Even though it is the end of business as usual, it is the beginning of a new age of opportunity. The consumer revolution is already underway, and the question is: How do you better understand the role you play in this production as a connected or social consumer as well as business professional?
— Brian Solis
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net