3 Ridiculously Easy Strategies to Boost Fundraising by 27%

3 people with marching orders 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!

That’s right!

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: 

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Fundraising Do’s vs. Don’ts: Monthly Donor Appeal Strategy

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logoHere comes my occasional “Do’s vs. Don’ts” feature, where I share with you something arriving in my mailbox that seems a good ‘teaching opportunity.’

Today we’re going to review a monthly donor campaign strategy.

It arrived as an email. There’s (1) a subject line, (2) the email itself, and (3) what happens if/when you click through and are transported to the donation landing page.

We’ll take a look at the various elements; then assess what works/doesn’t work.

I’ll ask you some questions.

  1. Would you open this email?
  2. If yes, why?
  3. If no, why?
  4. What looks good about the email?
  5. What looks not so good about the email?
  6. Would it inspire you to click through?
  7. If yes, why?
  8. If no, why not?
  9. Once you click through, would you be inspired to take action?
  10. If yes, why?
  11. If no, why not?

First, I’d like you to think about your answers and jot them down.

Second, I’ll tell you what I think.

Third, if you disagree with me please let me know in the comments below.

Really take the time to notice what you like and don’t like.

I promise you’ll learn a LOT more this way. We learn best by doing.

Seriously, I mean it.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Subject Headline

Claire, here’s a simple way to do your part to repair the world.

This may help: Take three minutes and jot down your answers to the first three questions on a piece of paper or your screen. I want to know if what was in the subject headline would have caused you to open the email or hit ‘delete.’

Okay.  Ready to learn what I think thus far, and also see what else we’re working with?

Let’s begin!

Does this Email Say “Open Me?”

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How to Keep Nonprofit Employees Longer with Flexibility

Flexible workerIn my last article I talked about providing employees with praise, recognition and meaningful feedback in order to retain staff and build the type of job satisfaction and longevity that creates a sustainable nonprofit.

For nonprofit fundraisers, the “Great Resignation” was happening long before the pandemic. In fact, per Penelope Burk at Cygnus Applied Research, the average amount of time a fundraiser stays at his or her job is just 16 months.

“Oh, well” you say?  “No big deal” you say?

Need I remind you fundraising is a relationship-building business? Relationships happen people-to-people, not people-to-institution.

All that work I’m constantly exhorting you to do to personally nurture, reward and develop bonds with your constituents as you support them on their donor journey matters.

You can’t afford the typical nonprofit staff turnover, and you need to do whatever it takes to make working for you a positive experience.

Lose a Fundraiser; Risk Losing a Donor Relationship

Fundraiser turnover results in the ongoing work of reporting back, asking for feedback and offering praise getting abridged or abandoned altogether. Trust me, this is a genuine real world concern. I work with countless nonprofits, and staff turnover leads to downgraded and lapsed gifts. You may think this won’t happen to you, but it will. When a donor doesn’t get the meaning they need, they drift away to other causes offering them a better return on their engagement. Don’t blame the donors; it’s just human nature to want to feel connected to other human beings.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking you can’t afford to keep your fundraiser by providing a better salary and other benefits, such as additional vacation time. Penelope Burk surveyed 1,700 fundraisers and 8,000 nonprofit chief executives, and found it would cost just $46,650 to keep a good fundraiser happy.

The direct and indirect costs of finding a replacement are $127,650. Hmmn… being pennywise and pound-foolish is not what I would call working smart.

Employee retention costs a fraction of employee recruitment, training and on-the-job learning. So seriously consider what you can do to work a lot smarter by treating your employees like the true treasure they are. As noted in my last article, a decent salary matters. I’m all for offering living wages! But many more things than money are motivators.

It’s time for a closer look at how flexibility in the workplace will help you shine.

Retain More Nonprofit Employees by Being Flexible

A recent guest essay in the New York Times,

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Key Strategies to Praise, Recognize and Give Meaningful Work Feedback

Awesome/Less Awesome Sandwich BoardI confess this is something I struggled with in my 30 years as a manager.

I had a boss who excelled at pinpointing weaknesses, and I learned a lot from her. [Plus, my mother was pretty good at this too – but we don’t have all day here.]

Ironically, this same boss told me ad infinitum (whenever I wanted to give someone a raise), that money didn’t really motivate people. All sorts of other things mattered more, including work environment.

At the time, I didn’t really believe this. I was constantly advocating for well-deserved raises because I thought it was the best gift I had to offer. And, by golly, it seemed like the right and fair thing to do! She told me resources were limited, and the satisfaction from a raise is fleeting, compared with things like greater authority, autonomy, praise and recognition.

You know what? She was right about what is most meaningful to employees in a workplace.

Because as much as the people who worked for me enjoyed a good raise, they complained a lot more about lack of advancement opportunity, responsibility without authority, a top-down infrastructure, lack of job fit, unrealistically high expectations, shortage of support and an overall stressful work environment.

If money is really bad, of course, it will get in the way.  However, it’s worth noting money is only fourth among the top five reasons people cite for leaving a job. In fact, the preponderance of research into the value of money as a motivator notes it is a motivator up to a certain point; once folks reach that level, more money has a negligible impact on their satisfaction.

