Grow your monthly donor pool, now!

Do you want to build a stable and predictable stream of income to help fund your programs? Do you want to provide your donors with a convenient way to give? Focusing on sustainer conversion can help you achieve these goals by growing a strong base of monthly supporters. So, start now!

The most likely prospects

Identifying your most likely monthly donor prospects will help you focus your efforts and prioritize. The best prospects for monthly giving conversion are:

  1. Newly acquired donors
    These donors are excited about the organization. They were motivated to give for some reason. If you are able to quickly reassure them that their generosity is making a difference, they are likely to give again. I recommend contacting newly-acquired donors with a sustainer offer within 30-45 days of their first gift—but only after you have properly thanked them for the gift they already gave.
  2. Committed donors who have given 2-6 gifts in the last 12 months
    These donors are already giving, so why not provide them with a convenient way to support the organization without having to think about whether or not they have already fulfilled their intent to give. Be sure to consider the ask amount carefully. You want to ask for a monthly gift that would be comfortable for the donor, and an upgrade from what they are giving. We will get to that in a moment.

The method

While you should always have an option for the donor to make a monthly gift online or in the mail, the most effective way to convert these donors is by talking to them. Pick up the phone or hire a fundraising-experienced telemarketing agency. You can also assign a member of the development staff to call. The next best thing is to develop an online strategy specifically-geared towards monthly giving. This can include a targeted email strategy, a post-donation lightbox, remarketing and social media.
The more personalized you can be, the better. Use affirmational copy in your communication, for example:

Dear DONOR NAME,

Because of you, lives are changing here in XX OUR AREA.

Your generous support over the last few months has helped us reach out to people like Mary. Mary has two small children. Her husband died two years ago and now she works two jobs just to get by. Without the extra food she receives, made possible by generous supporters like you, she would have to go hungry just to feed her growing children.

There are countless stories, just like hers, that make me grateful for people like you in this world. Thank you for your support. The need is great and your donations go to good use! In fact every $1 multiplies to provide $12 worth of food to a hungry neighbor.

We invite you to become a monthly sustainer. A donation of $$$ per month would do so much to help us feed the XXX,XXX hungry people in our community. If you would like to donate monthly, please go to WEBPAGE or return the reply form today in the enclosed postage-paid envelope.

We are grateful for your generous support,

Executive Director Signature

Mary’s story is made up, but represents clients who are serviced by an organization that provides food as I used in this example.

You may have noticed my suggestion for including a postage-paid envelope, which will make it even easier for the donor to respond. I also recommend setting up a special landing page focused specifically on monthly giving.

The ask

As I noted above, this needs careful consideration and should be based on the donor’s prior giving history.

  • For a new donor, ask for an amount that is less than their first gift. If they gave $35 as their first gift, you may ask for a $20 monthly donation. Even if they landed on $10/month, that is still $120 for the year.
  • For an existing donor, the amount you ask for (when multiplied by 12 months of giving) should exceed the donor’s current annual giving. For example, if they have given $500 in the last year (which is an average of $41.66/month), you could ask for $60/month which would upgrade their giving to $720/year.

What methods have you used to successfully convert donors to monthly givers? Let us know how we can help.

Do you remember your first date? Why You Need To Think Carefully About How You Treat Your New Donor.

Do you remember your first date? Depending on your age, you may vividly recall messing up your hair just so, so it looked like you had just rolled out of bed. Or maybe you pulled on your lucky leggings. Or emptied the tube of gel to get your hair absolutely awesome. Or picked out the perfect glasses (no lens, of course) to project the millennial look du jour.

I remember mine … pulling up my knickers, hitching up the horse and buggy …

More recently, I met with a new client to begin the onboarding process, and after spending the day, thought “aaaah…” So refreshing to be with someone who still likes us,” which made me think of first dates.

Do you remember your first date? Why You Need To Think Carefully About How You Treat Your New Donor.

Everything is new and wonderful, and everyone is on their best behavior to impress the other party and make this the best relationship ever.

Which begs the question: How are you treating the “first date” new donors you recently acquired?

You just asked out 143 girls, guys, whomever to get ONE DATE. That’s assuming a 0.7% response rate to your new donor acquisition mailing, which is pretty good these days. You asked 143 people out and finally ONE said yes.

