6 Tips to Adjust Your Year-End Fundraising Strategy for 2021

At the start of a new year, it’s a great time for your organization to take an “out with the old, in with the new” mindset when it comes to your fundraising efforts. 

In this period of self-reflection, you might be looking to transform your fundraising plans to start seeing improved results. Start by analyzing your previous year-end fundraising strategy to discover opportunities to adjust and improve.

Your year-end giving plan is one of the most important aspects of your overall fundraising strategy for each year. DNL OmniMedia’s guide to year-end giving explains why this time period is so crucial for fundraising—not only does the holiday season put people in a charitable mindset, but the end of the year also represents the final opportunity for supporters to make tax-deductible donations before the new year. 

The stats reflect the importance of this period. According to Nonprofits Source, around 30% of annual giving happens in December, with about 10% of all annual donations coming in the last three days of the year. 

To adjust and improve your year-end fundraising strategy and maximize your fundraising gains in the new year, there are a few key tips to implement:

  1. Analyze your data from 2020.
  2. Consider virtual fundraising strategies
  3. Build relationships all year round
  4. Make a plan to start early
  5. Look for new revenue sources
  6. Partner with a tech consultant

In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at each of these tips and offer solutions along the way to get your year-end strategy in top shape with plenty of time for planning and organizing. As they say, the early bird gets the worm (or rather, the increased fundraising boost!), so let’s dive in. 

1. Analyze your data from 2020. 

Before you start looking ahead and constructing your year-end fundraising strategy for 2021, look back to your data from 2020 to get an idea of how successful your fundraising efforts were last year. 

Dig into your organization’s database to analyze past fundraising data. Use this information to find what your organization does well and where you have opportunities for improvement. 

For example, if your organization discovers that a lot of your supporters RSVP’d for year-end virtual events and gave a donation on top of their registration fee, you should maintain this as a primary part of your year-end campaign. However, you may also find that your email open rate is lower than expected, meaning there’s an opportunity to better optimize your email marketing strategies.

Keep these discoveries in mind as you construct your year-end plan for 2021.

2. Consider virtual fundraising opportunities. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of virtual fundraising and amplified its use in the nonprofit sector. This trend for virtual fundraising opportunities is unlikely to go away, so learning how to incorporate it into your strategy now will help you in the future.

If you’re looking for virtual fundraising ideas, there’s no shortage of unique, fun opportunities to get people excited and inspired to contribute to your cause, especially around the year-end holiday season. A few options include:

  • Hosting a virtual cooking class that guides participants through a holiday recipe
  • Putting on a “most festive pet” photo contest where people “vote” on their favorite by contributing a donation in the name of their favorite photo
  • Selling tickets to a Netflix Party fundraiser featuring a film that relates to your mission or the holiday season 

These ideas and many more can be found on Fundly’s list of virtual fundraiser options, which includes specific ideas for nonprofits, schools, teams, and clubs, and more groups. These types of fundraisers serve a dual purpose of giving your supporters a fun activity to look forward to while also raising contributions to your organization.

3. Build relationships all year round. 

While the end of the year provides a great opportunity for raising funds, you don’t want to only reach out to your supporters at the end of the year. By building relationships throughout the year, you can increase your year-over-year retention rate and even increase your year-end donations. 

Focus on building relationships through stewardship activities and personalized outreach. For example, you can:

  • Host events and activities to show that you care about your supporters without asking them to open their wallets each time. In these appreciation events, show your supporters how much they are valued and the impact of their contributions to your organization. 
  • Personalize outreach to your supporters by using their names in all communications and taking their interests into consideration. Consider segmenting your donors or volunteers by common interests to simplify this process, ensuring you’re only giving people information that’s relevant to them. 
  • Keep people engaged all year online by maintaining your social media and website presence. This provides easy access points for volunteers and donors to get updates on your organization and donate when they’re inspired to do so.

Strong relationships are not only the foundation of your fundraising strategy, but your organization as a whole. Fostering the ongoing support of your volunteers and donors is crucial to maintain your supporter base year after year. 

4. Make a plan to start early. 

Year-end fundraising isn’t just about the month of December. In fact, many nonprofits really get things up-and-running in late summer (such as in August) or even earlier, when you can start marketing your upcoming events and lay the groundwork for the busy final months of the year. 

Therefore, it’s important to start planning for your year-end fundraising campaign early, so you don’t have to scramble as December approaches. This plan should include:

  • Your Giving Tuesday Campaign. Giving Tuesday is the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving and will probably be one of your busiest donation days of the year. Make sure you’re prepared for the day by rolling out a marketing plan a few weeks ahead of time on all your social media pages, your website, and your email newsletter. 
  • Holiday considerations for your supporters. Lean into the holiday good cheer by emphasizing the idea of the “season of giving” and focus your messaging and communication materials on this idea.
  • Emphasis on the last few days of the year when fundraising is most lucrative. Plan your biggest communications push for these last few days of 2021, where donors have their last chance to make a tax-deductible gift for the year. 

