Increase the Perennials in Your Nonprofit Garden – Four Ways to Better Manage Donors and Improve Retention

Nonprofit Donor Retention TipsAs we enter spring, gardens are growing and blooming thanks to the efforts of their caretakers. While many include both perennial and annual blossoms, the daisies, peonies and roses that come up year after year truly offer a beautiful return on investment for gardeners. For nonprofits, this brings to light similarities with donors and donor care.

While your nonprofit garden is undoubtedly populated with annual and perennial donors, caring for those that come back year after year is especially important. Typically about three out of four first-time donors will turn out to be like annual plants, only giving once. To maximize the impact of fundraising efforts, nonprofits need to focus on donor retention and making every donor a perennial donor.

When it comes to donor retention, it is essential that nonprofits understand the vital importance of the back end of donation processing. In order to grow, nurture and sustain donor relationships, nonprofits need to take immediate steps after a gift is made. Here are four ways that the back end of donation processing can help your organization improve donor retention:

Nurture Donor Relationships with Appreciation

Just as gardens need water and fertilizer to thrive, donor relationships need appreciation. The power of acknowledgement lies in the backend of donation processing. Showing appreciation can come in many forms and should be appropriate for the donor’s level of engagement. Thank you letters are an important first step for all donors, and they need to be carefully tailored to take into account donor attributes, from gift size to specific campaigns or reasons for giving. Thank you calls can make a big impact as well, even leading to a 40 percent increase in donor retention, as revealed in Penelope Burk’s Donor Centered Fundraising.

Whether showing appreciation through the phone, email or direct mail, it is critical that acknowledgements are timely, meaningful and personalized. Actively illustrating to a donor how their gift makes a difference helps cultivate a first time donor into a perennial supporter.

Acknowledge Individual Care Needs and Add a Personal Touch Via the Call Center

Fundraising Tips - Donor RetentionPlants have different soil, sun and watering needs, and donor care needs to be personalized as well. The call center is the perfect place to make this happen. Many Merkle RMG clients have seen more than a 50% increase in subsequent response rates from implementing outbound thank you calling programs. Contact centers offer an opportunity to make real connections with donors through human-to-human conversations. The ability to appeal to donor emotions and share the impact of a gift in terms of a donor’s specific reason for giving can generate additional donations and increase giving amounts

At the same time, call centers can help address donor challenges, bringing wilting relationships back to life. Call centers allow nonprofits to respond to feedback from unhappy donors and resolve the challenges they’re having with a nonprofit in a way that may encourage continued donations. Often, busy nonprofits receive a response requesting to remove a prospective donor from a mailing list, and rather than explore the issue further, donors are quickly removed. However, by utilizing the call center, the nonprofit may discover that perhaps what the donor really needs is for the method or frequency of correspondence to change, preventing a lost donor by effectively responding to such requests.

Protect Your Garden: Ramp Up Security Efforts

Gardeners know they need to keep plants safe from insects and animals if they expect them to grow, just as nonprofits know donor information must be protected. Trust is critical to maintaining donor relationships and this starts by physically and virtually securing donor information.

Building a secure virtual environment can be achieved through basic data security practices, such as firewall, antivirus, or intrusion detection software. As many donations come in via credit card, following the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council’s (PCI SSC’s) standards for processing credit card information is important. PCI offers a framework through its Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), which takes a comprehensive look at security and can ensure credit card information is properly handled and protected.

Physical surveillance and reliance on trusted employees are also key in locations where donor data and donations are handled. This means maintaining 24/7/365 video surveillance, GPS tracking on donation-carrying vehicles and background checks on individuals handling payments.

From the start, establish trust between the donor and your organization by safeguarding payments and personal information so potential issues are minimized. As a result, donors will be more likely to make a long-term commitment to a nonprofit’s mission.