I feel better now. It only took me about ten asks to get a “yes” in college.

My point? Your new donors are special. They are gold. They are your future.

Do you remember your first date? Why You Need To

Every bit of research on the subject makes it clear that the faster you connect with each new donor, make her feel appreciated, let him know how his gift was used, thank her for her caring spirit – the higher the lifetime value (LTV) of that donor.

Faster second gift means better retention means more lifetime gifts means higher LTV.

So think carefully how you treat each new donor. The faster you text or call to say thank you, get a letter in the mail, send a follow up email thank you, the more likely that first date is to become your life partner.

How to Break Down Silos and Improve Fundraising

We all work in silos. One theme that is consistent in all organizations is that departments often function as separate entities. In reality, all parts of the organization are closely connected! However, it’s easy to forget this when your team is busy focusing on your own “siloed” efforts.

Breaking down these silos is important to the success of a nonprofit organization as a whole and is critical to helping you get the stories you need to raise the money that supports your programs.

How to Break Down Silos and Improve Fundraising

Here are a few ways you can improve your relationships, build better communication, and get stories that “tug at the heartstrings” from your program staff.

Building Relationships

As a nonprofit fundraiser, it is important that you establish relationships with the people that have their feet on the ground.  Focus on what you have in common – you are both part of a powerful mission that is important to everyone that works for your organization and you all work hard to make the world a better place!  Here are a few tips:

  • Be sure to let your program staff know that you appreciate their hard work. Let them know that you will continue to work tirelessly yourself, to raise the funds to support all of their efforts.  Shout your thanks from the rooftops!
  • Employee appreciation events that allow your staff to mingle with other departments are a great place to take time to get to know your program staff. Also, take the time out of your day to walk around and say, “Hi.”  Chat with your colleagues about how their day is going.  It goes much farther than you might think.

Communication Within the Organization

Working to break down silos can be challenging for all employees as they focus on the budgetary goals of their own departments.  Addressing this challenge often needs to start at the top.  Management is an important part of establishing a collaborative environment where all employees work towards a common goal.  This common goal can be established through clear communication.

Are you struggling to get everyone on the same page?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Use an internal newsletter to communicate all the exciting things that are happening in your different departments. Highlight how each of these efforts work to support each other.  Think synergy!  These newsletters can also be used as a tool to feature an employee or a team and speak to how they contribute to your organization’s overall success.
  • Staff meetings are another great place to highlight how all of your departments’ efforts are interconnected and equally important. Find a fun way to illustrate this and keep staff engaged.  Your organization’s leader, whether that be your president, chairperson, or CEO, is often the most unifying and impactful cheerleader.

Getting the Stories You Need

Your colleagues who work on the program side of your organization have AMAZING stories to share.  Stories that you might miss if channels of communication aren’t open.  Getting stories and stats to share with your donors is an important part of your job.  Without personal communication between you and your program staff, this is impossible.  Try this advice:

  • Set aside time weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly (whichever works better for your busy teams) to have “story time.” Bring in donuts and coffee, encourage your folks in the trenches to join you for a treat and tell you all about their day-to-day experiences.  Work with them to get the content you need.  Take the time to talk through details.  This can often lead to other great stories, as you enjoy a nice conversation about everything your organization and their team has accomplished, and your overall future goals.  And don’t forget to thank them for all that they do!

How to Break Down Silos and Improve Fundraising

Always work hard to foster positive relationships between your teams, and you will be amazed at the compelling stories that come out of this connection. More heart-wrenching stories of those in need mean more money raised to accomplish your mission!

10 UX Changes You Can Make On Your Site.

So you go to your organization’s website. Just to browse. Then you suddenly realize … this was built in 2007 and is basically a fossil. An actual, HTML/Flash-based fossil of the World Wide Web. As much as we would all like to think so, your website is not a “set it and forget it” thing. It is your online reputation. Over 50% of donors visit an organization’s website before deciding to give. It’s a reflection of your mission, your authenticity, and your legitimacy as a nonprofit. That website you built in 2007 (or frankly, 2016) is not going to cut it in 2017. Digital marketing is changing so fast that this blog post will probably be out of date soon, too.

