Stop colluding with your donors in the art of procrastination. Give to donors now.
If you wait to be a giving friend, they’ll do the same.
You don’t want donors who’ve just given to you to wait until next year at this time to give to you again. Do you?
Remember, there are many different ways donors can ‘give’ to your cause – it’s not just about the money. They can volunteer… attend events… share your social media posts…forward your emails to their friends… review you on Yelp… offer testimonials… serve as in-person or virtual ambassadors… advocate for legislation that benefits your mission… the list goes on and on.
There are so many ways to get right to work engaging your donors beyond end of year fundraising!
You really don’t want to delay, because recency is a strong predictor of giving. Folks who gave to you in November or December are likely to give to you again in the early New Year. It’s true!
Provided… you don’t ignore them.
Adopt the ‘Golden Rule’ and do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.
Want Donors to Give Again? Give to Donors.
In psychological terms this is called the ‘monkey see, monkey do’ effect – or ‘liking.’
We tend to like people who give us things. Such as compliments (“You’re our hero”) and useful information (“Here’s your ‘how-to’ list”).
- If the only time you communicate is when you ask, you’ll teach donors you care only about their money.
- If the only time you ask is at the end of the calendar year, you’ll train donors to only give then.
How much are you currently communicating with your donors? And are you giving them the type of information they care about?
If you want to boost your fundraising success this year, look beyond December.
You need a strategic plan – one you’ll follow religiously throughout the coming year – to give, give, and give to your donors.
This is a case where ‘out of sight’ really is “out of mind.”
You need to overcome this problem!
Two Key Donor-Centered Giving Strategies:
- Cultivation: Donor-centered content marketing.
- Solicitation: Year-round, multi-channel fundraising.
In part 1 of this two-part article we are exploring what you can do to further cultivate current donors using what is known in the business as content marketing. Part 2, “Beyond End of Year Fundraising: Keep Giving JOY,” will look at how asking donors for gifts can also be a powerful donor engagement strategy – making your supporters actually feel good!
Let’s begin with marketing communication.
Don’t make the rookie mistake of thinking anything using the word ‘marketing’ is something you can leave to your marketing staff to plan, implement and track.
Your marketing communications staff need your input. BIG TIME.
Fundraising and marketing must work hand-in-hand. In fact, the nonprofit term ‘development’ is really ‘marketing.’ They’re the same thing, whatever name you give to them.
If you’re a development professional you’re a marketing professional.
And the best nonprofit marketing is not about selling. It’s about giving.
Cultivation via Donor-Centered Content Marketing
One of my favorite marketing strategists is Jay Baer, author of Youtility.
He says the difference between “helping” and “selling’ is only two letters. But what a difference those two letters makes!
Sell something and you create a customer today. Help someone and you create a customer for life.
If you want to create lifelong donors, you must develop a content marketing strategy to engage with donors, without asking for money, all year round.
Before your organization sends out any type of communication, you should ask yourself: “How might this help our donor?”
Example for Illustration
I once worked for a comprehensive human services organization. One of our more than 40 different programs was a parenting program. One afternoon, while waiting for folks to arrive for an advisory committee meeting, I happened on a file cabinet with a drawer labelled “Tips for New Moms and Dads.” I opened it up. Bonanza!
Inside were files filled with tip sheet after tip sheet intended to help new parents. They were used in workshops which had, on average, 8 – 10 participants. What a waste of valuable information!
I realized we could use these tips as content for our newsletter, thereby disseminating the information more broadly (part of our nonprofit mission) and also solving our content creation dilemma. A gift for our marketing staff; a gift for our readers!
Feedback was immediate. People thanked us and even called to ask if we had more tips. After a year of doing this, enrollment in our workshops had increased as well. A real win/win.
Suggested Gifts of Useful, Donor-Centered Content
People enjoy content that helps them and/or makes them feel good.
- How-to lists and videos (e.g., subjects on which your nonprofit is an expert).
- Recommendations (e.g., reading lists; movies about your topic; places to visit; news articles related to your work, etc.).
- Outcome reports (e.g., stories with data that show the measurable impact of donor gifts).
- White papers (e.g., your research; research from others pertaining to your subject areas).
- Community conference calls (e.g., Q & A or impact reporting with your CEO, a researcher, a program director or other VIP).
- Exclusive invitations to free donor events (e.g., offer to come tour; attend ‘office hours’ with E.D. or program staffer; attend a brown bag talk or come to an open house ‘getting to know you’ event).
- Inspiring quotes.
- Compliments and thank you’s.
Let’s look at some gifts of content for different types of nonprofits. You no doubt have plenty of great content hiding in plain sight. All you have to do is package and share it!
