This blog focuses on the world of prospect research and various related fundraising topics. To diversify our subject matter, we like to feature the work of our friends and colleagues in the community. Join me in welcoming Zach Hagopian, the co-founder and COO of Accelevents. Please enjoy his post on the role of modern fundraising tools in donor acquisition and retention.
How Modern Fundraising Tools Can Help Increase Donor Acquisition / Retention
Few things are more critical to the success of a nonprofit organization than donor acquisition and retention.
While many NPOs do have some form of acquisition and retention strategy in place, most are not dedicating sufficient resources or time to make headway in their annual donor goals.
Furthermore, most nonprofit organizations are not taking advantage of the amazing online and mobile fundraising tools available to them. Online and mobile strategies not only help improve donor acquisition and retention, but they make the process easier and more efficient!
As a general note, the end goal of donor acquisition and retention is to create a respectful relationship with your donors. Rather than treating a donation as a one-off transaction, NPOs must treat a donation as the first step in a long-lasting relationship to be created between the donor and the organization.
Transforming your nonprofit into a donor-acquiring-and-retaining powerhouse may seem like an overwhelming task, but we assure you that it is not. To show you just how easy it is to implement modern tools for donor acquisition and retention, we’ve put together a quick guide to get you started.
You may argue that your NPO has implemented a strategy for acquiring new donors, but the question here is whether or not your NPO is doing it effectively and efficiently.
Typically, we have found that many organizations use traditional methods of acquisition (direct mail, physical pledge / bid / donation sheets), which may appear clunky and old fashioned to potential donors, and will ultimately turn them away.
Instead, organizations should put more emphasis on using mobile and online fundraising tools to gain new donors.
Mobile and online fundraising tools are more flexible and easier to use, and they reduce donation barriers for your potential audience. The result? An easier giving experience and more donors!
Another key advantage of online and mobile fundraising tools is that they allow your donors to share their enthusiasm instantly on social media.
By keeping your donors socially accountable and asking them to share updates on their giving experience (donating to a cause, attending a fundraiser, etc.) on their social channels, you will create viral awareness for you cause, and will begin to observe a higher occurrence of organic visitors to your donation page.
Another name for this idea is social proof, emphasizing that people are likely to commit similar actions to those of their peers.
People naturally want to join in with groups and actions if they see their peers doing so. Online and mobile tools create this social proof by providing donors with social recognition and allowing them to share their donations with their audience.
To get you started on the right path, here are a few examples of our favorite mobile / online fundraising tools for donor acquisition:
Just as their name suggests, donation pages are web pages that allow your audience to make online donations to your cause. While one clear benefit of online donation pages is that they allow your donors to support your cause from anywhere, quickly and easily, many NPOs still are not taking full advantage of these tools.
Online donation pages make sense because they are easily accessible, easily shareable, and are extremely easy to set up! Using tools like Crowdrise, donation pages can be created at the organization or individual level. Once the pages have been created, users simply navigate to a custom donation page to give their desired amount.
And while these pages are easy to set up, we have a few tips for you to keep in mind when building your online donation page:
1. Tell Your Story – Online donation tools make it easy to create a custom page in minutes. As part of your page setup, your organization should put extra care in telling the story or history of your cause. Successful storytelling will appeal to your audience’s emotions, allowing them to connect with your cause, and increase the chances of a donation!
2. Make it Visual – Take advantage of the online environment that you are now working in, and utilize great imagery to tell your story. Did your organization host an amazing event this year? Do you have vivid pictures of your volunteers in action? Use these photos on your donation page to create a more personal feel.
3. Include Your Donation Button! – Most importantly, do not forget to include a “Donate” button. Creating a clearly visible donation button is crucial to soliciting donations. Take Charity: Water, for example. In addition to a visual and personalized page, they created a “Donate” button that stands out over everything else on the page. Follow this strategy, and you will be well on your way to crafting a great donation page.
Similar to online donation pages, online silent auctions and raffles reduce barriers to donation and can lead to increased donor acquisition. While traditional silent auctions and raffles are physical in nature and thus may actually offer barriers to donation, their online counterparts make participation extremely easy.
With online silent auctions and raffles, potential donors can participate from anywhere and can even share their bids or favorite items on social media.
Another added benefit to online silent auctions and raffles is that they give your donors a chance to win an item or experience – this opportunity can be an extremely effective way to convince first-time donors to support your cause.