Ideally, you have someone on staff adding content to your website, regularly, optimizing for search and user experience, updating information and web tech as needed. If not that, hopefully, you have an agency partner who can do this for you. But even in these two scenarios, making major changes to your website, or building a new one entirely, can cost big bucks. Don’t get me wrong — this is one of the best investments you can make for your fundraising program as a whole (on AND offline). It doesn’t matter how beautiful your emails are, how engaged you are on social media, or how wonderful your organization is — if you drive donors to a website that isn’t crisp, clean, user-friendly, updated, and relevant to your audience, that disconnect will cause your donors to run.

In the event that you don’t have a devoted web person on staff and can’t invest in a brand new site at this time, here is what you CAN do to ensure your website is as good as it can be (while you save up your money to make the big changes you need to make). I recommend that you do a mini-audit of your site. And if that’s too ambitious, at least do an audit of your donation process. Take off your marketer or development director hat and approach your organization as a potential first-time donor or ask a friend in your donor demographic to give you feedback.

With that in mind, here are 10 of the easy changes you can make to your site to make sure it’s primed and ready to welcome any and all digital visitors.

1) What is your goal for your website?

This isn’t technically a change to make, but more like a mindset with which to address these other changes that I’m suggesting. If your goal is to relay information about your organization, OK. But more than likely, your goal is (or should be) fundraising. You may use “conveying information” as a tactic to fulfill that goal, but try to identify the true main purpose for having your website. Once you define your purpose, make changes to enhance it.

2) Image Quality

Even if you only have one homepage banner (versus a rotating banner), it needs to be high resolution and high quality. It also needs to be actionable, with a true Call to Action that is clear, concise, and directional. And it needs to be clickable. This is THE most prominent piece of real estate on your site. Take advantage of it. Whether it is a fundraising message or a “Click here to learn more about us” opportunity, maximize that visibility and use eye-catching photos or graphics that are relevant to your mission and to your audience. A fuzzy image or a great image that does not give direction or guidance to a prospective donor is a huge missed opportunity.

3) Check Links

This might take a minute, but go through your homepage and click on every link. Every single link. There are quicker ways to do this, but I advocate for doing it the old fashioned way. Get into your site, act like a user. Do the links work? Does it go where you want it to? Do they lead to outdated pages? Are the correct words or images hyperlinked?

4) Check for Redundancies

Do you have an About Us page, and a separate Our Mission page, and a separate Our History page, and a separate Who We Are page, and a separate See Our Board Members page? Do they all have a paragraph or less of text/imagery on them? Combine then. No one gives awards for Sites with the Most Pages. It’s a common misconception that the more you have, the better for SEO purposes. It is much more important to have the right content — the content your users want to see. Don’t focus your efforts on content for content’s sake. Think like a user or donor. Prioritize the content that is important to them and to your organization. Then take that content and optimize it for SEO. It is possible. Act with the user experience in mind. Google will thank you for it.

5) Legitimacy Tweaks

Do you know what a Favicon is? You should have one. It means next to nothing in the big scheme of things, but to not have one immediately makes your site look inauthentic and lazy. Your Brand is important. Is your logo (usually in the top left or top right of your site) clickable and does it lead to the homepage? It should. Does your footer include your 501(c)3 information, physical address, Contact Us details, and privacy policy? Do you have your Annual Reports and financial information available? Do you have wording (and proof) that your donation process is safe and secure? Make it happen.

6) Social Media

If you’re going to have your social media links on your site (and you should), make sure they link correctly. But more importantly, make sure they open up into a new tab or window, instead of leading users away from your site. Facebook, YouTube, etc., are known as “walled gardens,” meaning once you’re in, you’re unlikely to leave. Once you’re lost in the cat videos and status updates, you rarely remember what you were doing on that nonprofit site you went to. While there is little you can do about walled gardens, you can at least ensure that if someone clicks off of your homepage, they have an easy way to get back.
Bonus Item: If you have video content (and I hope you do), embed that video into a page on your site. Don’t use a hyperlink to send people to YouTube or Vimeo to view the video. You will lose them.