Careful planning guarantees that when the end of the year rolls around, you can be confident that you’ve increased awareness of your year-end events. This allows you to focus on executing your fundraising campaigns effectively and efficiently. 

5. Look for new revenue sources. 

For the new year, consider diversifying your revenue sources to widen the pool of donation options for supporters. For instance, in addition to your current year-end fundraising plans, you might try:

  • Incorporating matching gifts and volunteer grants. Corporate matching gifts are opportunities for companies to match contributions that their employees make to charities and nonprofits. Volunteer grants work in a similar way—companies reward a nonprofit with a donation once an employee volunteers a specified number of hours with that nonprofit. Encourage your supporters to investigate if their companies already have these programs or are interested in starting them.
  • Launching a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. While most in-person peer-to-peer fundraisers are still not possible, you can still host a successful fundraising campaign by incorporating the P2P framework into a virtual or socially-distanced event. This guide to virtual peer-to-peer fundraising includes several ideas for events that encourage participants to raise money before participating, such as virtual 5Ks or trivia competitions. 
  • Seek grants for specific projects. Take this opportunity to revamp your grant-writing strategy by identifying certain projects that would most benefit from grant funding. Be sure to implement the features of effective fundraising grant-writing—creating a unique proposal for each application, describing the similarities in the mission of your organization and the funder, and making your request captivating and unforgettable. 

Instead of relying on the same type of revenue year after year, expanding your funding sources can help you discover areas of untapped fundraising potential. 

6. Partner with a tech consultant. 

A nonprofit tech consultant can help your nonprofit get organized and strategize for online fundraising opportunities. 

When searching for a nonprofit strategy consulting firm, you’ll want to connect with a firm that understands your nonprofit’s fundraising goals and has the experience necessary to offer recommendations for future actions. 

Nonprofit tech consultants can help with tasks such as:

  • Implementing new technology. This may be helpful if you’ve decided that new tech will help you solve some of the challenges you encountered in 2020. For example, if it’s been awhile since your last website update and users have noted that it’s slow or difficult to navigate, a tech consultant can help figure out the best strategy for a redesign.
  • Analyzing your online fundraising efforts from 2020. Sometimes, having a third-party analyze your fundraising efforts helps ensure that you didn’t miss anything when analyzing yourself. For example, a consultant may notice an opportunity for your organization to take a stronger multi-channel approach to fundraising rather than relying on just one or two fundraising platforms. These experts can bring fresh eyes and insights to enhance your plan moving forward.
  • Developing analytics and data maintenance strategies. Nonprofit tech consultants offer backgrounds in data analytics that can set up your team to manage data more effectively. They can dive into your Google Analytics, for instance, to assess current website performance and implement new integrations to make the most of your online presence.

If you feel that your team could use a little extra push this year, a tech consultant might be the last piece of the puzzle your organization needs to confidently carry out your year-end fundraising strategy for 2021.


By following these recommendations, you can start your nonprofit off on the right foot this year and get a jumpstart on your year-end fundraising plans. Although the end of 2021 might seem far off, it’s never too early to line up your game plan for your year-end strategy to make sure you’re maximizing fundraising opportunities this year. Happy planning!

Is Direct Mail Dead? Here’s Why Fundraising Experts Say No

In today’s society, digital communications have become the norm. This doesn’t mean that direct mail is dead! Nonprofits looking to stand out from their competition incorporate both virtual and direct mail marketing into their strategies. 

When you implement direct mail marketing, your team is sending a fundraising appeal to a potential or existing supporter’s mailbox. These are effective for asking for a donation, announcing an event, or reporting on progress toward your goal.

Our GivingMail nonprofit fundraising overview confirms that physical mail should be a main component of your multi-channel marketing strategy. The biggest benefit of sending a letter is the chance to motivate donors with a story about your cause. If your team is still on the fence about sending direct mail, consider the following facts:

  • Direct mail can have a median ROI of 29%. 
  • People remember print better than digital communications. 
  • Direct mail can be combined with digital strategies. 
  • 70% of donors feel more valued with direct mail. 

With this compelling information, your team has all of the right reasons to implement direct mail into your next fundraising strategy. Let’s dive in!

Direct mail can have a median ROI of 29%. (source)

Direct mail is absolutely worth it when you use it as a working part of a well-defined marketing strategy—especially when you consider it has one of the highest ROI of any fundraising channel..

Your ROI relies on the effectiveness of your messaging, so write your mailers with specific goals in mind. Think of how your wording can raise brand and campaign awareness. Try incorporating these tips into your writing:

Send it to the right people. 

Foremost, your letters should be going to the donor segments that are inclined to respond well to your letter. To start this process, you should segment your audience using your donor’s data, paying attention to those who want to receive direct mail vs. those who don’t. You don’t want to waste time and money sending materials to people who are not likely to engage with your appeal.

Hook your reader from the start. 

The opening lines of your fundraising letter will make the difference in whether it’s read or not. In choosing a hook, try catering to your reader’s interests and concerns. Use compelling language and create interest surrounding your topic. Depending on your mission, you’ll be able to open with a line such as:

  • A moving statistic
  • A call to action
  • A question
  • An anecdote

With these, you’ll grab your audience from the start, and increase the chances they’ll want to find out more about your cause and even contribute their own hard-earned dollars.

