Monthly Archives: January 2016

4 Reasons You’re Not Getting Donations

blog-pinterest-post---4-reasons-no-donationsThere might be a good reason you’ve seen a drop in charitable donations– four good reasons, in fact. Don’t despair; we’ve not only rounded up the most common culprits, but smart solutions to set things straight.

You’re not connecting with your target audience.  While your donor list might tell you who has given in the past, a little market research could reveal who you should be targeting in the future. Every fundraiser, mailing, or social media post needs to reach the people who care most about your cause. That may mean looking beyond your geographic area, studying what other organizations are doing, or tapping into new networks of people. It may also mean trying new methods to reach your target audience, including different forms of social media or different community events.

You treat every donor alike. A donor who sends a check every year has different communication needs than someone just learning about your organization for the first time. Segment your list, breaking it into different groups and customize your communication – include a personalized greeting, adjust the amount of background information included, add a personal note of thanks, or even make a unique request. The goal is to establish, then build, a relationship with each donor, making them feel like a hero for their efforts.

You sound like everybody else. Lots of donor letters use similar themes, similar language and even giving levels (Platinum, Gold and Silver sound familiar?) You can differentiate yourself by sharing a memorable story, unveiling new information, or showing where funds will be spent. Polish up your best, most share-worthy anecdotes, fantastic photos, problem/solution set ups, FAQs, or insider information to make your appeal stand out from others and stick in reader’s minds.

You’re always asking for money. Even if your organization desperately needs money, asking for it again and again gets stale. Vary your appeals so your audience stays engaged and excited about helping. You might try asking for their stories, their opinions, or volunteer help instead or in addition to funds. Or change up how you ask for monetary support. If you typically push for online donations, change it up with an invite to Casino Night, ask for sponsored laps at a walk-a-thon, or to add a link in a chain of checks.

How to Create Catchy Headlines


How to create catchy headlines for donor information pieces:

You’ve got milliseconds to grab the attention of a potential donor and hook them into reading more and taking action. What works?  A great headline.

Headlines (and subheads) get read up to five times more than body copy so telling your story and asking for action needs to happen in the big type. Before you write a word, consider:

  • Great headlines are short. Aim for 7 words or less: Gala Glam with Chocolate and Champagne
  • Great headlines have impact. Capture the essence of your piece or your ask: Act now and save a child from abuse.
  • Great headlines speak to your audience. Dig for demographics, psychographics and preferences of your audience. Magazines, newsletters and websites have research that can offer insights. Writing for a group of concerned parents? Know their fears and craft a headline that hints at a solution. Want to get action from working mothers? Lead with an ask that is quick and easy since you know their lives are busy.
  • Great headlines love language. Use alliterations, strong statements, and clear value to attract eyes. Avoid unfamiliar words or awkward phrases. Note the difference: High Bidders Will Win Luncheon with Illustrious Guests. Lucky Ladies Will Lunch with the Stars.

Now that you’ve got the basics, use some tried-but-true inspirations to get things started. Start with a working headline and revisit it once the other content is finalized.

An offer                                    Free book with donation

Advice                                        5 Tips for Taming Toddler Tantrums

Expert involvement             Help us send recovery specialists to survivor camps

Gossip or news                       At last! Real hope for diabetes

A provocative question      It’s the end of the year. What have you accomplished?

Pique interest                          Important news that might surprise you about our students

Instant satisfaction             We’re planning our year – weigh in with your ideas

Connect with Audience After an Event


Events and fundraisers are often the most valuable efforts of the year for nonprofits. Meeting donors face to face and pitching your cause is by far the easiest way to inspire people and get them to open their check books. The value of these things are hard to deny and most founders need no convincing.

Once an event ends, the guests go home, and the venue is wrapped up, communicating with donors becomes a little (a lot) more difficult. You know these people care about your cause, and you know there is a market out there of others who do too…but how do you get them to stay involved? How can you get them helping out, donating funds, and telling their friends about your organization after the event is over?

Post event donor communication is one of the most valuable forms of marketing you will organize and it’s not as hard as you might think. A strong post event strategy will demonstrate your appreciation of your donors, direct them to connect with you through other channels, give them the opportunity to get involved in other ways, and feed their need for high quality content and meaningful communication.

This is how to craft a strong and effective post event donor communication campaign.