7) Forms

Do you have a volunteer opportunity at your organization? Do you want people to sign up to receive emails? Make it easy for users to engage with you this way by having a sign up form for these things on your site at minimum. Or, have a sign up form that pops up within the homepage interface (ideally) when you click on a certain image or link, so they do not have to leave your homepage to sign up. There are widgets for that!

8) Accuracy

This is an easy one. Make sure that the information on your site, specifically about your organization, is accurate. Type your organization name into Google. Does the listing that comes up have accurate information (phone number, physical address, hours of operation, etc., etc.)? On your site, do you still have ex-board members or staff members featured? Do you still have a Christmas offer prominently featured on your homepage … in June? Is your Events page current?

9) Mobile

Grab your phone (and your iPad) and make sure your website looks OK on them. Make sure a donate button is among the first few things you see. Make sure the font size and spacing is large enough for large fingers and older people.
Bonus item: In the past three years, the percentage of seniors preferring to donate online increased 92%*. So, keep that in mind for spacing, wording, and text size.

10) Donation Process

Pretend to be a new donor. Or better yet, find a friend who hasn’t donated to your organization and ask them to audit your donation process. It should not take more than two clicks to get to a donation form. And that form needs to give every possible assurance of privacy and security of information. It should also look just like your website. Even though they will most likely be using a different platform than your website, donors should feel that the donation process is an extension of their online experience with your organization. There should be no ERROR messages or formatting problems during this process. The second someone encounters some wonky code or formatting, or an error message, they will not donate. They will have lost all confidence in the safety and security of their online information.

There are dozens of other small changes you can make to improve your website. Consider speaking with a digital strategist at Grizzard about conducting a full User Experience Analysis!

*2016 Grizzard DonorGraphicsTM Study

A Passionate Case for Monolithic Brand Architecture

Many local non-profits have backed their way into a branding problem.  And most remain unaware.  As a charity grows, multiple programs develop and services are added.  That’s a great thing!  But those services splinter into multiple names, different buildings, and even develop unique identities within the organization.  Some non-profits end up with more brands than Proctor & Gamble!  Problem is, there isn’t nearly the same kind of advertising budget to support them.

how local non-profits have backed their way into a branding problem

Local non-profits haven’t had a reason to give much attention to their brand.  Until recently, competition was low and donors were generous (ah, the salad days…).  So there was no real need to define what makes one charity unique from another.  The cause was the brand – Homelessness, hunger, animal welfare, disaster relief.  Without a defined brand, and with no advertising to support it, donors really gave to the cause, and the charity was largely just the means to address social change.

Enter the boomers.  With a heart to do good and a desire for action, the amount of registered non-profit 501c3s skyrocketed.  Over the last 25 years, registered 501c3 non-profits in the US rose from just under 600,00 in 1994 to more than 1.5 million in 2017.

Competition for donations has gone through the roof too.  That same generation, acting as donors, demand much more from a charity they might choose to support.  “What are your outcomes?  Are you fiscally responsible?  Can I come for a tour or volunteer?  What makes you unique and innovative?”

All this means that there is an explosion of nonprofit organizations, all competing for more demanding donors.  That is not a bad thing.  Actually, these are the exact reasons why brands are built!  A brand gives a donor a reason to choose.  Your brand lives in the space between what you promise to do and what people perceive you to do.  And it takes work to manage that.  But local nonprofits, stewarding very limited resources, typically do little to establish a brand identity, create brand equity, or advertise to support their brand in the market.

It’s one thing to not manage your brand.  But it’s another to do harm.  And that’s what happens too many times when nonprofit organizations expand.  For instance, I can think of one homeless shelter, I’ll call them City Mission, who launched a women and children’s shelter, and then called it Dorcas House.  Besides the fact that in the Bible, even Dorcas wanted to be called Tabitha… this can create confusion for both donors and staff.  Multiple names and even disparate identities hamper the precious few moments a charity might receive to establish brand equity.  If you have different names for different areas, chances are most donors don’t even realize they are part of the same organization.

To give an example of an alternative solution, of a monolithic brand architecture, take a look at Fed Ex.  All of their services reinforce who they are and what they do.

how local non-profits have backed their way into a branding problem

Not to mention the super cool (hidden) arrow between the E and the x – – which speaks to who they are as a company.

