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6 Traits of Relationship-Building Nonprofits + 4 Most Effective Ways to Retain Donors

Donor retention has continued to plummet every year for the past seven years.  It’s really, truly an awful problem. For some unknown reason, all that hard work you put into acquiring new donors is, seemingly, being wasted. Why?

I recently asked folks what ONE word they would use to sum up what is needed to transform donor loyalty. I received some interesting answers and thought I’d share them with you, along with my comments, here. First, let me remind you of my own Big Secret — the one principle I’ve found that makes the greatest difference to long-term, sustainable fundraising success:

2 Smart Strategies to Build Donor Relationships on LinkedIn

In How to Use LinkedIn to Give Donors a Reason to Connect with You we looked at ways to make folks want to learn more about you. Today we’re going to look at how you can bond with folks and make them receptive to becoming more involved and invested with your cause.

What I like about these strategies is they’re relatively easy and won’t consume a lot of your time. And the payoff should be big.

LinkedIn is a veritable treasure trove of opportunity that goes largely overlooked by most nonprofits. And that’s a shame!  In addition to being super useful for finding new prospects, researching existing donors and building your brand identity, thought leadership and credibility, it’s a virtual way to build relationships with folks when you can’t get up close and personal.

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Show Me You Know Me* — 5 Strategies To Sustain Donor Relationships

Let’s pretend you and your donor are not connecting meaningfully right now. You’re not sure why. Could it be they feel financially insecure…  they’re worried for their kids… they’ve been let down by politicians… they’re just feeling cynical and/or hopeless? For whatever reason, things aren’t singing between you and them. They haven’t renewed. They haven’t upgraded. They haven’t responded to any of your outreach. They seem to have other priorities.

So, you decide to go to counseling to reinvigorate the relationship. The therapist makes a wise observation: Sometimes in life, one partner feels strong; the other less strong. In such times, the stronger partner has resources to support the weaker partner. Other times, neither partner feels they have coping resources. During these times, we have to depend more on ourselves, be patient, and accept that our partner is not currently in a strong position – even though we really need their support.

Are you being a support for your donor? Are you helping, not selling all the time? Are you being patient, yet persistently showing you care?

We’re in turbulent times. Studies show giving to be sluggish. Donors are less loyal. Maybe they’re distracted by emergencies. Or so-called rage giving. Or simply uncertainty about what lies ahead. So they’re giving less consistently. As a result, donor centered fundraising has never been as important as it is now.

People are feeling a need to be nurtured. In other words: Ask not what your donors can do for you, but what you can do for your donors. Recognize they don’t serve you; you serve them. They don’t owe you; you owe them.  Your job is to help them experience the joy of giving. It is through you they will achieve their most meaningful work.

Embrace the true meaning of philanthropy as love of humankind.  Remember your donors are humankind; you must love them if you want to be a part of philanthropy.  Otherwise, you’re just transacting business.

So… what can you do to embrace the love and thereby keep your donors close?

Forget about Building Nonprofit Loyalty. Deliver Meaning.

If you haven’t cottoned onto the fact that all marketing – nonprofit included – has vastly changed since the digital revolution, perhaps this incident will wake you up.

And I’m hoping it will persuade you to stop thinking so much about “engagement best practices” – all the social media tools and online strategies you read about every time you turn around, and where you’re directly competing with every business on the planet, instagramming friends, and whatnot – and begin to focus on an area where nonprofits have an unfair advantage.

Deliver meaning.

That’s what folks don’t have enough of.

That’s what folks crave.

And that’s what explains Nike’s recent daring move to put forward a polarizing marketing campaign featuring the face of American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick,

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4 Nonprofit Strategies to Build Donor Trust & Lasting Relationships

Trust is the foundation of all lasting relationships.

If you don’t build trust, or if somehow you manage to destroy it, you’re going to lose your donor.

Sadly, this happens more often than not.  By now you’re likely familiar with the stats on donor retention from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project.  Only 23% of first-time donors renew. Only 46% of all donors, new plus ongoing, renew.

If you want to improve on these retention rates (and you definitely can!), I’m going to suggest you develop a plan to build trust.

Trust is built not simply by what you say, but by what you do.  Not just once, but consistently over time.

Important News about Relationship Fundraising: Stop Losing Donors

This is important.

