Your Year-End Secret Weapon: Consistent Communications
We’re in the thick of planning for year-end giving. I bet you are putting lots of energy into targeting top prospects via your donor management software and developing strategies that will reach and resonate with your different donor segments (e.g. your monthly donors vs. your one-time donors).
This year, I urge you take one more step: focus on consistent communications. Simply put, this means that people will recognize your organization’s communications in a flash. Time and again, I’ve seen that consistency across channels, campaigns, and audiences has helped nonprofits like yours achieve fundraising success. But how do they do it? Let’s start by defining consistent communications in two ways:
Your Organization: For your organization, it means developing a relevant and memorable brand (with core organizational messages and a unique graphic identity) and linking positive associations across each message, campaign, and platform. You can find more resources about brand development here.
Your Donors and Prospects: Consistent communications means that your donors and prospects immediately know that your nonprofit is the source of various communications and that the brand experience is the same.
Now, here’s what consistency doesn’t mean: saying the same thing to everyone in every conversation and communication.
Use your donor management software to segment your donor lists, then customize your messages and approach accordingly. That’s vital for success in this era of content overload and personalized marketing (like the way the ad for the boots you ogled follows you around online).
Whatever approach you take, remember that your brand should remain consistent throughout every communication and campaign.
What’s the result of this consistency? Increased giving and loyalty.
Consider how you tackle your own inbox or stack of mail. The first things to go are emails or letters from unknown senders. That’s why response (and giving) plummets when it’s hard for people to recognize that an ask or an update is from your organization. On the other hand, a message they instantly know is from your nonprofit is more likely to be opened, read, and acted upon.
Providing a consistent representation of your nonprofit’s brand also helps donors and prospects understand the breadth and depth of your organization. That understanding kick starts donors’ emotional connection and pride (a.k.a. loyalty) and paves the way for your organization not only to create a compelling organizational experience, but also to build stronger, long-lasting relationships with these individuals.
I do want to emphasize the importance of having campaign-specific messages. Your year-end appeal messages should be distinct from your capital campaign appeal messages. But remember, they should also align with your overall brand.
The most common (and easily-fixed) inconsistency that I see is that a nonprofit’s online donation page doesn’t match the current campaign.
I recently responded to an email from an international relief organization to support Syrian refugees. I was surprised to find a generic, one-size-fits-all refugee relief content on the donation page.
Compare that to Global Giving’s campaign-specific online donations page that’s pictured above. This page’s content builds visitors’ understanding of the specific challenges for Syrian refugees in Jordan. It’s far more likely to engage donors, and perhaps even motivate them to give more.
Also, note that Global Giving incorporates consistent organizational branding via the header content. It’s immediately recognizable as a “Global Giving” campaign.
The most reliable way I’ve found to get (and stay) consistent is developing an editorial and visual identity style guide. Use this resource to train your colleagues, board members, and volunteers in staying consistent. Then share your style guidelines with your fundraising ambassadors in a concise, thorough, PDF. Here’s are a couple of resources to help you get started:
Style Guide Your Way to Recognition, Repeats, and Actions (Part One)
Create a Style Guide That’s Useful and Used (Part Two)
There’s no question that creating consistent communications is hard work, but the return on your investment will be greater than you ever imagined. I hope you’ll put it into play now to fire up your nonprofit’s year-end giving.