Speak directly to your reader. 

Focusing on your reader can help increase their likelihood to participate in your cause. Write directly to the recipient and explain why you’re choosing them to be your audience and how their participation can benefit them. Include details about volunteering and giving opportunities and how they can be the hero of your campaign. 

Effectively writing to your reader will involve including inclusive language such as “you”, or “our”. For example, write: “Your support has helped feed X families in need,” rather than “The organization has fed X families in need.” The personal approach is always the more effective option when calling readers to action.

End with a clear call to action. 

Make the point of your letter obvious to readers. Don’t be afraid of conversational calls to action, such as, “What does this mean for you?” or “Here’s how you can get involved.” They’ll feel inclined to help out, and it’ll feel natural and conversational rather than formal. Be sure to include resources for how to give and get involved, and offer a method of contact for questions and concerns they may have after reading your letter.

Speaking to your reader as though they’re the hero of your mission will go a long way in increasing your mail’s ROI. Be sure to make your hook and purpose clear to increased readership and success. For more information on writing for specific campaigns, check out this in-depth fundraising letters template library for your needs. 

People remember print better than digital communications. 

If you need another compelling reason to incorporate mailers into your communication strategy, consider that a study found recall for print advertisements is 70% higher than digital

This recall can benefit your organization by leveraging brand awareness in your community. When your readers recall your organization’s name or logo after seeing it in their mail, this creates an association in their mind. Then, when they see your logo or name as a sponsor of an event or on their social media feed, they’ll recognize you!

For example, if someone reads about your upcoming event in a mailer, then sees an advertisement for it on Facebook, they’ll be more likely to remember the event as they run across it later. This simple association can turn a reader into an active participant in your organization.

GivingMail’s guide to direct mail for nonprofit organizations further explains how to create a physical mailer that will efficiently stick in the minds of your readers. Remember, creating a lasting impression with your letter involves tactful visual components as well as effective wording. However, this doesn’t mean you should rely only on direct mail but rather that you should use it in support of your marketing strategy overall. 

Direct mail can be combined with digital strategies. 

As mentioned before, you can absolutely ask for donations with direct mail fundraising appeals. However, you should also combine your approach and support digital appeals with your direct mail for a well-rounded communication strategy.

In asking for donations in your campaign overall, have one streamlined call to action across every platform so as to not muddle your ask, as well as create a repetitive recall in your reader’s minds when they see your deliverables. This guide suggests  that you use a combination of platforms such as:

  • Email
  • Telemarketing
  • Social media platforms 
  • Websites

All in all, it’s a fantastic idea to support your digital fundraisers with direct mail marketing. And, in turn, to support your donation request letter with digital marketing strategies. This multi-channel approach will ensure more people read your message, increasing your impact. 

70% of donors feel more valued with direct mail. (source

Finally, when direct mail is done well with personalized introductions, well-constructed appeals, and information leveraged from your CRM, you have the potential to show that you care about your supporters for more than their wallets. This helps build your donor relationships and can result in higher donor retention rates. Here’s how:

  • People experience tons of digital marketing. However, the mail someone receives will be paid attention to, as they go through it on a daily basis. 
  • It’s more personalized. Sure, digital marketing costs money to run, but a physical mailer provides value as well. It communicates that the recipient is valued enough to be sent a physical item that costs your organization ink, paper, and postage.

You care about your supporters, and they’ll feel this sentiment when you go the extra mile to mail a letter to their home!


Direct mail surely isn’t dead. Your organization should take advantage of the benefits of sending a mailer. You’ll be sure to stand out from the clutter of digital promotions, effectively communicate your message in a personal way, and help supplement your overall marketing efforts. Get to writing, so that your mission can gain support in a whole new way!

4 Steps to a Powerful Marketing-Fundraising Partnership—Better Together

Marketing and fundraising are two halves of a whole. But when they don’t operate that way, the outcome of each team’s efforts is far less than it could be, diminishing an organization’s ability to engage its base (and so, to make its desired impact).

Unfortunately, that’s the deal in so many nonprofits. As fundraising leader Mal Warwick cautions, when marketing and fundraising teams stand firm in their respective corners, the disconnect becomes a huge obstacle to raising money and everything else!

So many of us—both nonprofit communicators and fundraisers—agree, yet don’t know how to close the gap. But there are proven ways to bring these teams together. Read on to learn about Fairleigh-Dickinson University’s (FDU) deliberate, well-articulated re-structuring approach and results, followed by my four-step process to bring marketing and fundraising into a productive partnership.

Let’s Be Lovers, Not Fighters:
4 Steps to Closing the Marketing-Fundraising Divide

1. Start at the top.

If bridging the marketing-fundraising gap is the goal, the pathway to getting there has to be supported by your leadership. Your organization’s executive director, supported by the board, must be the one to guide (or, in some cases, push) these two teams into active collaboration and ensure they stay there.