Give Donors Room to Grow Through Recurring Gift Programs

Fundraising Donor RetentionPlants need the right amount of room and flexibility to blossom – and so do donors. Sustainer programs are growing in popularity as they make giving easier for donors, while also ensuring a more reliable, predictable stream of funding for nonprofits. However, without the right back end support, these types of programs can quickly become frustrating for both parties.

Recurring gift programs should offer donors the flexibility to give whenever and however they choose, encouraging participation. Back end support also needs to account for common issues, like expiring credit cards, taking care of necessary updates without putting an additional burden on the nonprofit or letting planned donations lapse. Sustainer donors have many of the same needs as other donors, such as quick acknowledgement and being shown appropriate gratitude, but unfortunately these needs are occasionally overlooked in recurring giving programs. A stronger back end management solution can help prevent this from occurring, allowing sustainer programs to flourish.

What’s Next?

In order to move forward with your mission, nonprofits should remember that successful fundraising begins with the back end. When nurtured, first-time donors turn into long-term gift givers. With appropriate acknowledgement, call center utilization, security and recurring gift program management, nonprofits can improve donor retention and see their organizations flourish.




Top Ten Things to Do When Beginning a Volunteer Fundraising Program

Volunteer Fundraising ProgramMany nonprofits from colleges to boards and associations have dedicated groups of volunteers who help them meet their fundraising goals. What better way to increase engagement and reduce fundraising costs than to have volunteers solicit their peers with a personal appeal? Alumni groups, past president groups and foundation boards are all incorporating volunteer fundraising into their annual and campaign giving strategies. If you’re considering starting a volunteer fundraising program for your organization, here are ten things to do to get you started.

  1. Start Small. Establishing a culture of volunteer fundraising in your group can take time. The key is to start small and grow your program over time. As you recruit additional volunteers, they can help you find and recruit even more volunteers. Consider starting with a single class of alumni or segment of your foundation. From there you can expand your program to include all alumni or segments of your group.
  1. Decide How to Segment. Whether you want your volunteers to contact giving prospects from the same alumni area, current geographic region, profession or affinity, choose a method of segmentation and stick with it. It’s good to choose a method of segmentation where your volunteers are likely to have a lot in common with the people they are reaching out to.
  1. Recruit Volunteers. Many times those that already contribute to your organization are prime to extend their support as volunteers. Take a look at those with a strong affinity to your mission. Many successful programs are able to retain their volunteers year after year, so your recruiting should be less time-intensive once you build up your initial team of volunteers.
  1. Appoint Lead Volunteers. Enabling the success of your volunteers can be a challenge. You provide them with resources and training, but some volunteers still need on-on-one coaching to be successful. This is why lead volunteers are so important. They are able to provide more personal support directly to your volunteers, allowing you to focus on more strategic parts of the overall fundraising program. If you already have a program started, consider asking your highest performing volunteers to step into the role of lead volunteer.
  1. Assign Prospects. One of the most effective ways for assigning prospects to volunteers is to let them pick based on who they know best. You can create the list of who’s available to contact, exclude anyone with any special restrictions, and allow your volunteers to pick whom they’d like to contact. We typically see volunteers contacting between 10-25 prospects, but you can also leave it open for your volunteers to contact more prospects if they’re willing.
  1. Create Resources. It works well to have a welcome packet or volunteer guide to provide new volunteers. This is a good way to reinforce expectations and guidelines for your volunteers as well as let them know about current initiatives that may be of interest to potential donors. A typical outline for these documents include:
    1. The role of a volunteer
    2. Goals and expectations
    3. Impact of volunteer fundraising for your organization
    4. Tips and scripts for contacting prospects
    5. Who to contact for additional help (include Lead Volunteers and Staff)
    6. What’s happening in your organization – latest initiatives and milestones
  1. Train Your Volunteers. It’s best to offer a variety of training options so that your volunteers can choose the one that best fits their learning style. In addition to the resources you have already created, you can offer in-person training or a campaign kick-off event, live online training, as well as recorded training for your volunteers.
  1. Focus Your Volunteer Efforts. Since your volunteers are busy people, focus their efforts around 2-3 key times or initiatives per year. Pick a 1-2 week period and ask them to contact 10 or more prospects during that period. Time this around a key event – maybe they get early access to register for your annual convention by taking part, or it’s a lead-in to homecoming or a special giving day.
  1. Analyze Results. One advantage of focusing your volunteer efforts over a few short 1-2 week periods throughout the year is it allows you time to analyze your results and make adjustments. Technology resources are available that can give you powerful analytics that allow you to easily identify your top performing volunteers, as well as those who are struggling.
  1. Recognize Your Volunteers. Your volunteers make a significant contribution with all of the time and effort they invest, so it’s important that they are recognized for their efforts. List their names in your annual donor report or ask them to stand up at an annual meeting or fundraising banquet. Another great way to recognize their contributions is to offer them special perks, maybe exclusive access to a popular event or important stakeholder. Recognizing your volunteers is a great way to promote a culture of enthusiastic volunteers who stay with your organization year after year.

