Proven Strategies to Climb the Year-End Fundraising Mountain

Mountain climberHave you started working on your annual appeal and year-end fundraising plan?

It’s time!

I worked for 30 years in the trenches, so I know exactly what this time of year feels like.

It feels like you’re at the base of a mountain you’re about to scale.

  • Exciting, but also scary.
  • Exhilarating, yet also daunting.
  • There will be good days, and bad days.

And this particular year, you may feel you’re taking two steps forward and three steps back.

That’s to be expected during times of great uncertainty.

Expected or not, I know you’re still anxious and thinking “What if we don’t reach the top?”

Don’t worry, I’m here to help.

This year you may need the equivalent of a few extra granola bars for energy. And maybe an extra tool or two to help you get a grip.

Right now I want to give you a few specific, timely tips you might not be thinking about.

Here are some strategies I hope will give you a leg up, so to speak.

Ready to Put Your Best Foot Forwards?

Here are 11 tips I’ve learned over the years.

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text messaging women

How to Rock Nonprofit Text Messaging Appeals

text messaging womenText messaging is becoming an increasingly important fundraising tool. Why? One of the reasons is U.S. adults now spend 10.5 hours/day consuming media.  With all the competition for your donors’ attention, there’s a need to cut through the clutter.

Texting can do that! In fact, it offers a wonderful way to strengthen and build authentic relationships with your donors because it’s so intimate and immediate. Done well, it can create a potent way for people to connect with your cause.

The key is to choose the texting tools that will work best for you, given your resources and constituency, and to wield those tools with wisdom and responsibility. While I’m not recommending any particular products, much of what I’m reporting in this article I’ve learned from experts at Rally Corp and Qgiv. You can find additional platforms here; there are others as well.

Why text messaging is so powerful for fundraising

  • Over 90% of Americans own a smartphone. And they look at it at least 80 times/day, on average.
  • 98% of texts are read within the first five minutes – which is way better than the 20 – 30% open rates for emails.
  • 39% of people have more than 100 unread emails in their inbox, with 20% saying they have over 1,000
  • 10 – 15 minutes is the average adult attention span; short term it can be as short as 8 seconds.
  • 90% of texts get opened and read.
  • 45% of people reply to branded text message blasts; 5%x the average reply rate of emails. The most immediate information – where folks go if they really want to reach us – is found on smart phones.
  • Almost 40% of Americans use cell phones to pay at least one bill. So your constituents are already accustomed to processing financial transactions via mobile.
  • Studies suggest text messages generate average gifts of $112 per Rally Corp. Even major gifts are given this way today.
  • Adding a text to donate as a giving option resulted in a 32% increase in giving over a 12-month period per a study by PushPay.
  • A study by Qgiv learned 10% of donors, overall, prefer to give by phone. And it’s a higher percentage for certain demographics. While not as attractive to Boomers (who still represent the majority of giving), it’s true for more than 30% of GenX and Millennials.

Different styles of text fundraising

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Control Soup. Caution Soup. Street art.

These Fundraising Appeal Fallacies Will Cost You Money

Control Soup. Caution Soup. Street art.Ever have a well-meaning, yet perhaps overly controlling or risk-aversive, boss say to you:

  • Our fundraising letter must be no longer than one page.

  • That’s too simple; we don’t want to talk down to our donors.

  • We need to say more about our accomplishments.

  • We need to describe numbers of people served; that’s what’s impressive.

  • That’s not how I talk.

  • That’s not our corporate style.

  • That’s not how we do things.

  • That’s not what our donors are used to.

  • That’s not proper grammar.

  • That’s too gushy and effusive.

  • I want happy, not sad, photos.

  • Asking the reader to “please give generously” is sufficient; no need to name an amount.

  • Asking once is enough.

  • The development director should sign the letter.

  • Signatures from both the E.D. and board president will be more persuasive.

  • We don’t need a P.S.

Alas, these are common fundraising appeal fallacies that will cost you money. Money donors might have given to you, if you’d only understood some fundamental fundraising truths.

I was reminded of some of these truths today in a post from Jeff Brooks. He spoke of true pearls of wisdom gleaned from his fundraising mentor, the recently deceased pioneering direct mail writer Bob Screen. We’ve lost several fundraising giants this year, including Simone Joyaux and John Haydon, but we should never lose sight of the wisdom they imparted. It’s the best way to assure their memories live on and their good works continue.

I did not know Bob, but I’m sure I learned from him without realizing it.  Because the good stuff gets passed around. Why?  Because it works.

And it takes someone with experience to not just demonstrate it works, but to forcefully maintain the necessity of adhering to tested principles, facts and truth.  Even – especially – in the face of doubters (e.g. executive directors; board presidents) who would seriously derail your fundraising efforts. With all good intention, of course.

YOU are the fundraiser.

Never forget this is why you were hired. No one is an expert at everything. And chances are fundraising writing is not your leadership’s key area of proficiency. It’s your job to know what works, and what doesn’t.

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"Conscious Soup" street art

Stop Writing Unconscious: Secrets to Inspire Action on Your Nonprofit Appeal

"Conscious Soup" street artYou want to raise money with your fundraising appeal, right?

Guess what?

However you feel when you sit down to write is how your readers will feel when they sit down to read.

Feeling anxious? Unprepared? Bored?

Your feelings come through in your writing. Or not.

So… first put a smile on your face! Think about what inspires you about your mission. What are you passionate about? What drew you here and keeps you here?

Passion is contagious.

You can do this – it’s just like talking to a friend about how important your cause is.

Yup.  Your donor is your friend.

Talk to them exactly that way.

Becoming a writer is about being conscious.

“When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader.” 

