While the pandemic has dampened the economy, that doesn’t mean associations can’t still reach fundraising goals. Starting stewardship with donors now will put your organization in the best position to make the most of end-of-year fundraising.
For most organizations that fundraise, the end of the year is when significant giving occurs. As we head into November, organizations need to begin preparing their efforts, says Rachel Muir, a fundraising expert and nonprofit founder.
While some people are worried that the pandemic’s impact on the economy will leak into giving, Muir said that’s the wrong attitude to have. “Any fundraising that you do not do is guaranteed to bring you zero income,” Muir said. “What’s dangerous about people making this decision [to not fundraise], is it does depress fundraising because they’re not asking their donors to give. Unless your mission has stopped, your fundraising shouldn’t stop.”
Given the current climate, Muir offered four lessons to help get your fundraising in gear this season.
Start with stewardship. If you haven’t already told donors how their last gift made a different, do that now. “We don’t do a good enough job being stewards, of telling donors exactly what their gift accomplished,” Muir said.
She also said organizations should send stewardship emails long before asking for a donation. So, if you’re planning a Giving Tuesday campaign this year, which takes place December 1, be sure to spend November on stewardship.
Craft your appeal. Once you get to the point of wanting to ask for donations, make sure you have a compelling appeal. “When you’re writing your appeal, make sure it’s urgent and it’s telling your donor how the gift will make a difference,” Muir said.
While there is a pandemic going on, Muir said not to spend a lot of time on that in your fundraising appeal, comparing such tactics to mansplaining. “The first couple paragraphs are ‘These are unprecedented times’ and on and on,” she said. “Is that ‘pandemic-splaining?’ We all know there is a pandemic happening.”
Instead, focus on the appeal—why donors should give. Muir has a checklist to help craft a donor appeal. She says organizations who aren’t experienced at crafting appeals should consider hiring an outside fundraising copywriter. “It can save you a ton of time and raise you a ton more money,” she said.
Mystery shop your website. “You have to test everything,” Muir said. “Make a donation on your own website and critique the experience. How simple and easy was it to make a donation?”
While there is some overlap between ecommerce and donation sites, some tools common to ecommerce sites, like CAPTCHA, can actually prevent donations.
“I had to click on all the photos of crosswalks to prove I’m not a robot,” Muir said. “This is why we have an issue with gift abandonment.” She added that CAPTCHA is often inaccessible to visually impaired donors.
Muir said roughly 70 percent of people who arrive at donation pages don’t make a gift. “We need to have a good, seamless process,” Muir said. “It needs to be quick, it needs to be easy, and it needs to reinforce the urgency. We want to require as few fields as possible and want to thank them when they’re finished. Don’t send them out into the ether. They should be taken to a donor-centric landing page.”
Muir said it shouldn’t take long to mystery shop your donation page, but correcting the problems may take some time, so start soon.
Say thank you. “We thank our donors for responding so immediately,” Muir said. “The only absolute in fundraising is you have to make a compelling case, thank donors, and let them know their gift made a difference.”
When asking for donations in email campaigns, make sure to stop asking for donations if a person has already made a gift. “You need to suppress me from receiving your second email appeal, and your third email appeal,” Muir said.
She noted that marketing automation software can help you remove people who already donated, and instead put them on a separate thank you and stewardship track. They should then be sent several emails discussing how their donation has helped, before being put into an active ask campaign again.
“You might have a donor who gives to you on Giving Tuesday and gives another gift on December 31,” Muir said. “If that happens, you did a really good job of making them feel good about their donation and how it is helping.”
What are you doing to prepare for the year-end giving season? Share in the comments.