Volunteer fundraisers can be your key to success, but logistically can be challenging to manage. That’s why Reeher designed the first online and mobile tool to help organizations manage volunteers in your fundraising program. With Class Agent Fundraising, you can easily assign and manage volunteers, track their progress on tasks, provide the information they need to make the “asks” of their peers, and allow them to report progress and remain engaged with their team. You can view up-to-date campaign results at your fingertips – gone are the days of emailing spreadsheets and waiting for monthly reports to track your program’s progress. Visit Reeher’s website to try Class Agent Fundraising free for 14 days.

Social Media: An Indispensable Tool for A Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

Social Media for NonprofitsFor the past several years, crowdfunding, – in the age of shared economy and “pay it forward” – has become one of the best ways to fundraise for organizations and individual causes. Crowdfunding is so effective because it allows individuals to quickly and efficiently reach large numbers of people through various social media channels. It’s that instant communication of a story with friends, family, acquaintances, and others who share similar interests, that makes crowdfunding so profound. 

Social media has become the megaphone and public relations of crowdfunding. As an organization or as an individual you must be ready to create content that will engage all possible donors. Latinos – for example – over-index in the use of mobile social apps and at FundLatinos we encourage our campaign creators to leverage that usage. 

Some of the best practices to use social media in crowdfunding campaigns are:

  1. Be ready to engage family and friends. Let them know beforehand that you will be setting up a crowdfunding campaign and ask from them to let their networks know. If necessary, write for them the pitch: “My cousin Ernesto just had a baby which needs medical care – will you help?”
  2. Identify “campaign ambassadors” early on. These are the people who believe wholeheartedly on your campaign and will help spread the message of its importance.
  3. Be truthful when writing your campaign story. Be specific and to the point. Remember people are giving you willingly their time (to read about your campaign) and hopefully their money to help.
  4. Use social to your campaign’s advantage. If your campaign is about a start-up or a product be sure to be a member of interest groups / pages on Facebook as well as already follow specific Twitter / LinkedIn accounts that have an interest in what your campaign is about.
  5. Create a content calendar.  Your campaign needs attention, just like you need air to breathe. If a campaign is left unattended and no follow-up content is created or posts written in social media, it will never thrive. Think of sharing aspects of your campaign at least three times per week.
  6. Be sure to discuss how this campaign will ____________ (innovate, help, secure, transform). Write the milestones and why are they important.
  7. Schedule your posts in social media and be sure to celebrate every milestone and thank people for their contributions. Donors who are engaged with a personalized thank you could donate more money, engage their own audience to help, or help you in the future.
  8. Use good visuals, video, testimonials to engage your audience.

A funding goal that is achievable is also important. For Latinos who donate close to their community and many times to organizations they know, it is important to know the success of a campaign is achievable. Crowdfunding on the FundLatinos.com platform is geared to individuals as well as organizations and we are there to help you construct campaigns that will be successful.

