Photo of a cobweb

What Does Early Spring Mean for Nonprofit Communications Strategies?

Photo of a cobwebThis week the groundhog told us it’s going to be an early spring!

Spring is always a good time for re-awakening, rebirth and just plain dusting away the cobwebs.  And what a dreary, grave, cobwebby period it’s been.

We’ve got a lot to clean up, reorganize and rethink. So much, in fact, it’s downright overwhelming. So, as I sat down to write today’s article, I thought about what you actually have within your power to do. Right now. And all throughout the coming months.

I know it’s been pretty hard to focus with everything going on in the world.

So I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and tried to pull together the various challenges I’ve seen nonprofit leaders, fundraisers, and marketers grapple with in the past year. Actually, the past years. Through elections, pandemic, climate catastrophes, shootings, war, unprecedented demonstrations of cruelty and inhumanity, and more. It’s a LOT.

But, the show — your good work — must go on. 

In  other words, your mission must move forward. People rely on you to do the critical work of the social benefit sector.

I thought: what can people do now to set themselves up for success as we move forward into high fundraising season at the end of this coming year? It may seem early to think about this, but it’s never too soon to put your best foot forward.

I’ve ended up with four tips I hope you’ll find relevant and timely.

  1. Big Picture
  2. Your Role as Helper
  3. Practical Guidance
  4. Strategic Advice

4 Timely Nonprofit Fundraising and Communications Strategies

1. BIG PICTURE: Message Confidently During Uncertain Times

Whether it’s a marketing or fundraising communication, keep these four messaging basics in mind.

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Silhoette of person with light sabers

May the Force Be With You: Underused Year-End Fundraising Tweak

Silhoette of person with light sabersWhat if I told you there’s a teensy little digital upsell that could skyrocket your year-end fundraising results?  Would that be of interest?

Darn rootin’-tootin’!

Okay. Here’s something you still have time to do. It has to do with your website, so consider looping in whoever is responsible for that part of your year-end marketing and fundraising strategy.

First, let’s look at a typical Donation Landing Page with a call to action via some compelling text, maybe a photo, and a big, bold “Donate” button. Hopefully you’ve optimized it for mobile too.  And, no matter what device your donor uses to access the page, they’re able to complete their gift with no more than two clicks.

Check, check, check, check and check.

You’re well on the way (or not quite) to getting some nice traction for your campaign.

But… don’t stop there!

Because you can significantly boost your results if you add one simple thing.

I like to think of it as “the force.”

It’s not a light saber, but it’s similarly luminous.

It’s called a…

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What Monkeys Can Teach Your Nonprofit

Monkey looking at youBabies can teach you the same thing.

If one baby does something, the others will want to ape them.

“Monkey see, monkey do.”

This is actually a psychological principle of influence and persuasion known as “social proof.”

It’s best explored in the 1984 groundbreaking book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini. He outlines six principles of influence affecting human behaviors. They’re all well documented, and can be incredibly useful to fundraisers.

One of the most useful principles is the one we also know today as the “Yelp effect.” It’s a type of positive (or negative) word of mouth that can make or break your business. I know how often I’ve abandoned my cart after reading a negative review. You?

Word of mouth is perhaps the most powerful form of social media you can find, so it pays to leverage it to your advantage.

Even someone inclined to support your cause may not give unless you push the right buttons. Of all the ways to do that, social proof is among the easiest and most successful.

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Just as there's a first kiss, there's a first time for everything for your nonprofit.

How to Persuade New Donors to Join Your Nonprofit Mission

Children holding hands

There’s a first time for everything, if you will it

 

What makes us think a perfect stranger, who’s never given to our organization before, will choose to do so?  It’s highly counter intuitive.

People are most likely to continue doing what they’ve done before.
Commitment and consistency is one of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence, and it’s useful in nonprofit marketing and fundraising. But only if you’ve got existing donors.
We talk a lot in fundraising professional circles about the folly of concentrating too many resources on donor acquisition and too little on donor retention. And for good reason. It’s significantly easier and more cost-effective to keep a current donor than to recruit a new one. Why?
It’s appreciably more difficult to get people to reach a new decision than to repeat an old one.
In fact, whenever I coach volunteers to do fundraising, I always suggest they remind current donors how many years they’ve already been giving to the organization.  This acts as a decision-making shortcut for these folks. Aha! They already decided this was a good idea.  No need to sweat it out again.  Done!
But… what if you’re a start-up organization that doesn’t have many donors?
What if your only choice is to go after first-time donors? How do you make a ‘sale’ if people are making a decision from scratch, with no previous history with you or knowledge about your vision, mission and values?
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Aware man

Do you wish you had a dime for…

… every time a nonprofit board or staff member told you “We’re the best kept secret in town; if people knew what we do, they’d give to support us.”

Nonprofits tell me this all the time! If I had all those dimes, I could make a nice contribution to your cause.  And I would, if…

  • You endeavored to learn a little bit about me,
  • You engaged me personally,
  • You discovered my values match yours,
  • You offered me opportunities to connect with your mission and supporters that involved something other than money,
  • You showed me you knew what most engaged my passions, and
  • Then you asked me for a gift!