So if you are a local nonprofit about to expand and add more services, congratulations!  Just think before you name.  It may not be as thrilling to go with for instance, City Mission Family Center instead of say… Dorcas House…. But I guarantee with a limited marketing budget, a monolithic brand architecture will help you build your presence and strengthen who you are in the community.

A great first step is to define your brand.  Run market analysis and discover brand perceptions that donors have about who you are and what they think you do.  I know a great marketing agency who loves to help!

Warning: You’re Losing Money by Not Reactivating Donors

We all have our favorite charities, and our giving behavior is very personal.  We may give in response to a special need or call-to-action, or perhaps we feel motivated or compelled by an experience.  Regardless of the reason, we understand that it is important to give to support the missions of organizations we care about.

Knowing how much an organization depends on donor support, one might think donors should keep track of giving behavior to prevent themselves from lapsing.  But, donors don’t know they are lapsing or lapsed.  It is the organization’s job to motivate another gift to keep the donor current in their support.  Often times, however, the organization gives up once a donor lapses in an effort to manage their ROI.  This is where your losses begin.

I recently had a partner ask us to stop communicating with their donors who have not given within the last 25 months or more.  Understanding their short-term goal to reduce cost by eliminating lower-performing segments, I still advised against it.  You see, in the year prior, we reactivated 11% of their file from that segment.  Had those donors not been communicated with, they would have surely lapsed into their 37+ month file and then we would be challenged to refill that population with new donors.  Acquiring new donors is competitive and more expensive than reactivating donors who have already shown that they have an affinity for the organization.  Here are three things you can do to encourage a lapsing donor to renew their support and reduce your losses

Change your communication strategy

How many times have you communicated with this donor since their last gift?  Was it by email, mail, or phone … and what did you ask them to do or give?  Have you properly acknowledged their gifts?  Consider this and modify your approach.  Ask them to support an initiative that they have supported in the past.  Ask them for less money than you have been asking them for — just get them back on your active file.

Call the Donor

There is nothing wrong with calling a donor.  Even if you don’t want to ask for a gift, call to thank the donor.  Invite them for a tour, an event or to volunteer, just get them to reengage. Or, run a phone campaign with a telemarketing partner — these very effectively reactivate donors.

Provide the donor with a special opportunity

Let these donors know about all the great things the organization has accomplished with their past support.  Provide them with a vision for the future and an opportunity to take part in making this a reality.

Keeping your donors engaged and giving is the most important way to continue funding your programs.  What strategies have you used to successfully reactivate lapsed donors?

Allegiance to the Pledge – Loyal Monthly Partners Generate Regular, Reliable Revenue.

Challenge

The Northeast Ohio Division of The Salvation Army (NEOSA) has built a strong, robust ministry that serves the most vulnerable families in the region. But like most nonprofits, the Division was looking for a way to shore up fundraising amid the ebb and flow of seasonal support. Armed with a loyal donor base that believes in their cause, the NEOSA Division seemed primed for a strategy that would generate additional revenue that is stable and dependable.

Solution

Employing Grizzard’s pledge strategy, the NEOSA Division began offering donors opportunities to sign up as a monthly partner. Monthly partners are faithful donors who commit to give ongoing gifts in the amount of their choosing — donations that are automatically transferred from their credit card or checking account each month. As part of the strategy, these valuable donors continue to receive special updates, appeals, and newsletters, all to ensure meaningful affirmation and cultivation.

Results

Grizzard’s pledge strategy essentially runs itself, and the benefits are many…

  • Reliable revenue
  • Increased donor value
  • Increased donor retention
  • Decreased solicitation costs

For the NEOSA Division, the monthly partner program has been a big win:

Monthly partners have given a cumulative average of 10% of all gifts for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Click here to download the pdf.

9 Ways to Show Your Donors Love

Donor retention, also known as donor love, has been hogging the nonprofit spotlight lately. Why?

Because outside of doing the work your nonprofit exists to do, retaining donors is THE most important thing your organization can do to ensure your impact is felt for generations to come.

Whether you rely on a handful of major donors, a massive group of small–dollar donors, or a blend of the two, every single one matters. But retaining these donors – your nonprofit’s lifeline – is proving to be tough work.

Think about your relationship with your donors as a good, old fashioned courting.