If your campaign reaches its goal be sure to thank the whole community that has supported you. Social networks should not only be used to fundraise but also to give thanks. Have that content ready and stay positive!

 

The Dos and Don’ts of Acquiring Corporate Sponsors

The Dos and Don'ts of Acquiring Corporate SponsorsBuilding relationships with the corporate sector that translate into corporate sponsorship can be a valuable form of earned revenue and unrestricted dollars for your organization. The right sponsors can become long-term partners, and structured properly, these deals can mean tremendous visibility for your organization.

The negotiations and nuances can be tricky, so building your competencies will enable you to acquire the best partners. Here are 17 tips to get you started.

DO educate yourself about what corporate sponsorship is and why corporations deploy it. For your organization, sponsorship may be a form of earned revenue. However, for businesses, sponsorship is an extremely powerful marketing vehicle characterized by a well-designed experiential component. To fully leverage sponsorship, deepen your knowledge.

DON’T sell generic packages, like Gold, Silver & Bronze. You’re leaving a lot of money on the table and sending the wrong signals to prospective corporate partners.

DO know what sponsorship is not. In both nuanced and more significant ways, sponsorship is different than corporate giving, corporate philanthropy, membership, being an exhibitor, advertising, and cause marketing. This may sound like hair-splitting, but the distinctions can mean tremendous lost revenue.

DON’T underestimate your value. If you don’t believe that what you have to offer is valuable, how will you be able to convince someone else? Too many mistakes are when organizations are blind to their treasures.

DO use a healthy dose of creativity to develop opportunities. Creativity fuels marketing and causes existing and potential customers to pay attention.

DON’T treat your sponsors like ATM machines. A fantasy organizations sometimes have is that corporations will pay for their event, program, initiative etc. The business sector may be an important part of your business model, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

DO develop a compelling fee strategy. Base your fee structure on value, rather than your costs or some arbitrary valuation formula.

DON’T undervalue in-kind sponsors. Sponsorship is an exchange value for a fee. If a sponsor provides that fee in in-kind value, substantially relieving your budget, what you’ve received is as good as cold cash.

DO build organizational competence. The individual responsible for sponsorship cannot be a lone wolf. The organization must decide strategically to develop sponsorship as a revenue source, and everyone must operate in alignment with that decision.

DON’T fool yourself about who’s making the decision. If the person with whom you’re speaking or working is not authorized to make a payment, reprioritize a budget, or is unclear what business outcomes the company seeks, you’re most likely not speaking with the right person.

DO begin your business development effort at least 1 year out. The sponsorship sales cycle is long for several reasons, one of which is because you want your sponsors to derive full value from all you have to offer.

DON’T assume sponsorship is the best revenue source for your organization. Corporate sponsorship is a powerful marketing medium for businesses and a great source of revenue and visibility for organizations. However, without the right conditions in place, you could be wasting your time and undermining your future value. For example, start-up organizations rarely have sufficient value to offer. Holding off until the organization is more established and has the appropriate capacity is generally a better course.

DO leverage your relationship capital. The broader your organization’s network, the more easily you’ll be able to meet the right people who can influence decisions about your sponsorship program. Get out of your office and regularly meet people in the business community.

DON’T disregard your mission to accept a sponsor. The right partners are in alignment with your mission. Do not twist yourself into a pretzel, compromising your integrity and values. Spend time to find the right partners.

DO develop clear policies to guide your program. Avoid being blindsided by internal and external forces by having these policies in place and part of your strategy.

DON’T let fear undermine your efforts. Fear can show up in several places throughout your operation — setting fees, negotiating, prospecting, executing, and initiating relationships are just a few. The results will always be weakening, if not detrimental.

DO set integrity and quality relationships as your standard. While you have no control over how your partners interact with you, you can control your intentions and standards. Strategically your relationships should be set on high levels of importance, trust, and integrity, setting the foundation for long-term partnerships.

Leveraging Interest Groups to Communicate Your Mission and Vision

Nonprofit Social Media TipsNo money to get the word out on your nonprofit’s initiatives? No problem. Leverage your allies.