“The heads of development and marketing have to accept that they are oxen pulling the same wagon, a wagon labeled ‘increasing community support’,” says Tom Ahern, a leading authority on donor communications.

If your executive director isn’t focused on bridging this destructive gap, here’s how Kivi Leroux Miller suggests you move her along that path:

  • Ask the leaders of your organization to outline the top three actions an ardent fan would take in order to support you in a given month. Odds are that at least one of those steps, but not all three, will be related to fundraising.
  • Discuss how your marketing and fundraising staff can work together to encourage that fan to follow through on all three actions. This moves the conversation away from traditional to-do lists and toward a more holistic view of how you are relating to your supporters, while encouraging them to be an active player in your organization’s community—for the long-term.

2. Articulate shared priorities as the core of a common agenda, but don’t forget the WIIFM (what’s in it for me)

As long as your marketing and fundraising teams have distinct goals, they won’t be effective partners. How could they be, each pointed in its own direction?

But if tasked with a common agenda, the landscape changes. A marketing-fundraising partnership is the only way to get there. Here are two useful models:

At the HealthCare Chaplaincy Network, the marketing and fundraising teams each have specific responsibilities but work closely together to advance their shared priorities: 1) Building and strengthening relationships with key supporters (partners, donors and others); and 2) generating revenue via fundraising and beyond. “This ethos starts with the directors and permeates our staff,” says Jim Siegel, Executive Vice President for Marketing & Communications.

The advancement leadership at FDU made a radical change a few years ago, as it merged the development and communications teams. The teams had worked side-by-side in the same room for many years, but  with distinct goals and paths of activity, says Dina Schipper, Director of Public Relations. The merger shifted the entire team’s reporting to the Senior Vice President for University Advancement. But most importantly, “the shift introduced a tri-fold focus to the newly-merged team—supporting fundraising, recruitment and overall institutional branding, which, in time, significantly enriched its donor profiling strategy,” says Schipper.

The results are striking: Schipper describes a greater awareness among her colleagues of what outreach is underway and increased ability to coordinate themes and timing. “Nothing says more about the success of this merger than the fact that we’ll be closing out our large and successful capital campaign within the next year,” she says.

In addition, Schipper cites the unified team’s single focus as the source of its increased impact in asking, training and supporting the University’s board members, alumni and other supporters to double as effective ambassadors. Bravo!

3. Identify what’s working—from each “side”—and do more of it

Start by asking your marketing team to identify the top three successes from the fundraising team, and to integrate those approaches into its own work. And vice versa.

Don’t forget to identify what isn’t working, and do less of it. Kivi suggests that each team give the other a “free pass” to make any single change to each other’s work, without protest or arguments, for a week. If your marketing director can make only one change to a fundraiser’s email appeal, what will it be? And what single change will the development director make to the marketer’s blog post?

This practice forces each team to focus on what is truly most important to them, gives each some level of control and encourages them to better understand each other without arguing over the merits of the requested change.

Note: Organizational change experts Chip and Dan Heath, authors of  Switch, advocate this approach as the most reliable path to positive change.

4. Build on real, compelling success stories—well-honed and widely shared —as the foundation of your fundraising and marketing collaboration

Here’s a fact you might not know: When the same strong stories are used by both marketing and fundraising teams, your organization wins via increasing awareness, building engagement and boosting positive responses and actions (e.g., we want to be a part of a winning organization.) Showing via stories works; repetition does too.

Fundraiser Janet Levine recalls the pattern that emerged from her years working in advancement in higher education. “Working together enabled us to create a powerful approach—for example, we wrote press releases on key stories; those stories were re-purposed into newsletter articles; shared with our Board members to help them be more effective messengers for us, and served as the focus of our direct mail appeals,” says Levine.

The FDU advancement team scored a huge post-merger win when Bruce Springsteen participated in FDU’s  WAMFest (Words and Music Festival), co-presenting a seminar with poet Robert Pinsky. It’s no surprise that the Boss’ visit was a huge media relations opportunity for the university—the story was covered by the Associated Press and other media venues throughout the world.

But that was just the beginning! The team created “experience packets” with videos and transcripts of the Springsteen-Pinsky program and others, plus press clips as leave behinds in visits to grantmakers funding in arts and culture, an area they hadn’t reached out to previously. And, as you can imagine, alumni are thrilled to tell the tale of Bruce on the FDU campus!

What is your organization doing to move marketing and fundraising into a more productive partnership? Or, if you’re stuck with a huge divide, what’s keeping you there? Please share your experiences here.

5 Steps to Newsletters that Keep Donors Close (Part One)

Read Part Two Now

Your organization’s relationship with your donors is like any other relationship you have; it requires focus and nourishment, forever. That’s the only way to keep your donors satisfied, engaged and, hopefully, giving.

In fact, most fundraisers are doing a poor job of it, with donor retention rates plummeting to an all-time low of 39%. That means donors are likely to cut your organization from the list next time round.

