I’m excited to share three easy tips with you, and the results are measurable. Do these things and you’ll be able to tell if they impact your bottom line!
I was inspired to share these ideas with you based on a 2019 study by NextAfter and Kindful looking at how organizations are cultivating donors via email. They found plenty of data-driven ideas that can improve donor retention and boost online fundraising revenue — by as much as 27%!
Think about how much an increase like that could mean for your organization!
“Make way…” for these ridiculously easy, revenue-boosting strategies!
If you raised $100,000 last year, you could raise $127,000 – or more – this year.
And that’s without having to apply for a new grant, hold a new fundraising event or even ask for a new major gift or two to reap these rewards.
All you must do is simply pay a little more attention to your follow-through communication with donors.
Did you know most of the top reasons donors give for not renewing their giving have to do with how you do/don’t communicate with them after they make a donation?– or fail to personally, meaningfully and promptly communicate.
Meaningful, regular donor communication can hugely impact your bottom line.
To make a demonstrable difference in donor behavior, however, your communication strategy must tick more than one box. It must be prompt, personal and relevant to what your donor cares about and how they want to hear from you. Don’t just guess what your donors might like from you. Ask them! In fact, surveys, social media queries, online quizzes, solicitations for comments and feedback are all wonderful ways to communicate digitally in a manner that personally engages your supporters.
Never forget: The best fundraising is personal.
So… what are you waiting for?
Here are three strategies revealed by the research:
1. Send More Cultivation Emails
Chances are good you aren’t sending enough email. Especially email that doesn’t ask for money.
Please, try to think from your donor’s perspective.
If every email is an ask, pretty soon donors will stop opening them.
Step into your donor’s shoes and try to figure out what they might want.
Consider this scenario: They make a gift to your organization. Then, crickets. Maybe they get one thank you, but then hear nothing more until you ask you for another gift. How might that make them feel?
Think about this carefully.
What do you wish other organizations had sent you after you made a gift?
People are different, but generally one or more of the following are true:
- When people make a philanthropic investment, they want to know the return on that investment.
- When people reach out to make a connection, they want you to reach back.
- When people enact a personal value, they want reassurance you share that value and appreciate their support.
- When people do something that makes them feel good, they want to continue to feel good.
- When people make a gift for a specific project or outcome, they want to receive feedback on that project outcome.
EXPERIMENT: Organization was sending appeals 2X as often as cultivation emails. They continued normal email rate with “control” group and sent an additional cultivation email weekly to the “treatment” group. After three months, results were clear.
RESULT: One cultivation email per week led to a 21% increase in revenue, and increased lapsed donor revenue by 14%.
1. Design cultivation emails to give your donor something of value, often intangible, that will cause them to engage with your organization on a deeper level. This might be:
- A moving story that causes them to connect empathetically with someone they’ve helped.
- A big, gushy thank you that helps them see themselves in the mirror as the person they’d like to be.
- A report on impact that helps them see themselves as a consequential actor.
- An invitation to do something meaningful beyond giving money (e.g., sign a petition; attend a free event; complete a survey; volunteer).
- A ‘how to’ list or video that relates to your cause (e.g. “10 ways to keep seniors safe,’ “6 ways to save the environment,” “5 movies about justice.”)
2. Send cultivation emails more often. I like monthly, at least. Some organizations send weekly emails. When I worked at the San Francisco Food Bank we did a ‘Facebook Friday’ post that showcased a funny, oddly-shaped vegetable (perhaps sporting a mustache or wearing a hat) that had arrived in the warehouse that week. Cultivation emails may include e-newsletters and blog posts, but be sure to include lots of gratitude, emotional stories and human touch so your donor feels personally recognized, moved and inspired.
2. Don’t Ask Donors to Do Too Much at Once
This relates to a concept known as ‘analysis paralysis’.’ Give people too many choices, and they may opt to do nothing. It’s just too overwhelming. Or, perhaps they’ll do something, but won’t opt for your priority action.
Do you send emails that give folks more than one choice of things to do?
Commit to stop doing this.