You see, merely “building awareness” will not ipso facto raise more money for your cause.

Just because I care about something, and somehow learn you are involved in doing something about that thing, doesn’t mean I’m going to support you financially.

Why should I?  There are a lot of good causes out there, and making a decision to invest in you is something I need to act on.

I’m busy.  I’m overloaded with information. And inertia is just too powerful a force.

You’ve got to do better than just hope I’ll stumble upon your website, see your social media post, hear about you on the news, or even open your direct email if you want me to really sit up, pay attention, and actively engage.

Especially if you want me to engage as a philanthropist.

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R.I.P. Donor Pyramid?

Swirling fractalThe modern model is more like a vortex — an energized circle where everyone is equal. People move in and out as needed, and your job is to keep the energy flowing.

NOTE: My article on the topic of moving away from the donor pyramid model for donor acquisition, cultivation and major gift solicitation recently resurfaced on social media dialogue, so I thought it was time for a reprint.

Why do we always think of donors with pyramids? The pyramids were built in Egypt. On the backs of slaves. It took a very, very long time. The cost, in human terms, was untenable and unsustainable.

That’s why you don’t see many pyramids being built these days.

Except in nonprofits, where building the donor pyramid is still the holy grail. Get ’em in. Move ’em up. Acquire through direct mail. Convert to monthly donor or sustainer. Acquire through events. Convert to mail. Up, up, up … to the pinnacle of major and planned gifts!

Except for one tiny thing.

It doesn’t work.

Pyramid building is so 2630 BCE. Nobody’s got 100,000 workers (aka direct-mail donors) building a solid pyramid anymore. Many so-called pyramids really look like hourglasses. Or upside-down pyramids. Or plateaus. Even the pyramid-shaped ones are resting on shaky foundations of donors who move in and out, in and out — eight out of 10 newly acquired bottom-of-the-pyramid donors leave — making the “foundation” more like a river than a solid, secure slab of mortar. The days of the donor pyramid model are gone!

Digital toppled the donor pyramid. Actually, it crumbled it … slowly, surely … until there was nothing left but an empty frame. A triangle on paper. The donors no longer fit inside of it.

R.I.P. donor pyramid. You had a good run.

The donor pyramid (sometimes call the donor ladder) was a great model for linear thinkers like me. It was neat and orderly. Engage folks from the bottom up, level by level, one step at a time. It was stable.

Or so we thought,

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Girl dips toes in the water

12 Top Tips to Broaden Your Nonprofit Donor Community

Philanthropy should not just be about big checks.

That’s why you should never eschew small gift fundraising. Today I’m offering some tips for building and mobilizing your community to find, sustain and grow smaller gifts.

This is important, because a donor’s first gift is seldom their largest.  It’s a starting point.

The majority of your gifts will be small, but the majority of your income will come from a small group of major donors.

You have to grow this cadre of loyal, passionate philanthropists by building relationships with supporters over time.

The lion’s share of major gifts come from previously small gift donors.

A client I’m working with told me 50% of their major donors began with very small gifts.  How about tracking this for your organization? Sure, some major donors come in at the top. But I’ll bet you a majority start by dipping their toe in the water. How can you get folks more fully immersed?

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Photo of a cobweb

4 Timely Nonprofit Fundraising and Communications Strategies

Photo of a cobwebSpring is always a good time for rebirth and dusting away the cobwebs.  And what a grave, dusty, cobwebby year it’s been.

As I sat down to write today’s article, I found my mind jumping from idea to idea. After all, it’s been pretty hard to focus with everything going on. So I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and tried to pull together the various challenges I’ve seen nonprofit leaders, and fundraisers, grapple with in the past year.

I thought: what can people do now to set themselves up for success as we move forward into high fundraising season at the end of this coming year.

It’s not too soon to be thinking about this.

I ended up with four tips I hope you’ll find relevant and timely.

1. How to Message During Uncertain Times

Whether it’s a marketing or fundraising communication, keep these four basics in mind.

Details
Hope mural

How 13 Nonprofit Donors Yields a $1 Million Philanthropic Legacy

Hope mural13 happens to be my lucky number. I want it to be lucky for you too.

Today, I’m going to reveal to you how you can make this happen.

A recent survey of wills reported on by the Chronicle of Philanthropy reveals the average bequest by everyday donors is $78,630.

Some people will leave less; some people will leave more. What this survey reveals, however, is you only need 12 to 13 donors making a provision for your organization in their will to reap $1 million.

If a major gift for your organization is $1000 (or even 5000 or 10,000), I imagine this sounds off the charts to you. Guess what?

Legacy giving is off the charts!

In fact, bequest marketing produces the highest ROI (return on investment) of any fundraising activity.

The first step to making this happen for your organization is to encourage bequests. Actively.

Promote Charitable Bequests, or Else

If you don’t actively encourage charitable bequests, people are unlikely to make them.

Why? There are three primary reasons:

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