You have to stop the attrition: “A 10% improvement in retention can yield up to a 200% increase in projected lifetime value, as with higher retention significantly more donors upgrade their giving, give in multiple ways, recommend others, and, ultimately, perhaps, pledge a planned gift to the organization,” says fundraising expert Adrian Sargent.

That’s mammoth potential, and your donor newsletter is a vital tool for getting there. Here’s how:

1) Stop Asking, Start Sharing

Before you write a line, set up the right frame for your newsletter. The primary goal is to reshape your donor relationships from the transactional to one that’s more personal, productive and long-term—the triad of donor retention.

The only way to get there is to get beyond the ask. After your heartfelt and prompt thanks for a donor’s first gift, you want to invite her further into your organization­­.

Make her feel acknowledged, appreciated and right at home—just as you would invite a new-ish friend over for dinner when you’re ready to get one step closer.Your style, schedule, family, aesthetic and cooking finesse are all laid open during that visit. In much the same way, your donor newsletter invites donors in to experience your organization’s (and community’s) personality, promises and values in a way far richer and more meaningful than ever before.

2) Establish an Imaginary Editorial Board

You fundraise day in and day out, making it challenging to remember that your organization is just one of many elements in each donor’s life. Think about your own giving—how often do you think about the nonprofits you support in the course of a typical day?

To counteract the urge to talk to folks like you, rather than your donors, you need to consciously step into their shoes to identify what to focus on and how to make that your content easy to digest and remember.

A reliable path to content connection is to launch an imaginary editorial board, comprised of personas (how-tos here) representing up to nine of your most important donor segments.

Next, create one-page persona profiles like the one below. Liz Henkel represents the “Retired Women, Annual Gifts $200-$500” segment so important to one of our clients, a foundation that supports a regional parks network.

enewsweb

Then spend some time with your board members by surrounding your desk with these profiles. When I work on the foundation’s newsletter, I’m writing to Liz and the foundation’s other donor personas. I couldn’t ignore them, even if I wanted to. It works!

3) Match Your Content Formula with Your People

Use your newsletter to spend time with your donors in two channels—print (if you’re your donor base includes 55+ers) and email—each with distinct content. Shape your print newsletter as a rich, immersive visit, and your e-newsletter as a quick check-in call.

Send this newsletter to donors only, so your voice stays clear and focused. This includes ALL active and recent donors, not just selected segments, with the option to opt-out.

Your Print Newsletter

One of the most common errors I see in print newsletter production is using a different content mix for every issue. Although this “whatever we’ve got” approach may make it easier for you to get the newsletter out the door, it makes the product far harder for your donors to absorb and diminishes the likelihood they’ll do so.

Instead, create a content formula or mix based on your personas’ wants and interests. Consistent use of this formula will makes it easier for you to be seeking and creating the content you need on an ongoing basis, and for readers to recognize your newsletter at a glance (increasing probability that they’ll read it).

Prioritize the elements donors focus on most: photos, headlines, photo captions and articles, and include:

  • Pull quotes: Highlight important or meaningful quotes.
  • Photos: In the twice-yearly donor newsletter I create for one client organization, we showcase one or two beneficiaries (including children whenever we can) in a enewsweb2few photos. We caption each photo with a description of what’s going on, and then connect that activity to donor support. Who can resist a photo with mini-story like the one at left?
  • Success stories: Show how donor support leads to visible impact. This is great material for the first page.
  • Donor-created content: Testimonials should top your list.
  • Coming attractions: New programs, services, locations present a golden opportunity to show donors what you can do with more money.
  • Program updates: What have you accomplished and how have your donors helped?
  • Issue or cause updates: Highlight what’s changing, why that matters and how your organization is adjusting accordingly.
  • Donor profiles: Select profile subjects who most of your donors will relate to.
  • Letter from your executive director: Do this only if you must and then, never on the front page.

Note that there’s no hot news here; we’ll address that in your eNewsletter

You can change your content formula when the insights you gather and assess—from your donors, the trajectory of your issue or cause and more—indicate that makes sense.

Your Email Newsletter

Your donor eNewsletter’s main job is to remind supporters your organization is active in moving your cause forward. This is where you can update them on hot news or share an immediate call to action.

Content options mimic those for your print newsletter, in short form. eNewsletters function more like a quick drop-in than the leisurely visit of the print newsletter experience; so keep your content brief.  Include one or two content features in each newsletter, but no more than a single call to action.

With Key Messages Everywhere

Weave your key messages—conveying your organization’s promise, impact and appreciation of your donors—throughout all print and online newsletters.

Donor Newsletters Done Right Will Help Keep Your Donors Close

Follow these steps to strengthen your relationships with your donors and increase your retention rate. Promise!

Read Part Two Now

What—if any—feedback do you get on your donor newsletters? Please share it here, along with newsletter suggestions for your donor-loving peers! Thank you.

 

5 Steps to Newsletters that Keep Your Donors Close (Part Two)

Donor-loss danger ahead!  An all-time low 39% donor retention rate means donors are likely to cut your organization from the list next time round.

