By Alex Davis
Southern Tier Communications Strategies, LLC
We’ve discussed the importance of planning your nonprofit’s year-end fundraising campaign. Failing to plan ahead – plan WAY ahead – is the biggest reason many such campaigns absolutely flop, fail with donor engagement, fail to garner support for your mission, fail to even move the needle.
So let’s address some donor engagement strategies to fuel your year-end fundraising strategy – and others throughout the year.
The Donor Engagement Cycle is Key to Nonprofit Fundraising Success
The Holiday Season is when most people – from average individuals to wealthy philanthropists to corporations – tend to do the most giving. It’s the Season of Giving, after all. Most tend to get in the spirit, in some shape or form. In fact, 37 percent of all nonprofit giving occurs in October, November and December. December is also the 11th hour when people can take advantage of charitable giving tax incentives.
But that’s no guarantee for your organization. There are plenty of other nonprofits out there vying for attention from givers.
Where can organizations like yours begin thinking about crafting the most effective year-end nonprofit fundraising campaign? The donor engagement cycle is the ideal place to begin. This helps people recognize your organization’s mission at strategic points and encourages individuals to support the good you’re creating.
Step 1: Identification
Step one in your donor engagement cycle is to identify likely new and repeat donors. Look over your organization’s database and local resources to pinpoint possible donors. If you can’t identify them specifically, you can at least build demographic archetypes of whom your most likely donor would be.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What goals and objectives are your organization looking to meet?
- To whom would those goals and objectives most appeal?
- How do they wish to be approached?
- Are there major donors or area business partners with aligning giving visions who would match donations?
Step 2: Cultivation
As the pool of donors and prospects grows, put your organization’s mission and vision front and center. Paint the future of the organization and the role that donors could play.
Here are some questions to ask your organization’s leaders:
- What inspires your donors to give?
- Are there resources or pieces of information your community could benefit from having?
Surveys, thank you call-a-thons, content marketing tactics, community events and newsletters are great tools to drive donor engagement. Just as important as the outreach, these may also allow you to gain feedback on community interest and to recognize donors for their generosity.
Step 3: Solicitation
With the cultivating phase completed, it’s time to turn to reaching out to prospective donors and inviting them to become supporters. Send out direct calls to action. Directly ask their involvement and support. The digital realm is the perfect place to accomplish this because there are so many possibilities for reaching and engaging your target audience.
Heck, you can even mail letters soliciting donations, if you must, however costly that may be. Despite popular belief, local and regional media interviews may also serve as avenues to tell the story of your nonprofit mission and invite support. If there’s a way your research indicates any segment of your target audience prefers to be engaged, go for it!
Solicitation in donor engagement should serve as a perpetual reminder to help your organization to grow good.
Step 4: Stewardship
Your givers have donated — and it’s time to express appreciation. Thanking donors is vital, since they are 400 more times likely to donate again if they receive appreciation within 48 hours of giving.
400 times! We urge you to keep that in mind.
Some ideas for stewardship include:
- Set up an automated message to thank a donor as soon as a donation is processed. Follow-up email workflows can also be easily created to thank donors again in regular intervals and update them on how their gift is actively helping your mission.
- Plan a thank-you call-a-thon with staff and volunteers (make sure to provide lunch for staff and volunteers).
- Shoot a video to thank each donor.
- Put together email and letter templates ahead of time
- Hand write thank you-messages for specific donors.
- Schedule a day off for employees for their efforts.
Nonprofit Donor Engagement: Understanding the Cycle
Let’s stand out with some better nonprofit donor engagement. The Holiday Season will begin in about eight months. But you know how quickly those months will go. Your year-end fundraising campaign will be upon you before you know it.
It can be challenging and overwhelming. But identifying, cultivating, soliciting and stewarding donors will benefit your organization — and bless the donors who’ve given so generously to your organization’s successful efforts. Tap into your strengths. Don’t underestimate your unique “place” in the nonprofit world.
If you’re having difficulty crafting your nonprofit story for fundraising, don’t hesitate to hire an experienced fundraising consultant to help you hone your message.