– Ann Lamott

7 Key Secrets + 16 Blooming Tips to Appeal Success

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Are you reading your major donors right?

Are You Reading Your Major Donors Correctly?

The more that you know, the less they’ll say ‘No!’

Such is the advice given by Jay Love, Founder of Bloomerang and a seasoned board member and major donor, some years ago at an online conference where we both presented major gifts master classes. His was on the topic of major gifts development from the donor’s perspective.

Do you think about your donor’s perspective before you ask for a major gift?

Here’s what I learned from Jay:

The more you know:

  • what floats your donor’s boat,,,
  • what other things compete for your donor’s attention (not just causes, but also career and family)…
  • how your donor prefers to communicate…
  • how your donor prefers to be wooed…
  • how your donor prefers to be recognized…

… the more likely you’ll get a “Yes.”

This advice is SO important I want to dig deeper into ways you can get inside your donor’s head and build the type of relationship that will be a win/win. When your donor gets what they want and need, you get what you want and need!

If you can’t show your major donor prospect you really know them, how can they trust you’ll be a good steward of their passionate philanthropic investment?

We all want to be known before we enter into a major engagement.

Which brings us to the crux of successful major donor development. Not surprisingly, it begins and ends with the same thing.

Can you guess what that might be?

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December 2020 calendar page

Last Minute Strategic Year-End Email Appeal Tips

December 2020 calendar pageYou are a philanthropy facilitator. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to persuade people to act now, during the most giving time of the year.

Studies show nearly one-third of all charitable giving happens in December. While you absolutely should be using multiple fundraising channels to get best results, right now whatever you’ve got planned for offline is pretty much cooked. So your best bet for boosting year-end results is digital.

What do you have planned between now and December 31st?

Network for Good and True Sense Marketing found a third of all online giving occurs in December, and more than 20% of all online giving for the entire year occurs on the last two days of the calendar year. And, among digital strategies, email rules. According to M+R’s Benchmarks Study, email was responsible for 16% of all online revenue for nonprofits.

For at least the last decade, the last week of the year – and particularly the last day of the year– have been huge for online fundraising.

To boost your year-end fundraising success, you need to craft an email offer your donor can’t refuse.

How will you best convey your offer?

In a nutshell, you need three things for any fundraising offer:

  1. Problem you’re addressing — made real and relevant to the prospective donor.
  2. Solution you’re proposing to address the problem – with your donor’s help.
  3. Ask showing how the donor can help– the specific purpose and amount of the gift you’re requesting.

1. How to describe the problem.

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12 cups coffee

12 Quick Strategies to Boost Year-End Fundraising

The biggest fundraising time of the year for most nonprofits inexorably approaches.

It can be stressful.

Don’t succumb to the stress. You’ve got this!

Perhaps you can’t do everything you’d like to do this year, but you can do some things.

Here are 12 strategies that will pack a big punch.

  • Some you can do on your own.
  • Some will require support from technical and/or marketing staff.

Don’t become discouraged thinking you don’t have the time. Sometimes you don’t have time not to do these things.

None of these suggestions are big time consumers standing alone. They’re each little tweaks. Because often it’s the little things that count. That pack a surprising wallop.

So don’t save all your energy for writing your appeal. Help your appeal along by putting some of the dozen suggestions that follow into effect.

Even just one or two will make a difference.

Let’s get started…

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2 different frames

Use Behavioral Science to Positively Frame Year-End Philanthropy

Are you framing your ask as an “annual appeal” or as “we only ask once a year?”

It matters, because people will account for how much they spend on usual annual giving differently than how much they’ll spend for exceptional, one-time occurrences.

A growing body of research in psychology and behavioral economics shows how you frame your ask can have a big difference in your fundraising results. Much of this has to do with how people mentally account for consumer ‘purchases’  — including charitable giving.

Researchers have found people don’t treat their money, time, effort or other resources as if they have one big pool of it. Rather, people have separate mental accounts.

When we spend resources we keep track of each expenditure based on the mental account it came from.

This has significant fundraising implications, so it’s important to delve further into this mental accounting principle. Especially this year, when you can legitimately frame your work as a response to exceptional times.

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Street art: "Doing the right thing isn't always easy."

6 Strategies to Upgrade Nonprofit Donors Using Suggested Gifts

Street art: "Doing the right thing isn't always easy."I’m a fan of suggested ask amounts.

As you put the finishing touches on your year-end appeals, don’t make donors guess how much you need, or what you expect from them.

Clue people in. It’s the right thing to do.

If what you’re currently planning is some version of “please give whatever you can” or “please consider increasing your gift,” I encourage you to rethink your plan. Those phrases are vague.  And vague requests yield token gifts. Or no gifts at all.

The best requests for money are for a specific purpose and a specific amount.

As in “Dad, I need $250 to buy school books.” Or “Grandma, I need $5,000 to buy a used car.” Or see the philanthropic ask examples from Oxfam and Charity: water below:

Oxfam Donation Landing Page

Charity water ask string

When you don’t give folks anchor amounts to hang onto, they’re apt to put your appeal aside for some time when they’ve more time to think about it.

More often than not, that ‘some time’ never happens.

So give folks an anchor of some sort, unless you want folks to stop dead in their tracks trying to figure out the right amount.

  • No one wants to feel ungenerous by giving less than is considered helpful.

  • No one wants to be a ‘chump’ by giving more than you need, or more than others like them are giving.

  • While some donors upgrade their giving without being asked, most donors wait to be asked – or at least to be offered a darn good reason to give more.

Research tells us donors will give more, on average, when they’re prompted with specific amounts. They’ll give even more when offered a choice of giving levels (download Sustainers in Focus by Blackbaud).  But you have to do it the right way.

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