Once you have improved your acquisition strategy, it will be time to focus on retention.
We can all agree that donor acquisition is important. However, there are many who argue that retention is even more important!
As with for-profit companies, it is much more expensive and time intensive to acquire new donors (customers) than it is to encourage repeat donations (purchases) from current donors (customers).
One of our favorite donor retention strategies is something we call the “Ask, thank, report back” strategy. Just as it sounds, organizations should follow the steps of asking for donations, thanking their donors, and reporting back on what donations were used for and how they helped the cause.
Below, you will find some of the keys to implementing this strategy, as well as our favorite tools to execute it effectively.
Our first key to successful donor retention is gratitude. It may seem like an obvious idea, but not all NPOs are thanking their donors enough, or in the right fashion.
The easiest way to improve your donation acknowledgement is to focus on promptness and frequency. The sooner you thank your donors after their contribution, the more likely they will be to return in the future.
Similarly, do not think that you should only thank your donors once! It is acceptable, even recommended to repeatedly thank your donors (within reason). Periodic acknowledgement will show your donors that you do truly care about them, and will help your organization form a relationship that goes beyond just one donation.
But while promptness and frequency are important, too many NPOs these days are sending automatic “Thank You” notifications to donors upon their donation.
These automatic “Thank Yous” check off the promptness box for your retention strategy, but their canned appearance will be obvious to your donors. Rather than using an automatically generated receipt or thank you email, spend an extra hour crafting different versions of acknowledgement messages. Different variations will give your message a more customized feel.
And don’t be afraid to mix it up every once in awhile and send out hand-written letters! Just because online tools are effective, that does not mean that you need to rely on them all of the time.
2. Keep Your Donors “In the Loop”
Once you have sufficiently acknowledged any contributions from your donors, it’s time to focus on the “report back” portion of our strategy. Here, your team should focus on keeping your community of supporters updated on what their donations are being used for.
Are their funds going towards building a new library for your school? Will a substantial donation allow your organization to provide special treatment to a group of new patients?
Identify the cause that your donors’ funds are being used for, and spend significant time and effort to create shareable content on this cause. Some of our favorite pieces of content are in-depth case studies, expert interviews, and especially videos!
3. Provide Opportunities for Your Donors to Support Your Organization without Donating Money
If you really want to stand out to your donors, try providing them with an opportunity to support your organization without donating money.
In creating a lasting relationship with your donors, it is critical to provide avenues for them to get involved in ways that are beyond just giving money.
Focus on creating unique opportunities for your donors to support you. These could be anything from volunteering to joining a committee for a special event.
By creating these opportunities for your donors, you are displaying your thoughtfulness and trust in your supporters. This is incredibly valuable, and will lead your donors to recognize your organization as one that truly respects and relies on supporters.
Tools For Donor Retention
Each of the tools below will be instrumental in helping your organization implement your donor retention strategy – when used in combination, your team will be able to create a holistic and effective donor retention strategy.
● Donor Management Software
Donor management software will allow you to store information on all of the actions of your donors, including donation amounts, frequency, and how long these donors have been with your organization.
These systems are also helpful in managing your outreach and acknowledgment strategies, as they will often allow you to create custom “Thank You” templates and adjust the frequency and timing for sending out your acknowledgement notes.
● Peer-To-Peer Campaigns
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) campaigns are fundraising campaigns in which you leverage your best supporters to help raise funds for your cause. Some of the most popular P2P campaigns include physical events (Boston Marathon), and personal challenges (the Ice Bucket Challenge).
The idea here is that you are empowering your donors to become fundraisers – and more significant representatives of your cause.
This sense of responsibility and empowerment will go a long way toward creating lasting relationships with your donors!
● Social Media
And finally, what would this article be without a mention of social media?
Social media should play a critical role in helping your organization keep your donors “in the loop,” and will also allow your organization to have a more personal connection with your donors.
Be sure to use social media to provide any updates that you are also sending to your donors via email. Some of our favorite social media updates include:
- Donation amount milestones
- New initiatives launched with the help of donor support
- Video recaps for your nonprofit’s fundraising events
This guide is just an intro to the amazing online fundraising tools and strategies out there – we hope that this assists you and your NPO in your mission.
About the Author
Zach Hagopian is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that enhances silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding. An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds.
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