Last week, I wrote about some of the ideas you need to create a successful annual giving program. Those form the thoughtful (and necessary) underpinning.
This week, our focus will be more tactical – “hands-on”, if you like.
Put just to review: a good annual giving program isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity unless you’re entirely funded by an evergreen source.
A good program takes planning and doing. This week, we’ll look at some things you should be doing.
Data is the backbone
Find the right donor database system for your needs. Don’t choose the cheapest option. This is a critical investment.
Then keep it clean!
You could create the most warm, effusive, donor-centered copy in the world, but if the salutation is wrong… it’s all for nothing.
And if you can’t track your results, you can’t know what’s working.
Before your put your program in place, you need to know what you’re going to measure.
Obviously, gifts and donors. But retention should be a key metric. (And fairly easy to compute.) If you can, look at life time value as well.
You should be able to easily track each email and mailing. You should be able to keep donor information both confidential and easily updated.
Appeals – more than one
If yours is a larger organization, you’ve probably got this covered. But many smaller organizations do not. They feel their lack of funds or staff make getting appeals out more than once a year too difficult.
I get it. It’s work. It’s money.
But you’re locking yourself into a no-growth situation. More likely, you’re losing ground every year.
Donors need to be asked to give. Donors like to give! That’s why they do. There’s nothing you can say or do to make a donor who doesn’t want to give send you money.
But if you don’t ask, why would they think to give?
Plan on at least a few appeals each year. You can certainly segment, and mail less to people who haven’t given in years. You can mail more to loyal donors and less to prospective donors. But if you want to grow, you need to ask.
A donor-focused newsletter
Yes, I think a newsletter should be part of your overall plan. It’s a must-have, not a nice-to-have.
But if your idea of a newsletter is a public relations puff piece, don’t bother. You’ll do more harm than good.
A newsletter is a fundraising trifecta: thanks, reporting and asking all in one piece. What’s not to love?
And it’s really not hard to get started. The tested formula takes a tabloid size piece of paper (11 x 17), folds it in half, then thirds and into a regular #10 envelope.
Start with images and headlines, because they matter the most. Focus relentlessly on your donors – not what you want to tell them, but what they want to read.
Make it easy to read, with type large enough for older eyes. Remember captions on every image.
Bottom line: Do it right. Make it all about your donor. Use a newsletter to bring them closer to you and to increase retention.
If you’ve been working at your organization for a while, you probably have a sense of who your donor is. You might even be working with a donor persona. (It’s a good idea!)
Create a donor survey. Use it to engage donors and gain important information about what they’re thinking.
Ask for feedback on your website. Ask for feedback in your emails. And call donors to say thank you and ask for their opinions.
Then be sure you’re capturing all this information. You’ll want to use it to build stronger connections with your donors. It’s valuable!
A monthly giving program
Even the tiniest organization can ask donors to become regular givers. Don’t wait until you’re big enough – it could be too late.
Start with your website – make that option the default, or at least a very obvious option.
Then segment your list (remember that good data?) and start asking the donors who are closest to you. Think about people who already use credit cards. Think about people who already give more than once a year. Think about people who have been giving for years.
Then ask them to give monthly. Show them why that will make a tremendous difference to your mission.
Create a special group, with a name and some extra benefits. (Make them mission-centered rather than “stuff”.)
You most likely won’t have hundreds of takers on your first attempts. But keep at it.
Does this sound like a lot of work?
It is. But it’s worth it.
Annual giving is the way you build a strong base of support. If you depend on a few large foundation grants now, think about what happens should one or two change their giving priorities? If you have a few large individual donors, they could change theirs, or move or pass away.
Strong individual support – with gifts of all sizes – insulates you from the ups and downs of the economy. It cushions you from external problems you can’t otherwise control.
And it invites people to join you in the mission. Build it right, and you will have a group of people who care – and who talk.
But a healthy annual giving program requires care. You’re never done building one. It’s a living thing – and critical to your organization’s mission.
Stop scrimping and start thriving.