The crisp air is gracing our mornings. Football watching is filling our weekends. The pumpkin spice latte is caffeinating our days. Fall is upon us! And for those in the nonprofit world, it’s fundraising season.
If you’re like me, your schedule is already getting filled with numerous fundraisers from banquets to dinners to galas to 5K races to golf tournaments. For community members, there’s no lack of opportunity to connect with nonprofits, learn about their mission and invest resources in their causes. Soon, our email inboxes, Facebook pages and home mailboxes will be filled with strong appeals for our money.
If you’re a nonprofit leader, what’s your plan to stand out amongst the noise? Here are 7 tips to make your year-end fundraising efforts a success.
- Get your donor base ready to give
Will an appeal be the first time your base has heard from you in a while? Do you feel like you only communicate to them when you’re asking for money? Have you adequately thanked major donors for their contributions in the past 12 months? Does your base already know about the major milestones you’ve hit this year, the impact you’ve made and the stories of hope you’re seeing on the frontlines? If not, now is the time. Consider a thank-a-thon phone effort led by volunteers to create a positive, personalized and non-asking touchpoint. A handwritten note of gratitude to major donors would be a nice touch. An email or simple direct mail letter with a compelling story of change, transformation and progress can help remind donors that you’re hard at work, utilizing their resources to realize your vision. These preparation efforts are just as critical as the campaign itself.
- Clean your lists and segment your base
The more customized your communication is to your audience segments, the more impactful it will be. In order to target messaging to lapsed donors, volunteers, major donors, prospects or any other subset of your constituency, you’ve got to have clean, up-to-date data. This can be quite the task! Not only will it make all your efforts more impactful, but also it will save you money on printing and mailing costs.
- Set specific, focused goals
What are the 2-3 most important things you want to accomplish with your year-end efforts? Besides raising money, what else could your efforts do to bring your donors into the heart of the mission, educate them about a program or inform them about new research that strengthens your case for support. Have your revisited your organization’s strategic plan lately? Are there any elements of your larger strategic goals that could be integrated into your campaign? Do you want the campaign to grow existing donors, focus on engaging lapsed donors or convert volunteers to donors? These are just a few examples. The clearer your goals, the more strategic your efforts can be and the more results you can drive.
- Clarify your message
Donald Miller says over and over through his platform StoryBrand, “if you confuse, you lose.” This year, make sure the core messaging of your campaign is simple, clear and easy to understand. Don’t give too much information or too many details. Have one core “why” behind your efforts. State the problem. Show the need. Let your base know what you’re doing about it. Invite them to be a part of the solution. Worried your messaging is too complex? Ask a few folks who don’t know your organization to read your communication and summarize their takeaways.
- Tell your story
The case for storytelling is so compelling. And consistent. Stories activate our brains in multiple regions that logic cannot. Stories stick. They connect. They make your donors feel something. Folks want their hearts and souls to be moved by your work. So invite them in and take them on a journey. Tell your base about the nauseating stench of a dejected homeless man who hasn’t showered in a month, the suicide-attempt survivor found bathing in her own blood, the five-year-old who was locked in the car trunk for three days while being trafficked across state lines or the mom in anguish after her 21-year-old son tragically lost his fight to an opioid addiction. What’s your story? Bring us in. Make us feel the pain that fuels your passion.
- Call your base to action
Now that we’re weeping, angry and in shock. Now that we’re connecting deeply to our own stories of brokenness, hurt, loss and confusion – call us to action; call us to hope. What can we do about it? How can we get involved? Make the call to action prominent and clear. Tie the action to impact. Help donors understand how giving plays a role in your story.
- Tell them what you told them over and over again
With all the noise out there, you must stay in front of your base throughout your campaign and take a multi-channel, integrated approach. Through a combination of direct mail, email, social media, events, digital advertising and in-person meetings, continue to get your key message, your compelling stories and your call to action in front of your base. Don’t rely on one tactic, one platform or one touch point to close a gift. Use a variety and make sure your efforts are coordinated.
Ready to get to work? I hope so. Our community is desperate for meaning, purpose and stories that stir their souls. Get your message out there and invite us all to go deeper into your work this fall. Invite us to advance your mission, to turn towards hope and to transform lives.
Want help with these efforts? We’d love to be a resource. Let’s get the conversation started.
– Cate McLeane, Senior Account Executive