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By DonorSearch

This blog was adapted from the recent Flash Class by NeonCRM and Nonprofit Garden, partners of DonorSearch. One of the more frustrating situations that can occur when rolling out a major campaign is having different departments articulate different messages to donors. The marketing team may be focusing on highlighting stories about a specific program while your major gift officers are reaching out and telling a story around an unrelated capital campaign. Being able to create a cohesive end to end campaign is the key to success to long term growth and sustainability, since it ensures not only are all stakeholders working towards a common goal but also utilizing the same messaging to create a powerful unified conversation with your donors. Yet how does one go about creating a full circle strategy that envelopes all stakeholders? Let’s take the time and present a few key strategies when it comes to operating as a nimble nonprofit. As a starting point, we’ll tackle traditional fundraising, web design, and social media coordination to create a cohesive campaign for any size organization.

Why is this important?

Across the industry, we are seeing donor retention rates plummet. 80% of gifts are lost between the first and second gifts and overall retention has dropped to as low as 28% in 2017. Donors are making it known that nonprofits can no longer take them for granted, with some studies citing that 53% of lapsed donors cite poor communication as the primary reason they no longer support an organization’s mission. The answer to retention is to focus on better messaging that is centered on the donor, not the organization. Yet where does an organization start in order to tackle this problem?

How to organize your resources

Many nonprofits miss some critical steps when preparing for either an annual campaign or a major expansion of services that need to be funded through donations. There needs to be a solid foundation that is established before any revenue initiative is started and there’s six steps that we have identified on where to begin:
  • Set the foundation – review last year’s campaigns and use that data to set a benchmark
  • Create an action plan – identify key team members, budgets, and timelines that need to be involved through the entire campaign, not just the beginning and end
  • Put it into focus – create a donor focused theme that ties all messaging together
  • Know your audience – segment your lists, with giving data being used as a starting point
  • Craft the ask – dust off those mail merge skills and make it personal
  • Follow through – it isn’t just about obtaining the gift but about long term relationship building
By setting the foundation for your campaign, it creates a map to follow throughout your entire campaign. Understanding your donors and their behavior pays off in many ways, not just during the launch and close of a campaign.

How to understand donor behavior

Data can begin to inform who your donors are, but to truly understand why donors are supporting your mission it needs to go beyond your reports and delve into the very essence of who you are as an organization. One of the most vital windows into how donors evaluate your organization’s worthiness for a donation is your website. As NonprofitHub eloquently states: “Your website is the face of your organization—what people see online should reflect who you are as a nonprofit. Think of it as a window into the soul of your organization.” So where to start when building out your strategy for donor engagement? The easiest place is by creating personas, which is simply creating profiles around the types of people you want to attract to your organization. Start with stories. Think about the types of people who visit your website currently and people you want to visit your site and describe them. Also, make sure you note what you goal is in that relationship. Creating persona is a key starting point to ensuring that the design and path that individuals take on your website leads them to where you want them to be.

How to avoid stumbling at the finish line

A great plan doesn’t matter if the execution doesn’t live up, so ensuring that your organization rolls out the campaign is a key component of bringing everything together. There are four pitfalls your organization can avoid when rolling out a campaign on social media, though any of these can be employed for traditional fundraising outreach as well.
  1. Optimization is key – If your donation appeal loads slowly or looks funny on Facebook, Twitter, or a mobile device you will lose completions
  2. Post at peak times – Post at peak times when lots of your supporters are already on Facebook, so you can increase organic reach and engagement without paying for ads.
  3. Post everywhere and often – social media providers like Facebook change their algorithm all the time, so posting multiple times ensures you reach a broader audience
  4. Be connected and present – as cited above, donors cite poor communication is the most likely reason they don’t support an organization. Comment, like, share! Be part of the conversation with your donors
There’s a great many other things that an organization can do when it comes to the management of their campaign, but by keeping these core tenets in mind for any donor interaction your organization will be on the pathway to success.


Tim Sarrantonio is a team member at NeonCRM and has more than 10 years of experience working for and volunteering with nonprofits. He has raised over $3 million for various causes, engaged and enhanced databases of all sizes, procured multiple successful grants, and formulated engaging communications and fundraising campaigns for several nonprofits. He volunteers heavily in his home of Niskayuna, NY.
The Nimble Nonprofit: A Full Circle Strategy For Mission Growth