- 10 Ways to Keep Seniors Safe
- Smart Strategies to Childproof Your Home
- How to Recognize Signs of Bullying
- Come to our Healthy Living Fair
- Tips for Safely Bringing Home a Rescue Dog
- 10 Things You Can Do to Save Endangered Species
- Tips for Taking Toddlers to the Zoo
- Photos of our New Babies
- 7 Tips for Planning the Perfect Museum Date
- How to Get the Most Out of Taking Your Child to the Symphony
- Where to Get Senior Discounts for Cultural Opportunities in [your community]
- Attend our Backstage Tour
- 8 Ways College Students Can Save the Environment Every Day
- 10 Easy Ways to Go Green at Work
- 22 Ways to Save Your Planet
- Come to our Clean-up Day
- 17 Tricks to Stop Eating Mindlessly
- 13 Surprising Ways to Avoid Colds and Flu
- How to Make the Most out of Your Doctor Visit
- You’re Invited to Learn about End-of-Life Care
- Tips for Talking to Someone with Cancer
- 5 Ways You Can Prevent Antibiotic Resistance
- Tips on Caring for Elders with Dementia
- See How You Helped Elsa and John (video)
- 17 Proven Ideas to Help Struggling Readers
- Top 10 Ways to Get Your Child Ready for College
- 7 Study Tips for Busy Adult Learners
- Be the First to See how We’re Adding Mindfulness to Curriculum
- Steps to Take if You Think You’ve Been Discriminated Against
- How to Get Legal Help When You Can’t Afford a Lawyer
- Attend our ‘Get out the Vote’ Workshop
Content Marketing Action Tips
To become truly donor-centered you need to continually learn (1) what matters most to your supporters and (2) how they prefer to receive information from you. It’s best not to guess.
Here are suggested strategies to figure out what people want and need from you, so you can share content with them regularly across multiple channels.
1. Ask your non-development staff.
Ask reception staff what types of questions they get most frequently. Ask program staff what questions they often get. Ask IT or your website manager which pages on your website are most frequently searched. Ask marketing staff which articles in your e-news are most frequently clicked on? Ask your social media manager which posts are most often opened and shared.
2. Ask your constituents for their input.
What if you asked your constituents what they think? What they need? How they might address the problem? What communities they think are underserved? What pressing, current needs they believe are inadequately addressed? It’s easy to put together a quick, free donor survey using SurveyMonkey or Googledocs (you can get some great examples of questions you can ask here). While you’re at it, what if you congratulated them on their contributions, rather than promoting yours?
3. Get your team together and share your research.
Put all the under-served constituencies and needs you’ve discovered on one side of a whiteboard. Now hold a brainstorming session. What useful content do you have that addresses these needs? What could you easily create? How could you be more helpful to your donors and/or show them you’re being useful to your community?
4. Create an editorial calendar.
This will facilitate the consistent creation of helpful content and give your plan some needed organization. There are many different templates and content scheduling tools out there to choose from, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. (It can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet template; a Google calendar; a free Editorial Calendar Plug-in with a simple drag and drop interface or even a Word document, desk-top or wall calendar. It doesn’t need to be fancy; it just needs to be something with which you’re comfortable).
5. Use online marketing and social media to promote your ‘youtility’; not your organization.
Break the bad habit of making it all about you. What you do. Your skills. Your knowledge. Your work.
Not good: “We just helped 2,000 people get meals.”
How this comes across: “Hey servant! You who really don’t understand how this is done, and need us to tell you. Want to jump on board by giving us money?”
What if you shifted your boring, egocentric, outbound marketing model to peer-to-peer? What if you hyped your supporters instead of your organization?
Much better: “You fed at-risk families 2,000 meals. Here’s a recipe we distribute at our food pantries for a quick, nutritious snack for kids.”
How this comes across: “Hey partner! Did you know you’re a hero? Do you know how much we appreciate that you ‘get it’ and are willing to walk your talk? We want to thank you by sharing this recipe.”
Peer-to-peer is an inbound marketing model where customer (aka donor) input is sought after and valued. It lends itself well to the digital age where folks are increasingly connected across multiple channels and have the ability to share with their networks.
Help people first. Now and always. If you don’t ask yourself at least once a week how you might be helpful to your donors that week, you’re not doing your job.
Stop leading with what you need. Donors don’t see the world the way you do. They don’t really care about your processes. Or your financial goals. Or your organizational chart. Or even your awards and all that stuff that brings you joy and validation.
Lead with what they need. Rather than talking about your awards, begin thinking more about how you can reward your donors. By thanking… recognizing… helping… demonstrating impact and relevance… and serving.
It’s never too early to plan ahead! Download our Lucky Year-End Fundraising Tips to help you get started developing and implementing a plan all year round.