“I’m the head of development of a small local animal rescue. We’re starting to think ahead to the holidays and the end of the year, which is typically when we host our fundraising event and it’s a big time of year for us donations-wise. But this year has been such a challenge with so many unknowns including just trying to keep our doors open, and now it feels like we can’t plan more than a couple weeks in advance because who knows what can happen. With all of the job loss in our area and corporate sponsors having to cut back on costs, I don’t think we can count on the end of the year to be as big as it once was. We also participated in Giving Tuesday when it happened in May so does that mean we shouldn’t do another Giving Tuesday fundraiser at the end of the year? I’m worried for our donors and for our nonprofit. Any advice would be appreciated. “
First – congratulations! Because in the middle of a global pandemic you have kept your doors open. I have three recommendations below to help you and your supporters keep them open through 2021.
Timing is everything. Email open rates have never been higher. Half of my clients are raising 50% more year-over-year. Record job loss combined with what feels like a relentless cycle of increased uncertainty makes every minute and message count. Plan to overcommunicate, utilize new channels – video and text messages have never been more popular. Share draft appeals with board members and long-time donors to gather feedback prior to sharing with the full audience. Interested in learning something new and saving time? Network for Good’s smart, simple fundraising software can help.
Before October 1st, make sure every person who contributed $500 or more in the last three years receives a personal call from a board member. Determine 2020 ask amounts, who will make the ask, and how soon you can do so. My current recommendation is before Labor Day.
Working to keep your doors open? Own it, be direct with your supporters, and be open to advice. Don’t hesitate to ask for it outright! A wise person once said: “Ask for money, you receive advice. Ask for advice and receive money.” When asking in a written format, include an ask amount and a respond-by date. Soft ask season is over! Vague “now more than ever” appeals yield slow and subpar results. Be smart with your time – segment your lists and personalize each communication thoughtfully. Develop a strategy for each segment to ensure every contact receives some form of outreach every 21 days.
If you have not done so already, please re-forecast all 2020 fundraising goals. With your board’s guidance, set new goals you believe you can achieve. If you are lucky enough to have a reserve or endowment funds, use this time to improve the quality of your case for support. Develop a three-month plan to strengthen individual engagement. Let’s face it – we are not party-planning at the scale of previous years and have a little more time in our day. Reallocate this time and energy to learning something new. More specifically, to learn a skill you need to help your organization be at the top of your supporters’ minds throughout the years ahead.
“What’s the best practice for thanking recurring donors? If they give monthly, do you send a thank you note every month? Or is it just when they sign up for recurring giving? We typically send handwritten notes so it feels excessive to send one each month, but I don’t want them to think we’ve forgotten about them either. ”
When it comes to thanking recurring donors – be consistent and creative. At this point in time, I hope you are using fundraising software that automatically sends an acknowledgment and gift receipt within 24 hours of the monthly gift, preferably by email.
It is essential that you develop a system to ensure your most loyal donors are consistently acknowledged. Once this is in place, be creative with clever appreciation messages designed to surprise and delight. Your shortlist could include – a personalized video message, a call from CEO or Board Chair, a photo of a donor from a recent event, a handwritten letter from a person who was helped with their support, or early access to register for an event. The sky is the limit and this is a great way to test and learn the best ways to engage donors and increase support for your mission!
Ask a Fundraising Coach is Network for Good’s weekly advice column, where Personal Fundraising Coach Andrea Holthouser tackles your toughest challenges in the world of fundraising, nonprofit management, donor relations, and more.