When a donor chooses to support you, it’s significant, whether it’s a $10 gift or a $1,000 gift.  They chose YOU.  Out of all the clutter, everything else vying for their attention, all of the mail and email and billboards and commercials, YOU caught their eye.

Now you, at the beginning of the courtship and being the good suitor you are, are tasked with doing everything that you can to make them feel appreciated, informed, excited and, yes, loved.

Show Your Donors Love

So how are you doing that?  Are you …

  • Calling them to thank them for their very first gift? For choosing YOU?
  • Sending them a heartfelt thank you note, written by hand?
  • Gifting them with a Welcome Kit?
  • Quizzing them on how they want to communicate in this courtship, and then, actually fulfilling their communication wish?
  • Asking questions about their feelings for you and your relationship via a phone call, letter or email?
  • Providing them with reasons to love you even more via stories and/or videos that exemplify all of the wonderful things that they help you do?
  • Inviting them over to your place for a date? Giving them a tour?  Sharing a firsthand look at how important their generosity is?
  • Recognizing your anniversary every year – that date when they first turned an eye to you?
  • And then thanking them again? And again?  And … again?

Your donors are fickle and, be warned, your courtship never ends. It takes diligence and persistence.  You would not be YOU without them – their continued support of your endeavors, their participation in your walks and galas, and, most importantly, their advocacy for your organization.  Think about the early days of a relationship in which you are head over heels for some guy or gal and how not only are you shouting from the rooftops about how wonderful they are, but they are right beside you, shouting, too.

Your suitor/supporters want a personal, human, and meaningful connection with your cause. Don’t you think it’s about time you put more focus on ensuring that they feel the love?

How Donors Prefer to Give

If you knew the world would end tomorrow, what would you do?

Quit your job and party hearty? Go into a deep gloom? Spend everything you’ve got on one last big splurge?

Martin Luther, sixteenth century theologian, is reputed to have said, “If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.”

Cheer up! This post is not about the coming apocalypse, nor is it a sermonette. It’s just a reminder about the importance of planning – and planting – for the future, no matter how things look right now.

If you have a pulse, you will have seen studies documenting the decline in new donor acquisition. It is dramatic and cuts across virtually all nonprofits. Some have concluded that the end of the direct mail world has come. No sense fighting it. Give up.

While it is of course essential to diversify your acquisition strategies across multiple channels, don’t lose sight of the value of direct mail. Costs continue to rise, response rates continue to drop – and direct mail-acquired donors continue to convert at a much higher rate than online-acquired. We typically see 12-month conversion rates of 50-55% for DM-acquired, compared to 20-25% for online acquired. And they stick with you and deliver value over time.

Acquisition is an investment in your organization’s future. It is a major expense, so it pays to be smart about it. DM testing can deliver rewards. We just tested a new package – a creative concept that had proven a winner in online market research – and it delivered a 10% lift in response among DM prospects.

There is no doubt that donors’ channel preferences are changing.

However, when you take into account age, valuable information emerges.

Source: Grizzard’s DonorGraphicsTM media usage study

So put away the party hats and cancel the shopping spree. It’s time to go plant a tree. We’ll need the paper for a few more years, at least.

Grizzard’s Newsletter Strategy Reaps Big Rewards

Grizzard's Newsletter Strategy Reaps Big Rewards

Challenge

San Diego Humane Society had developed a magazine self-mailer which they sent out regularly to a large segment of donors and prospects. Each issue was aesthetically pleasing, filled with articles about how the organization was making a difference for animals, and featured images of cute, furry friends. Unfortunately, the magazine was also expensive. Most issues were barely breaking even.

Solutions

Grizzard recommended a retooling of the magazine to a less expensive newsletter format. Our creative team developed an 8-page newsletter featuring a separate remit and a reply envelope. But perhaps the biggest difference from the magazine was the shift in tone. Rather than speaking to the organization’s achievements, all of the newsletter content was intentionally designed to be donor-centric — focusing on the impact the donor is making to help animals.

Results

Upon mailing the first two issues, there was no question Grizzard’s newly developed newsletter was the clear winner:

  • 465% increase in year-overyear newsletter revenue.
  • 10% of all mail revenue for FY16.
  • 222% ROI for the first two issues!

Click here to download the pdf.