It’s about a new report that may change how you do fundraising.

It should.

Let me explain.

Unless you’ve been asleep at the wheel, by now you should know that most nonprofits have been hemorrhaging donors.

By tending to focus more on expensive, staff-intensive acquisition strategies like direct mail and special events, charities are bringing in one-time donors who never give to them again.

Clairity Click-it: Build Relationships; Online Content; Social Media

This week is all about building relationships using online media – with tips from some of my favorite nonprofit and for profit fundraising, marketing and social media gurus.

With donor retention rates hovering around 30 – 40% — yes, that means you’re LOSING 7 out of 10 new donors and 6 out of 10 repeat donors – it’s more important than ever to use every tool at your disposal to truly engage with your constituents.  The majority of them are online, either a lot or a little.  So read these articles and put your best foot forward!

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Personal is the New Plastics: 4 Ways Nonprofits Can Build Donor Relationships.

This month’s SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you):

Remember in ‘The Graduate’ the one word piece of advice given to Dustin Hoffman?  PLASTICS. That was seen to be the wave of the future (oh how long ago that seems, and how quickly something can turn from friend to foe…. but I digress).

Recently I gave another “P” word as my best piece of advice for nonprofit marketers and fundraisers. PERSONAL. I received a lot of feedback, so I’d like to revisit this word and flesh out its multiple meanings – and how getting personal can help you achieve your fundraising and marketing goals.

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Show Me That You Know Me — 5 Things You Must Do To Sustain Donor Relationships

My recent post about showing your donors you know them* through personalization struck a big chord.  Folks have asked for more tips on the subject of building and sustaining meaningful, loyal relationships, so I’ve taken the liberty of sharing this article originally published in The Bridge. The 5 tips are towards the bottom, so scroll down if you’re impatient. Okay…

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Brand Spanking New: The changing meaning of ‘mark’ in marketing, ‘relationship’ in CRM and ‘social’ in branding and business

Branding used to connote something done with a hot iron to mark ownership of a steer.  If there was a relationship quality to this it was only in the fact of being an owner of the thing possessed. It was certainly not about building a relationship, or any important social bonds, with your livestock. In…

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Nonprofit Fundraising: Do You Know Semantics Matter?

Rose inside book. Pages shaped like heart.What’s in a name?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” said Shakespeare.

But, would it?

Seth Godin thinks words matter. As do I.

“That’s just semantics”

Just?

The meaning of the word is the reason we used the word.

If we don’t agree about the meaning of the word, we haven’t communicated.

Instead of, “that’s just semantics,” it seems more productive to say, “I’m confident we have a semantics problem.”

Because that’s all of it.

The way we process words changes the way we act. The story we tell ourselves has an emotional foundation, but those emotions are triggered by the words we use.

Not just.

Especially.

— Seth Godin

What do you call the folks who respond to your fundraising appeals?

Are they donors?

Maybe that’s okay. Or perhaps

4 Keys to Raise Money in Today’s Social Nonprofit Fundraising Environment

keys 4 Pixabay-791641_640Wondering where fundraising is heading in our highly networked, overly saturated, noisy-as-all-get-out post-digital revolution world?

It’s a bit of a jungle out there, with so much competition for attention — for-profits, other nonprofits, political campaigns, friends, family.

It’s a wonderful time to seize the opportunity to put in place a system that values multiple voices.

Truly, if you’re able to really show people how much you value them, you’re going to rise to the top of the heap.

Of course, sometimes it’s easier said than done.

Today we’ll explore 4 keys to raising money in our socially-revolutionized zeitgeist.

Bad News/Good News:

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The Giant Mid-Level Fundraising Opportunity Your Nonprofit’s Missing

Nonprofits pay a lot of attention to donor acquisition. Then?

They largely ignore these donors, unless…

They become worthy of attention by virtue of being ‘major’ donors. Then?

Nonprofits pay a lot of attention to major donor relationship building.

But between new donor acquisition and major donor cultivation, solicitation and stewardship, what happens?

Usually not enough.

This is a BIG missed opportunity.

You’ve likely got great donor prospects hiding inside your own donor base, and you’re essentially treating them like, well, poop.

What if you were to begin to look at your mid-level donors as the transformational fundraising opportunity they are?

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How to Choose the Most Effective Fundraising ‘Ask’ Words

Words matter.