[Background: I was fortunate during my career not to work at places where folks were expected to buy into the “starvation cycle” mentality and live below minimum wage. Where I worked, people generally were fairly and well-compensated. Sure, they’d likely tell you they wanted more money.  But this was not the reason they left.]

“In a nutshell: money does not buy engagement.”

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, author, Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (and How to Fix It)

Employee engagement is a product of overall work environment (culture) and specific management support (feedback, praise and recognition).

Begin with an Engaging Work Environment

A huge part of what employees will describe as “work environment” has to do with meaningful engagement, or lack thereof. And there are two ways to promote this engagement:

  1. Develop a broad, organizational culture of philanthropy [See here, here, here and here.]
  2. Develop a feedback system incorporating authentic praise, recognition and focus on strengths, not weaknesses.

I talk a lot about the former. Today I’d like to hone in on the latter.

Because… for engagement to stick, the two types must go hand-in-hand.

In fact, research reveals

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Don’t Be Tone Deaf on Ukraine

It’s tone deaf to fail to even acknowledge that which is top of mind for you constituents.

At any point in time.

For the last couple of years it was Covid. All the time.

At various points it was also a range of issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion, justice, law and order, or the lack thereof, individual rights and freedoms and, of course climate, including hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and droughts.

Right now it’s helping Ukraine and its people.

Whenever people are suffering, for whatever reason, it has a huge impact on the human psyche.

And when it’s in the news, that suffering and impact is hugely amplified.

People want to stop the pain.

If you can help people do that, they will be grateful to you.

How Can You Help People Now?

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And, the envelope please…

When asked what my favorite carrier envelope is for a fundraising appeal, my standard answer is:

One that screams “open me!”

Of course, there are a variety of reasons an envelope may beg to be opened.

And an equal number of reasons why it may scream “dump me in the trash.”

Today I want to help you avoid the trash bin.

And, good news – it’s not that difficult.

You don’t need to be a direct mail expert.

You don’t need to run a zillion A/B tests.

You just need to exercise some good old-fashioned common sense.

First, think about what gets you to open an envelope.

I’d love for you to do some brainstorming now – before you read further.

In fact, if you want to do something really helpful, stop reading this article, convene a few colleagues, and do a little group brainstorming. Ideally, get your answers up on a whiteboard or other group memory so you can piggyback off of each other’s ideas. [Go do this now; come back to this article later.]

If you’re not prepared to play along (I get it, you’re busy), here’s a sample I’m sharing from a brainstorm I did with another nonprofit:

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Are You Accountable? Or do You Suffer from Akrasia?

I’ve long advocated for incorporating accountability into nonprofit job descriptions if you hope to get, and measure, results. Without accountability, tasks have a serious likelihood of slipping to the back burner; then off the stove entirely.

Procrastination is just a human trait. 

We tell ourselves we’ll clean out the garage this weekend.  But no one makes us do it.  So the weekend comes and goes without anything happening.

We make a new year’s resolution to exercise more. We even join a gym. We attend a couple of times, but no one is tracking our progress on the elliptical machine. We fall back into our previous habits and, before we know it, we’ve stopped going.

We plan to get out of the office and visit a donor at least three times a week, but no one really pays attention to our schedule – after all, we’re grown-up professionals! – and it’s easy to get distracted by emails, meetings, and a host of other tasks.

I could go on with a zillion examples. You probably can too. Why?  Because human beings are wired this way. We get distracted. We procrastinate. We give in to habits that may not serve us well. And we’ve been doing it for centuries.  It even has a Greek name: Akrasia.

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How to Stop Leaving Money on the Table

Money on TableMoney left on the table is one of my pet peeves. It’s really beyond a peeve.

I can’t stand it when organizations could be serving more people, or doing so more effectively, but they don’t because they’re too smug (“what we’re doing now works just fine, and don’t try to tell me otherwise”) … self-reportedly “too stressed” … or simply not open to the idea of trying out some new strategies.

This “resting on one’s laurels” modus operandi leads to status quo organizations that fail to evolve to meet the moment. They get stuck in the past and, too often, begin to wither and die. Or they become what I call a “boutique charity” appealing to a niche group of insiders, content with the status quo.

That’s “nice,” but if you’re dedicated to solving pressing societal problems, meeting insistent human needs, and creating transformational personal and societal change, you’ll need to connect with donors on a more direct, visceral level.

How to Stop Leaving Money on Your Table

Your best donors have linkage, interest and ability (LIA). Begin with those already linked to you by virtue of having made a previous donation, been a loyal volunteer, served on your staff or board, or been a repeat purchase of services or products. In other words, they’re hiding in plain sight in your database.

Consider how you might learn more about these folks to better connect with them and make the best use of limited resources. You can do this in one of two ways:

  1. Donor Analytics: Find out how wealthy they are (ability)
  2. Supporter Connection Survey: Find out what they care about most (interest)

It’s funny, but too many nonprofits start with the former and often completely ignore the latter. It’s a way to go (and I confess I’ve been there), but is it the best way? I no longer think so – which is why I’m writing this article.

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