You have to stop the attrition: “A 10% improvement in retention can yield up to a 200% increase in projected lifetime value, as with higher retention significantly more donors upgrade their giving, give in multiple ways, recommend others, and, ultimately, perhaps, pledge a planned gift to the organization,” says fundraising expert Adrian Sargent.

That’s mammoth potential, and your donor newsletter is a vital tool for getting there.

Here’s how:

Read Part One first

4) Use this Proven Format Formula—Makes Reading Easy and Satisfying

Your Print Newsletter

You’re lucky enough here to have a well-tested format formula for your print newsletter, created fundraisers at the Domain Group in the 1990s. It still works!

The Domain formula includes:

• Page count: Four to six pages (in tests, adding more pages did not produce more revenue)
• Short articles
• Write for skimmers (use superstar headlines, bullets and lots of white space)
• Send to donors only, but ensure it goes to ALL donors
• Make the voice personal (the word “you” dominates) rather than institutional; get one-to-one
• Focus on progress updates (tell donors how much they have changed the world through their gifts)
• Include a response envelope
• Mail in an envelope

Source: Tom Ahern

I’d go one step further to suggest you:

  • Design a 4-page (11×17) newsletter, that folds to 8 ½ x 11
  • Print it four-color (it’s cheaper than 2-color in most cases)
  • Test the outside envelope with your list. I’m not as convinced of its value.

On the fundraising content, it’s more implicit than explicit. You do want to put the opportunity out there and make it easy for folks to give. In addition to including a response envelope like the one below, mention your donation page web address and the speed and safety of online giving frequently and clearly.

enews650

This response envelope makes it clear how to give clear, and easy to do so.

Your Email Newsletter

43% of all emails are opened on mobile devices. That means your single most important formatting to-do is ensuring your e-news is easy to read, and click on, via smartphones and tablets. Make it happen now.

Otherwise, make your emails brief, punchy and a pleasure to view and read. Follow usage patterns closely to see what issues, calls to action, layout, subject lines and other elements drive interest and action, and which don’t.

Two must-includes here, beyond the content:

  • A big, bold Donate Now button
  • Links to follow your organization on social media channels, and to share your e-news content there as well.

donate

Source: Nonprofit Tech for Good

5) Set an Ambitious but Realistic Schedule, and Meet It

I recommend that you publish your print newsletter quarterly, and your e-newsletter once or twice monthly.  If that print newsletter schedule is absolutely impossible—due to budget and/or time limitations—send two print newsletters annually, timing them to arrive four weeks before your late spring and year end appeals

Of course, twice (or even four times) annually means that your publication is more of an update or progress report than a true e-newsletter. So set expectations (and name your publication) accordingly.

But whatever schedule you commit to, meet it! I know that can be hard. We’re a 1½- person firm so I face the same kind of time and budget limitations you do.  But breaking a promise is bad news, shouts “who cares,” and undermines your organization’s credibility.  Just don’t do it!

Read Part One here

What feedback do you get on your donor newsletters? Please share it here, along with newsletter suggestions for your donor-loving peers in the field! Thanks.

Increasing Visitors and Donations in the Shadow of the Great New York Museums (Case Study)

Back in the fall of 2003, when Mark Albin, Newark Museum deputy director of marketing and public relations, started his new job, he faced what seemed like an overwhelming challenge.

The Challenge – Low Numbers All Around

Museum visitors were few and far between to this incredible art and science resource with a planetarium, a restored 19th-century mansion, representative works of American art, historical galleries and much more.

But low visitation wasn’t the only issue. The low number of visitors capped funding (many funders gauge gifts on visitation, among other factors; and most major donors evolve from the visitor base) and, ultimately, the Museum’s impact.

A tough a way for a new staff member to start off, despite his marketing expertise.

The Strategy: Shaping the Marketing Response to Audience Perceptions

Albin, who has spearheaded a host of museum marketing efforts from Liberty Science Center to the USS Intrepid, didn’t know off hand how to boost numbers. But he knew audience research was the way to find out. “We needed to know why folks who weren’t coming to the museum weren’t coming; or what visitors liked about it,” says Albin.

After all, the Museum hadn’t talked to its audiences for a decade or more. And the last decade was one in which Newark has evolved to a generally safer, cleaner and culturally-prolific place (especially with performance venue New Jersey Performing Arts Center/NJPAC), and the Museum had expanded as well.

After some initial brand discovery work with Museum colleagues, during which Albin took their pulse on how they perceived their own areas of work and the Museum overall, he turned to external audiences. Albin launched a full-scale getting-to-know-you campaign, including focus groups, onsite surveying and phone interviews. “We got in touch with target audiences. culture consumers within the five-county/30-mile area the Museum focuses on, including those who knew the museum and those who didn’t,” he recalls.

These phone interviews, in combination with focus groups implemented for various audience segments – museum members, family visitors, and families and individuals who had never visited the museum – generated some very useful findings.

Members and others who had visited the Museum were very positive about their experiences. But they cautioned Museum staff against increasing visitation too much. These supporters were invested in keeping a good secret to themselves, to a certain degree.

