According to a poll by Association Adviser, 16% of associations say that charitable donations are the greatest source of non-dues revenue. And fundraising can seem like pulling teeth from your donors a lot of the time, especially under current economic circumstances. Your donors are concerned about the future and may stop or reduce their funding until things begin to look up. Tack on dwindling membership dues, and fundraising can seem like an impossible feat.
But what associations should do is think about what kind of a benefit they are and what value they bring to their members—if you have worked hard on building a community of people that are driven and inclined to give, you can count on them to make a donation.
Here are the five best ways to do that.
1. Send More Direct Mail
Direct mail is a great way to reach your donors. Direct mail has actually become more effective than email, as these days people get much less of it. It is nice for a lot of people to have a physical letter in front of them from you, and that gives it a personal touch. Here are a few tips for how to best manage your direct mail campaign:
- The first thing you want to do is create a mail calendar and solicit your donors regularly. Mail these letters at least once per month. While this may seem too frequent to you, reaching out to your donors monthly is a great way to give them the opportunity to donate when they are ready to—if you aren’t in regular contact with your donors, other organizations will be, and they could get the next donation instead of you. Here is an article on the benefits of having a monthly giving program.
- Give your donors options for different ways to respond—you will of course include a reply card and envelope in your letter, but on top of that, also include other options, such as online giving and a phone number, in case your donors would prefer to contribute with their credit card over the phone.
- Include a P.S. Many of your donors will just skim your letter—having a P.S. will reiterate your offer and ask them one more time.
2. Do E-mail Fundraising Right
To start off, organize your email list—don’t send everyone the same message or offer. Try to customize your email campaigns based on each individual relationship you have with your donors. Different types of donors will act differently, and it is important to keep this in mind when addressing your donors.
Use video if you can: donors are more likely to respond to your email if it includes video. YouTube Annotations is a way to add interactive commentary to your videos—it allows you to embed a link in the video itself and use a “click here to donate” button on the video.
Don’t just use email to ask for money. If you only send e-mails when you need money, this will quickly land your email in your donor’s junk mail. For every solicitation email that you send, send three non-solicitation emails—use the non-solicitation emails to tell stories, thank your donors, and talk about upcoming events.
3. Have a Killer Online Donation Page
In a lot of cases, your donation page is the only way for your donors (or potential donors) to make an online donation to your organization. So it is important that you make sure that your page functions well and is simple and easy to use.
Don’t make the donation process complicated—keep it simple. The more complicated the process is, the more confused your donors will be, and the harder it will be to maintain. Functionality and simplicity are key.
Don’t force your visitors to register on your site before they make a gift online. This can deter a person from donating.
Include a pie chart or some sort of graphic that can show how you spend the money that is donated to you, such as this one.
4. Upgrade Your Donors
Upgrading your donors means asking them to increase their average gift size. Having your donors upgrade should be a crucial part of your fundraising program. But upgrading doesn’t simply mean asking your donors to donate more—there are other ways to get your donors to upgrade:
- Have a solid thank you process. If you want donors to be generous, you need to show them that they matter—do this by thanking them immediately and sincerely for their past gifts and telling them what those gifts have helped your organization to accomplish. This can be done by calling them up, sending an e-mail, or mailing a personalized card. Doing this will encourage and inspire your donors to be loyal and to upgrade the next time there is an opportunity to give.
- Improve your relationship with your donors—they will continue to give and increase their donations if you make them feel appreciated for their gifts and like they have a relationship with you. This can be done by writing them handwritten notes, calling donors who give large gifts, or keeping in touch via email.
- Host cultivation events. If you’re trying to upgrade your donors, inviting them to exclusive events will make them feel special and also like they are important to your organization. An example of such events are the events put on by the Nonprofit Cultivation Center in Boulder County. Also this post has some good tips on delivering good cultivation events.
5. Create a Long Term Stewardship Strategy
Make sure that you have a written stewardship plan. Here is a great example of one. This will serve as a road map for your organization to manage your donor contributions. It should cover all the basics (such as how and when to receipt and thank donors) and also the more specific aspects of the whole process (such as who should be involved in managing the process, the specific ways you plan to foster donor relationships, and how much money you want to raise). This plan should also include and detail your process for stewardship recognition, such as annual report lists, special events, and awards. Try to include in your plan the ways in which you will update your donors on their donation and the timing for these updates.
Reporting is very important. It is crucial that you stay in touch with your donors to keep them up to date (via newsletters, reports, meetings, e-mail updates, etc.) on how you’re using their money and how it is impacting your organization.
Designate (or hire) someone to be in charge of stewardship. While to some degree everyone in your organization should be involved in the stewardship process, it is best to have one specific person who is responsible for coming up with the stewardship plan and managing the whole thing.
Know of any other best practices for fundraising? Share them in the comments below!