It’s better for every email communication to have one clear purpose than to try to make your email cover all bases simultaneously.
EXPERIMENT: Organization was sending weekly cultivation emails including links to multiple pieces of content (e.g., articles; podcasts; donation request, etc.). They continued with multiple links to the “control” group and sent emails with a single link to the “treatment” group. After three months, results were clear.
RESULT: One link per email led to a 27% increase in donations over the period.
Split your list into two segments, A and B, and include just one link at a time to one group. Evaluate your responses over a period of time that makes sense for you. Do your overall donations increase when you send a donation-only link email? If so, keep doing this — despite what your well-meaning program staff and/or board might prefer. Your job is to use whatever tools are at your disposal to bring in as many resources as possible to further the organization’s mission.
3. Thank all Donors and Welcome New Donors within the First 48 Hours
I’m a fanatic about this one.
In an era where Amazon can ship to you overnight, people expect immediate gratification. The fact you’re a nonprofit doesn’t exempt you.
A prompt ‘thank you’ kick-starts your rapport with your donor by establishing trust – the foundation of any lasting relationship.
It turns out this is the period donors are most likely to open your emails as well!
If you wait too long, donors will not only think you’re rude or inefficient, they’ll be disinclined to pay any further attention to you at all. You’ll have missed your opportunity by making a poor first impression.
By the way, donors who’ve recently made a gift to you are also those most likely to give again.
Keeping communications close in time matters in all your donor interactions.
Commit to sending prompt, personal thank you’s and welcome packages if you want to start off your relationship on the right foot.
CASE REVIEW: NextAfter reviewed their own series of welcome emails. What they found was emails sent within the first two days of someone subscribing had a whopping 49.8% open rate (that’s more than double the average).
BAD NEWS: They subscribed to 199 organizations’ email lists. 48% of nonprofits sent nothing in the first two days, not even a confirmation email.
1. Respond to people who take any action to connect with you within two days.
2. Send a personal thank you to donors within 48 hours.
3. Do not send via “do not reply.” If donors want to connect with you, it should be easy for them to do so. As Nathan Hill of NextAfter says: “I believe that the essence of email marketing is all about personal communication and building real relationships – even at scale. That’s why if I you ever reply to a “marketing” email that I send, I’m going to see it and send you a personal reply back.”
4. Send a welcome kit to new donors. These folks don’t know you well yet. This is your opportunity to share a bit more about the things giving makes possible, while also reassuring new supporters they’ve found a warm, welcoming community of like-minded folks. Include a variety of things beyond a thank you note (e.g., opportunities for volunteering;, invitations to free events; notes from folks who’ve been helped; photographs; a survey, and even a token gift like a sticker – more ideas here). Mail them in a brightly colored and/or oversize envelope that proclaims “Welcome!”
You’ve Got Your Marching Orders!
You’ve still got to march those thank you’s and cultivation emails out the door; no loafing on the sofa for you!
As my favorite management guru, Peter Drucker, famously wrote: “The best plan is only good intention unless it degenerates into work.”
It’s work, but demonstrably effective work that will yield measurable results.
Nothing happens absent (1) a plan and (2) commitment to execute on that plan.
Don’t despair! These strategies are relatively easy – and particularly fruitful — compared to some of the alternatives you and/or your boss may be considering.
Plan. Execute. Reap rewards.
I promise, you’ll be glad you did.
Want to Focus even More Cost-Effectively on Donor Retention and Upgrades?
Grab the Donor Retention and Gratitude Playbook! Did you know it takes 7 – 12% more time, money and effort to recruit a new donor than to raise more from an existing one?
I invite you to join me for an easy, step-by-step, six-volume journey where you’ll learn how to make a great first impression — and then a terrific second, third and fourth impression — by thanking, praising and engaging with your donors in a manner that makes them want to stay loyal to you.
Time and again people tell me these guides have become their “Fundraising Bible” — a resource they go back to over and over. Rest assured, if you’re not satisfied for any reason, all Clairification products come with a no-questions-asked, 30-day, 100% refund guarantee. What do you have to lose?
Image courtesy of Sharon Ang from Pixabay
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