You know this when it comes to your personal life (surely you can hear your Mama’s voice in your ear). You certainly know this when it comes to political correctness (surely you know the words to avoid, at all costs). You even know this when it comes to your professional life (surely you take pains to avoid certain acronyms and jargon).

Well… guess what?

Words matter when it comes to fundraising too!

When asking people for a charitable gift, choose your words with care.

Which Fundraising Ask Word Works Best?

Here are some common ‘ask’ words:

  • Give
  • Donate
  • Contribute
  • Provide
  • Invest
  • Pitch in
  • Chip in
  • Participate
  • Join
  • Bestow
  • Bequeath
  • Leave a legacy

I have strong favorites, as you may be able to infer from the words I’ve boldfaced.

Let me tell you why.

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How to Transform Reluctant Fundraisers into Ready Fundraisers

How do you help those who are afraid of fundraising to become comfortable in what should be a mission-aligned role for everyone associated with your nonprofit organization?

After all, everyone benefits from increased philanthropy.  Not just development staff.

Increasingly, successful nonprofits are adopting cultures of philanthropy where everyone involved – administrative staff, program staff, board members, committee members, direct service volunteers and even beneficiaries – comes together as ambassadors, advocates and askers on behalf of furthering the organization’s mission, enacting its values and fulfilling its vision.

Facilitating philanthropy is not rocket science, yet folks unaccustomed to the relationship cultivation and solicitation required to land major donations are fearful because they don’t know how to do it. It’s the job of a nonprofit’s leadership to work with your insiders (staff and volunteers) to help them feel both passionate about the cause and confident in the fundraising process.

Still, there are barriers to be overcome; first and foremost is fundraising fear.  This fear takes many forms, and is perhaps best expressed in some of the questions I frequently receive.  So I’m endeavoring to answer a few of these questions below.  Hopefully this will help you address these challenges within your own organization so you, too, can transform folks from fearful and reluctant to joyful and ready fundraisers.

Clairity Click-it: Bounty of Free Nonprofit Resources for Year-End

Friday is Veteran’s Day in the U.S., so let’s give gratitude to all those who served and serve so that others will have better lives.

That counts you in too (Big time IMHO) – so here are links to articles you may find helpful whether you’re a veteran fundraiser/nonprofit marketer or a newbie. I’m emphasizing strategies to help you with this critical year-end time of year, when folks do their most significant giving.

Plus, as usual, you’ll find plenty of free resources – downloadable templates, webinars, cheat sheets, and more.

Thanks for doing the important work that you do. It gives me great comfort in these turbulent times to know you are there. Helping. Listening. Opening yourself to understanding. Holding people accountable. Restoring faith. Extending kindness. Kicking butt when you have to. Being the very best you can be, and the best of what humankind has to offer.

The Meaning of Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – Part 2

In Part 1 I laid out why philanthropy inspires, and fundraising tires.

Fundraising must be done, of course, but there’s something about how it’s been practiced in the past that turns too many people off.  It’s been connoted as being all about money, when really it’s all about valued outcomes.

These valued outcomes are shared by many who support the cause – donors and non-donors.  Employees and volunteers. Development departments and program departments. Major gifts staff and annual giving staff. All these folks have a collective stake in the nonprofit’s survival.

#ClairityClick-it – Links, Free Resources, Upcoming Training

Mixed #nonprofit links and free resources#ClairityClick-it is a bi-monthly publication linking to useful resources and insights I find across the web.  This year I’m also selecting articles that highlight the “Dive the Five” 2016 fundraising fundamentals we’re collectively digging into in depth over the course of this year. For more on this, read Want to Guarantee Fundraising Success? Dive These 5 Fundamentals on NonProfit Pro. Of course, I’ll add in other food for thought that I just can’t help but share with you as I come across it. As always, if you scroll to the bottom you’ll find some free resources and upcoming learning opportunities.

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Quick Guide to Get Your Nonprofit “Crowd On”

quick_guide_to_get_your_nonprofit_crowd_onI’ve been thinking a lot about crowdfunding lately.

Bzz… bzz… buzz… buzz… Do you hear it?

It’s the sound of the times. It’s the bees flying around crowdfunding campaigns like honey. Sweet, golden honey.

Are you getting yours?