1) Thank You Notes
This first one is obvious. Good manners dictate that you should be sending out personalized than you notes to your guests, just like you would for a personal get together. A snail mail thank you letter gets people excited and it begins the journey of developing a close, personal relationship with each guest. For large fundraising events, founders can get hesitant about sending Thank You notes because of the sheer number of people that attended. A good rule of thumb is to segment your guest list.

Top Donors: For your top tier donors a hand written, personal “thank you” is a must. This should only amount to your to 10-20 donors so volume shouldn’t be a barrier here.

Guests Whom Attended: Remove your top donors from this list and create a printed Thank You note for all guests who attended your event. This piece should explain how much you and your organization appreciate their participation and ask them to connect with your brand by offering your website and social media channels. Because this could amount to quite a lot of letters, it is recommended that you use a trusted mail house to process and and send these items.

Invited But Did Not Attend: Another important part of post event communication is to nurture the guests who did NOT attend. Craft a “we missed you” note, explaining the event was lovely, the goals you reached, and most importantly, you were thinking of those that could not attend. In this letter give a short summary of your mission and offer option for donating and getting involved. Find a reliable caging/lockbox service to manage these mailings and any replies for you.

2) E-mail Follow Up
The most successful donor follow up campaigns are marked by a broad mix of media channels. About 2 weeks after your thank you notes have landed in mailboxes prepare and email blast to go out to your entire guest list (both those that attended and those that did not). This email should focus on other ways to get involved and let the audience know about the next planned event.

Be sure to track opens and click through a with a good tracking program like mailchimp or Constant Contact. Guests who have favorable click through behavior, or who appear interested in other ways of getting involved should get extra follow up and personalized communication.

3) Social Media
Connect with users on social media, keep an eye on requests to join for any Facebook groups you manage and continue to publish high quality, relevant, targeted content for your audience to engage with. The 2 months following an event are likely to see more engagement than normal, so be ready to respond in kind.

4) Get Involved – Call For Support
5-7 months after your event you should plan on reconnecting with your guests and remind them that your organization STILL has a ton happening and your goals are achievable. Even if they donated at the event, there are more ways to get involved. For those that donated at the event, plan an email blast which explains options for recurring donations and list volunteering options. For those that did not donate or did not attend the gala, give an update on the progress your non profit has been making since the event, and explain what donations are being used to accomplish. Make sure to point out that even small donations count and help them put it into perspective.

Headlines in emails like “If everyone reading this email donated just $3, we would reach our fundraising goals for 2016” help to prove to donors that even small contributions are appreciated.

Prepare to make phone calls to your mid range donors or high profile personalities who you would like to see support your cause. Don’t apply too much pressure to your biggest or most loyal donors. Save these people for your end of year call for donations.

5) Annual End Of Year Donations Drive
Finally, as December rolls around your nonprofit should start thinking about some major donation driving tactics. The end of the year accounts for nearly 1/3 of all private donations made to nonprofits in the US, and you’ve got to plan ahead to make the most of the “season of giving”. Your previous event guests are a strong foundation for end of year campaigns, and you should by now, have a good feeling for who makes up your most valuable market. Start the holidays off just before Thanksgiving with an email blast and social media campaign reminding people of the year end tax benefits of donating and direct them to your #givingTuesday digital resources.

During the first week of December, your year end call for donations letter should end up in the mailboxes of all your significant donors (mid to top range donors). This letter should include a year-end review of your organization’s progress, updates on leadership changes, nonprofit goals, and your plans for next year. Putting together a lean packet of information about your organization and options for donating will help readers better understand your goals and the impact of their contribution. Leveraging the power of direct mail over email or social media at key points during the year will help communicate the importance to specific fundraising efforts.

Use this time of year to connect with your top donors via a phone call or personal email/message, and be sure to follow up with email blasts and social media that inspire and motivate your audience.

Using this format, your organization can build a strong donor communications strategy. The most important take away from this outline is that follow up and follow through are the foundations of success.

Be sure to employ a well rounded mix of marketing channels to reach your audience, and constantly be looking for ways to improve the ways in which you ask for money. Great timing and a solid sales pitch will forge strong relationships that will benefit your cause for years and years.

What’s vital to your donor communications strategy? How do you return to donors for more support with out damaging the relationship? Tell us about your experience in the comments.