Consider that your stakeholders, that is, donors, clients, sponsors, board members, staff and volunteers that are involved with a nonprofit, become spokespeople for it simply by their association with the group. Making the most of their individual and collective voices is a smart and economical way for nonprofits to spread the word on who their organization is and what it’s doing.

Maximize messaging.

One way for a nonprofit to maximize its supporters’ potential impact is to encourage them to talk about and promote the organization and its efforts during their interactions with people outside of the charity, such as with family, friends and colleagues. Another means is to recruit available staff and volunteers to participate in opportunities on the organization’s behalf where their presence, and possibly voice, could heighten the nonprofit’s visibility, such as through business happenings and networking events, social media platforms, community outreach initiatives, awards programs and print, radio and televised media opportunities.

While it’s easy to see that the potential reach of a nonprofit’s supporters is far and wide, the organizations need to be sure that their supporters follow a defined direction in their outreach efforts or else the organization’s message could become lost, muddled or even distorted. For those reasons, nonprofits should provide their allies with a clear understanding of the organization’s key messages and talking points, so they’ll be able to effectively communicate the organization’s mission and initiatives to others when opportunities arise.

Remember, too, that while people involved with a nonprofit may be able to promote the organization in general terms, their message will be more effective if it’s aligned with a specific cause or initiative. Recently, for instance, one of Astor Services for Children & Families’ supporters used crowdfunding to alert others about a marathon she was running to benefit the organization. The initiative also was posted on social media and in the news media, helping her to surpass her goal by more than $1,000.

The idea is for organizations to start their outreach with a core group of stakeholders from which to branch outward, allowing the same message to be conveyed through many different means, in the hopes that it goes viral. After all, the more communities’ businesses and residents connect with a nonprofit, the more likely it is that they’ll take up the organization’s cause through financial contributions, volunteerism and other means.

Strive for balance.

At the same time, nonprofits should look for a balance in what is shared about them, how it’s communicated and how often. Social media, for instance, provides an easy way to communicate news in a readily accessible medium, but it can be overdone, causing people to bypass posts instead of reading and sharing them. Still, it can be difficult to know how much is too much. Data analytics on social media posts can be helpful in showing what’s been most effective in terms of opened, shared and commented news. Personal preferences can also help guide a nonprofit on what’s a suitable amount of news to share, including specific supporters’ feelings on what’s appropriate.

It’s also important to keep in mind that different demographic groups respond to news items and media outlets differently. That means it’s essential for nonprofits to know how to direct their messages to appropriate audiences, what the interests of that group are, and what they’d be likely to react to and read. It’s also key for nonprofits to know who, of their supporters, are the best people to deliver the organization’s news to each of their audiences. Some supporters, for instance, are happiest and most effective when they serve as ambassadors and help to fortify connections. Others may be more inclined to take the role of askers, where they ask probing questions of others, or serve as an advocate or advisor. Knowing what each ally’s comfort level and strength is can fortify a nonprofit’s position, as can being responsive to incoming interest in its cause.

Something else for nonprofits to think about is the general public’s knowledge of their cause. Autism, for instance, is a national issue that is so largely recognized that local nonprofits dedicated to the issue might find that minimal funds for their outreach efforts suffice. Other, lesser known groups that don’t have that kind of movement might need to dedicate more funds toward their effort to connect with others.

Adapt to changes.

By utilizing their allies’ reach, nonprofits can increase the span of their marketing efforts at a minimal cost, helping ensure that more of their money goes directly into their programs and services. For many, however, as their organization grows and expands its services, so will the pool of people it serves, necessitating a greater investment for its outreach programs to connect with target audiences. As always, it’s a matter of balance.

Big, small or no budget, effective outreach efforts require ongoing attention to successfully reflect the regular changes that a nonprofit and its communities experience. At Astor, we constantly go back to the data and hold up the mirror to see what’s working and what else we can do.

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