With the mainstream shift into digital communication, and the advance of technology through online donation and peer-to-peer fundraising platforms, crowdfunding is something I believe you should seriously consider if you’re not already getting your “crowd” on.

Especially if you have…

  • A big campaign going on.
  • Or a specific project that lends itself well to the telling of a compelling story.
  • Or you need to raise a lot of funds in a relatively short time period.
  • Or there’s a strong tie to some big event – anniversary; holiday; news story.
  • Or your current constituents are more inclined towards being ambassadors than asking or giving.
  • Or you’re having a hard time breaking out of the “box” of folks you think might be interested in your cause, and are looking to build your audience in new ways.

So I’ve put together a few resources, and some of my own thoughts, to help you think things through.

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7 Storytelling Tips to Inspire Nonprofit Donors to Act

Listen up: Have I got a story for you!
Listen up: Have I got a story for you!

As a fundraising professional, relationship building with donors is an ongoing process and communication is an important part of that process. Stories are a great communications tool that you can use to tell donors about their impact in a tangible and easy to understand manner.

Storytelling seems to be everywhere these days. Non-profits are actively trying to use stories to engage their current and new donors. Is your non-profit trying to tap into the power of stories? Perhaps it’s been a positive experience for your organization. But maybe you have faced some challenges.

One of the biggest challenges with storytelling is being able to tell a great story. A story that really stands out from the pack and resonates with your donor audience. A story that, ultimately, compels action.

Today I want to share with you 7 rules for telling a better non-profit story.

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Why are Good Nonprofit Fundraisers Hard to Keep? RESPECT

Can't get no...
I can’t get no…

Fundraisers report that money is the number one reason they leave their jobs [See Part I of this two-part series here]. While I do believe too many fundraisers are underpaid relative to their skill sets and performance, I’ve a hunch it’s not the real chief culprit for fundraiser dissatisfaction. What is?

Guess what? The reason is very similar to why donors leave you. If you read through this article, you’ll learn both (1) how to keep more fundraisers, and (2) how to satisfy, inspire and retain more donors.

Ready?

I gave you a hint in the title. Yup. It’s what Aretha Franklin famously sang about:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

It’s not just respect for fundraisers as individuals that’s lacking. It’s respect for their profession. For what it takes to succeed with development in a nonprofit organization. For what it means to be a part of a team — all working together towards the same goal — and why it’s impossible to succeed without a supportive infrastructure and culture.

And by the way, donors won’t thrive absent a supportive culture and infrastructure either. They’re looking to be a part of your community, your family, your way of life. If you won’t give them this warm, fuzzy, connected feeling — they’ll find someone else who will.

So what pre-conditions must be in place for fundraising staff, and donors, to want to stay?

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Whither the Nonprofit Sector in 2015? 6 Ways to Assure Yours Doesn’t Wither

I chose the word “w(h)ither” in my title very deliberately. It can mean “Where are you going?” It can also mean “Dying on the vine.” Which does it mean for you and your nonprofit?

If the former, where are you going? You’ll find some “To Do’s” in this article to help you on your way towards a sustainable future. If the latter, how can your prevent this from happening? You’ll find some “don’ts” to help you breathe life into your organization.

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Just Puppy Love? 4 Ways Nothing Beats It When it Comes to Donors

Do you know why your dog is not only your best friend, but your exuberantly best friend – a Best Friend Forever on steroids?

Can anything be as joyous and lovingly loyal as a dog? Picture Snoopy doing the ‘Ode to Joy’ dance. Unbridled ecstasy. Happy, happy, happy. What makes Snoopy Charlie Brown’s BFF? My guess is that it’s the same thing that makes your pooch pop with pleasure as you poke yourself across the threshold at the end of the day.

Chances are 9 out of 10 that your doggie is your BFF because you are hers. You treat your pet like royalty. How are you treating your donors?

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Why Your Nonprofit’s Events are a Waste of Time

Fun events may bring in hundreds of attendees, but a fundraising event is not an end in and of itself.  Often the charity never sees these folks again (or at least not until the next event) because these folks are golfers or ‘thoners, not donors. These events are a waste of your precious resources.

Don’t tell me that you “raised awareness.”

Unless you raised awareness towards a particular end (usually generating greater philanthropic support) – and you have a plan to intentionally build on this awareness — then everything your attendees may have learned about you will go in one ear and out the other. Awareness that isn’t reinforced lasts about two seconds.