Prospective visitors (who had never been to the Museum) had absolutely no idea what collections and events the Museum featured. Most (88%) had heard of the museum, but 90% of those who knew of it mistakenly believed it featured the history of Newark or Newark artists. Of equal concern was the fact that these prospects thought the Museum had only one to three galleries (there are 80) and didn’t know where the Museum was, although most had been to NJPAC, just blocks away.

The Solution: Clearer Messaging, Broader Outreach and an Energized Core of Staff Brand Evangelists

“We knew that establishing a clearer understanding of what the Newark Museum offers was the first step to increasing visitation,” says Albin. “But that in itself was a tall order.”

After all, how do you clearly, succinctly and broadly convey the value a diverse cultural institution provides to its varied audiences. Albin knew that the right tagline was the place to start, as those few memorable words would be the core of the campaign he would role out to engage neighbors in the five counties.

Tagline creation is among the most challenging of marketing endeavors, because you have so little (less than 12 words is a must, six or less ideal). But writing shorter is always harder – just ask any short story writer.

Albin narrowed his focus to two essential points: The Museum’s many and varied galleries, and its collections and exhibits in art (offering inspiration) *and* science (offering exploration). This pithy and descriptive, yet intriguing, tagline was the powerful result of all this hard work:

80 Galleries of Inspiration & Exploration

The Museum’s graphic identity was tweaked to convey modernity, activity and excitement with a new palette of colors and typefaces to be used consistently throughout online and print campaigns. However, Albin left the logo – an urn developed by architect Michael Graves who designed a major addition to the museum in 1990 – untouched. He resisted the impulse to complete the graphic switch at this time, looking forward to the 2009 centennial which will be heralded by all-new iconography.

Nice restraint, Newark Museum team. It’s never a good idea to change logos twice in five years.

What Albin and his team faced next was choosing the right strategy to get the word out to NJ culture vultures. Since the initial marketing goals were building awareness and visitation, and targets lived in five surrounding counties, broadcast marketing (reaching everyone in a certain geographic area, rather than targeting specific groups within those areas) was the way to go.

Moving forward quite boldly, as the need for investment in marketing was inarguable, the Museum rolled out its campaign via:

  • Billboards on area highways
  • Frequent radio ads
  • Full-page ads in local newspapers such as the Newark Star-Ledger.

The third leg of the Museum’s branding stool was Albin’s training of colleagues in what visitors needed to know, and how to talk about the range and depth of collections and programming in the arts and science arenas. “Since we had engaged them in the branding process right up front, my colleagues were eager to integrate the new Museum messaging into their daily conversations with colleagues and museum visitors,” says Albin.

Results: Museum Visitors at All-Time High

The Newark Museum hasn’t tested tagline recognition, but visitation figures confirm the success of the new look and tagline. The Museum is headed into a third straight year of double-digit percentage increases in attendance. Some shows are generating even bigger gains: The 2006 Spring exhibit generated 112% higher attendance than that the previous year. An increase in giving is sure to follow.

Albin says the Museum brings 300,000 people into downtown Newark each year, which makes the Museum a great partner for NJPAC.

Museum staff members are pleased with the Museum’s new identity, and now find it much easier to succinctly convey an understanding of where they work. Win-win, Mr. Albin.

Next Steps: Promoting Permanent Exhibits, Enhancing Understanding of Museum Offerings and Engaging Niche Audiences in More Active Involvement

A marketer’s job is never done. So Mark Albin is hard at work on next steps, and ramping up for the 2009 centennial.

He’s working on:

  • Motivating niche audiences to get to know the Museum. Mr. Albin hopes a new photographic and video show called “India: Public Places, Private Spaces” will attract the Indian populations of Middesex and Morris counties.
  • Engaging specific audiences to become more active. From my own personal experience, family members receive countless mailings from the Museum inviting us to kids activities, special events (which are indeed special) and Museum-sponsored vacations. We definitely participate in many more of the family activities than we would if the mailings didn’t keep the Museum top of mind. I couldn’t forget the Museum, even if I wanted to.
  • Going beyond the tagline to effectively promote the Museum’s permanent collections.

The Museum has some incredible holdings, including an extraordinary collection of Tibetan art. But not surprisingly, permanent collections just don’t get the same level of attention as the special exhibits. Albin is striving to change that via a campaign consistent with the new brand.

But the strongest sign of the Museum’s marketing success is its continued focus on audience research. Albin implemented major visitor studies in fall 2006 and spring 2007. Those findings are complemented by visitor surveys that have been distributed almost every time I visit the museum, where respondents are motivated to participate by the lure of great prizes.

Take a cue from Mark Albin’s focus on audience research as the key to effective marketing. Its enabled the Newark Museum to increase visitors and giving in just a couple of years. Imagine how the strategy can grow your organization’s marketing impact.

5 Storytelling Tips for Your #GivingTuesday Campaign

Guest author JennNonprofit Storytelling #GivingTuesdaya Sauber is a crowdfunding and digital marketing expert at CauseVox, a peer-to-peer fundraising software for nonprofits.

The beauty of a movement like #GivingTuesday is that the nonprofit world gets to shine in the midst of the chaotic and overwhelming madness that is the holiday retail season.

But let’s face it: when your nonprofit is one of hundreds, or thousands participating in this growing global giving day, making your story stand out can be an intimidating task. You’ve got a short lead in to December 2, and then you have 24 hours (less if you think about when people are awake and online) to inspire people to give.

So how do you amp up your fundraising appeal in a way that encourages people to click that donate button? Use the power of storytelling! Here are a few of my favorite tips to consider as you craft your storytelling plan for #GivingTuesday.

1) Make your story relevant

When planning a move, people always say “location, location, location.” For #GivingTuesday, it’s of the utmost importance to keep things relevant. And we’re not just talking about staying on topic to your mission—but think of the time of year, think seasonal.

Read more

5 Must-Haves: Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Toolkit

Rob Wu, CauseVoxGuest blogger Rob Wu is CEO of CauseVox, a crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising platform used by nonprofits to create fundraising websites.

Today, fundraising extends far beyond motivating people to donate. We want engagement, we want other actions, and we want to build a relationship! We also want as many people as possible rallying for our cause.

Here’s where peer-to-peer (P-to-P) fundraising comes in, as a reliable method of leveraging your existing audience to raise money on your behalf. It’s a great way to reach a broader audience, activate new donors, and re-engage current supporters.

You tell us that your biggest challenge is getting your peer-to-peer fundraisers prepared, informed, and engaged. This five-part fundraising toolkit will be a great help:  Read more

Still Time: 5 Ways to Up Year-End Giving

The clock is running out on year-end fundraising.

Whether you’re exceeding expectations or are barely meeting the bare minimum, you can do even better. I know what you’re thinking: “There’s so little time.” But I want to share five doable adjustments you can make right now to increase year-end donations.

1) Expand your prospect pool program participants, volunteers, and advocates (Low-hanging fruit alert!).

Read more

Get More from Your Donor Database

Your database tools have the potential to dramatically increase marketing and fundraising results if you use them right. That’s why I’ll be blogging lots of tips, tools and case studies on building out and using your database(s) to improve your supporter’s experience in 2014—via segmentation, serving customization content and personalization. More satisfying experiences lead to more of the actions you need (results!).

That’s why I reached out to my friend James Porter when I heard he was headed to the Salesforce1 World Tour—Salesforce’s road show rolling out its new Salesforce1 platform—asking him to guest blog on what we need to know about Salesforce. Here’s James…

Nonprofits like yours have benefited from Salesforce’s “free” Nonprofit Starter Pack for years and now, with Salesforce1, Salesforce hopes to solidify its place as the nonprofit database platform of choice. In fact, there are so many New York City-area nonprofits using or considering using Salesforce that all of the nonprofit-focused sessions were vastly overcrowded, with as many folks shut out as could fit in each meeting room.

Here’s what I learned, or was reminded of:

  • The more accurate and complete the data you enter, the more useful and accurate your findings, analysis and actions. Good data in generates value out, no matter what database solution you use.
  • One of the best ways to jump start adoption among colleagues who don’t view the database as their responsibility is to focus on what’s in it for them. Sit down with database users—both in and beyond marketing and fundraising teams—and ask them to list five things they’d like to be able to do with the database (even if they can’t be done right away). If possible, it’s best to have this conversation before implementing the database.
  • To get a full and accurate 360-degree view of your constituents’ habits, actions and preferences, feed in data on every way they touch your organization (and vice versa) across all channels (website, social, direct mail, telemarketing, physical store, etc.), campaigns, programs and departments. Such rich data sourcing is what makes it possible for you to slice-and-dice to get the precise segment you want or customize a certain message for greatest relevance.
  • Mobility enriches data and increases timeliness. The new Salesforce1 app for iPhone and Android helps front-line fundraisers and marketers solicit and enter more information about donors when out of the office (no chance of forgetting key elements) in a flash.
  • Apps (on the Salesforce App Exchange and beyond) for taking online donations (processing fees still apply), project management, and calendar management are likely to help your organization, especially if it’s on the smaller side, to operate more efficiently.
  • Easy-to-use reports from Salesforce and similar constituent or donor databases can help you make more accurate decisions going forward, and illustrate the value of the data gathering and analysis approach to your boss .

Word of Caution: Salesforce is a powerful tool and can do a lot. But many of the Salesforce-based successes that nonprofits share are achieved with the help of consultants. The same holds for the Blackbaud CRM/donor management product successes you hear about.

And Salesforce’s out-of-the-box Nonprofit Starter Pack will only do so much for your organization without customization (even with apps), so figure the cost of consulting assistance when you are choosing your database solution. Once you use the Starter Pack for a month or two, start compiling a list of features and functions (i.e. what you want to do) that are beyond the capabilities of the starter pack, and start figuring out how to get the expertise you need to bring them to life via a consultant, firm or hire.

While we’re talking databases, take a look at:
Big Pressure for Big Data? Here’s What to Do