Don’t tell me that you “raised good money.”

Did you really? Well, think again.

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9 Key Nonprofit Communications Tools to Woo Donors: Part 2

In Part 1 we covered 5 steps to woo your donors with a communications strategy. Today we’ll look more closely at 9 key communications tools you can use effectively to build closer relationships with your supporters. Some are extraordinarily simple. It’s just that many nonprofits fail to use these tools consistently, or well. If you make a practice of doing so, you’ll be well ahead of the game.

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Are Your Treating Your Donors Like Gumballs?

Gumball Machine cartoon Hugh MacLeod
Do you get your donor’s gift, chew it up, then spit it out? Done?

Want your donors to sustain you? Then you can’t consume them in five minutes. Yet all too often nonprofits treat their donors exactly like a gumball dispensed from a machine. Chew it up. Spit it out. Done.

Oh, yeah… maybe you send a quick thanks to whoever gave you the change to buy the gum.  But that’s as far as your gratitude takes you. You’re over it. You never even think about that gumball again. You probably can’t even remember what color it was. You’re off hunting down your next snack.

Little snacks are nice.  But they won’t sustain you over time.  One-time donations are the same way.  And they’ll stay that way – one time – if you treat them the way you treat your gumballs.

Weekly Clairity Click-it: Leadership, Staff Retention, Social Business, Funding, Inspiration, Pinterest, Email Welcomes

This week’s Clairity Click-it – your eclectic array of easy to-“click-it” links to posts I’ve found thought provoking. With, of course, a few comments of my own.

Leadership:

Click-it: To Move Ahead You Have to Know What to Leave Behind. I love this article from the Harvard Business Review. It points to the number one reason organizations have difficulty with change:

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How to Take Charge of Your Fundraising Events so they Don't Take Charge of You: Is Your's Worth the Effort?

Before you hold your next fundraising event, ask yourself one simple question: WHY?

Take a minute, right now, to jot down all the things you’d like to happen by virtue of you having held your event.

I’ll wait.

Seriously, do it. Jot.

I’m waiting.

Okay, there are a few of you who don’t yet have pencils and paper in front of you. Yes, I can see you.  Remember ‘Miss Nancy’ from Romper Room? [I know; I’m dating myself on this one].

Now, let me guess what you’re writing (and/or thinking).

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5 Secrets of Psychologists: How to Get Donors to Say “Yes”

In 1984 Robert Cialdini wrote a groundbreaking book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, outlining principles of influence that affect human behaviors.

These principles are well documented, and can be incredibly useful to fundraisers.

Even someone inclined to support your cause may not give unless you push the right buttons.

A new infographic visually makes the point that, while technology advances, human triggers remain constant.

Here are five triggers — with a few suggested strategies (I’m sure you can come up with more) —  to use these principles in your offline and online relationship building with prospective supporters:

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How to Take Charge of Your Fundraising Events so they’re Worth the Effort: Converting Attendees into Ongoing Donors

Before you hold your next fundraising event, ask yourself one simple question: WHY?

Take a minute, right now, to jot down all the things you’d like to happen by virtue of you having held your event.

I’ll wait.

Seriously, do it. Jot.

I’m waiting.

Okay, there are a few of you who don’t yet have pencils and paper in front of you. Yes, I can see you.  Remember ‘Miss Nancy’ from Romper Room? [I know; I’m dating myself on this one].

Now, let me guess what you’re writing (and/or thinking).

I am grateful

How to Cultivate Awe, Gratitude and Altruism to Boost Nonprofit Fundraising

I’m a huge fan of the Greater Good Science Center at U.C. Berkeley, and often apply their research to nonprofit fundraising and marketing.  A recent article really struck me: How to Find Your Purpose in Life.

Over my 30 years of practice as an in-house development professional, the fundamental thing I learned is this:

You serve your donors every bit as much as they serve your organization’s mission.

Please allow that to sink in.

You have a mission. A purpose. Donors can help you get there.

Your donors are looking for purpose. You can help them find it.

It’s a symbiotic relationship.  And you have a role in fostering that relationship.  What is that role?

Your job is to facilitate your donor’s philanthropic journey. Their journey to discover their purpose.

So what’s this really all about?