If you want to grow and maintain your membership program, you’ll likely spend a large chunk of your time planning and executing some sort of membership engagement plan.
Unfortunately, because “membership engagement” is such a broad concept, it’s tough to get your strategy right on the first try (or even after many tries!).
Lucky for you, we’ve made tackling the membership engagement issue a little less tricky. Here, we’ll provide you with 7 simple steps for increasing your organization’s membership engagement.
Here’s a preview of the subjects we’ll cover:
- Define membership engagement.
- Understand your members.
- Communicate consistently.
- Establish online engagement spaces.
- Prioritize community-building.
- Streamline the member renewal experience.
- Track your membership engagement efforts.
Pretty soon, you’ll be a master of membership engagement (and you’ll have the member retention rates to show for it)!
Still in the planning phase of your new membership organization? Read our guide to starting a nonprofit membership program first!
1. Define membership engagement.
Before you can begin engaging your members in an effective way, you’ll need to figure out exactly what you hope to accomplish.
Membership engagement can take many forms, and if your team isn’t all on the same page with your expectations, you’ll find it much harder to accomplish anything.
So, take a few minutes to review your current engagement level and determine a few tangible goals for the future. Perhaps you want to:
- Increase attendance at membership events.
- Boost volunteer involvement.
- Encourage more participation in online communities.
Your engagement marker might be totally different than another organization’s, and that’s okay! Be sure that your goals reflect the needs and interests of your members and your organization, and you’ll be able to reach new heights sooner than you think.
Bonus: Start your member stewardship strategy on the right foot. Learn which membership engagement mistakes to avoid by reading this article from Neon!
2. Understand your members.
How can you cater to your members’ personalities if you’re not well acquainted with them? The short answer: you can’t.
That’s why it’s extremely important for you to get to know your members on a personal level. If you don’t, your engagement strategies run the risk of being generic and unappealing to your constituents.
It might seem like a daunting task to get to know each one of your many members on a one-on-one basis, but fortunately, your organization likely already has a tool on hand to make it much easier.
That tool? Your membership management software, of course!
With powerful membership management software (also known as association management software), you’ll be able to manage member data more effectively and leverage it to its full potential.
Not only will software help you stay organized, but it’s the only way you can get a full picture of your members’ participation and giving history in one centralized location.
With a knowledge of members’ interests, preferences, past involvement, and giving habits, you’ll be able to plan engagement opportunities that actually make sense for them—without any of the hassle of manual data management!
Bonus: Still searching for the right association management software for your organization? Check out our list of the best tools before you start shopping around!
3. Communicate consistently.
Your members joined your organization or association because they’re personally invested in your efforts.
As your most devoted supporters, they deserve to be kept in the loop on your organization’s projects and your community’s trends and hot topics.
To that end, you should be regularly communicating with your members in any (or all!) of the following ways:
- Email newsletters.
- Participation acknowledgements.
- In-person forums and events.
- Social media updates.
- Personal outreach.
By staying active in your members’ lives through regular communication efforts, you’ll remind them of their interest in your organization and encourage them to participate themselves.
As important as it is for your organization to get the word out about important updates, it’s equally important that your members have a place to communicate, too!
Make sure your members know that your team is always accessible should they want to voice concerns, ask questions, or provide feedback. You can also send out surveys asking for targeted feedback on a regular basis, or host events dedicated to member-leadership interaction.
4. Establish online engagement spaces.
If you want to connect with your donors in real-time, it’s essential that you meet them where they already are. One of the easiest ways to do that is by taking advantage of the many different forms of digital communication.
There are two main online spaces you’ll want to focus on when maximizing membership engagement:
- Your organization’s website.
- Social media pages.
Let’s talk through each one individually.
Often, your software will be able to generate custom member-specific webpages and constituent portals to incorporate with your organization’s website.
Not only do you want your website to be informative for any and all visitors, but you also want it to provide an engaging experience designed specifically for your members.
When building (or editing) your site, make sure you’ve got all the following bases covered:
- A user-friendly member portal.
- Well-branded design that reflects your organization.
- Online giving capabilities.
- Member self-management tools (e.g., member profiles, renewal options, event sign-up).
- A prominently displayed application page.
Most importantly, make sure your website is a source of all your organization’s most important information, from upcoming event details to relevant news in your community.
Bonus: Your membership site should be the hub of your organization, so don’t forget to use it to drive recruitment, too. Optimize your online application form for maximum user-friendliness by reading this article from Neon!
Almost every organization has a Facebook or Twitter account set up these days, but simply using social media is very different than actually using it well.
The first step to engaging members on social media is finding out which sites appeal to them (and which just don’t catch their attention).
Consider your organization’s demographic. Is your roster full of suit-and-tie professionals? You might thrive by setting up an organizational LinkedIn page. Is your group teeming with crafty moms and DIY fanatics? You might find your home on a Pinterest board.
If you’re still lost, turn to your member management software. Since some platforms have social matching features, you might be able to scour your database to find out which social media networks your members are actively using.
Once you’ve found your ideal environment, keep the following in mind:
- Know the limitations of your platform. What works for Twitter just won’t transfer to Facebook, so understand the constraints of each site before you start posting.
- Keep it visual. On almost every social media channel, visual elements are absolutely key. Keep your posts eye-catching by adding photos, videos, and graphics wherever you can.
- Diversify! While your main audience might love Instagram, you might be able to cater to another group through Google Plus. Find out your members’ preferences and try to meet them in as many places as you can.
Effective social media engagement is more challenging than you might think, but the payoff is definitely worth the effort!
5. Prioritize community-building.
Membership programs are unique in that they can create a thriving community based around shared goals, interests, and values.
Think about it: when an individual chooses to donate to or volunteer for a nonprofit, they might meet like-minded individuals at community service events or fundraisers, but more often than not, their involvement is a solo activity.
But when they sign up for the nonprofit’s membership program, they’re immediately met with a collective of others with similar passions!
Make sure your members are aware of the vibrant community within your membership program, and do your part to foster community-building whenever you can.
Design online and in-person opportunities that facilitate member-to-member engagement, from starting a discussion in an online forum to hosting a member mixer filled with interactive activities for your guests. Get creative with it!
When your members are engaged with one another, they’ll be more connected to your organization overall (and they’ll be much more likely to participate in member activities when they know they have friendly faces to join them!).
6. Streamline the renewal experience.
So far, we’ve been discussing how to keep your members engaged throughout their membership. However, there is another aspect of membership engagement that we can’t ignore: the member renewal process!
No matter how involved your members are, if they don’t sign up for another year, you’ve got some membership engagement problems to address.
To make sure your members are excited to come back to your organization year after year, you should ensure that the renewal process is as simple and straightforward as possible. Consider implementing one (or more) of the following strategies:
- Automated renewal. Some software providers allow you to set up automated renewal reminders or even provide members with the option of recurring membership fee payments. Never let a member lapse due to forgetfulness again!
- Optimize your application process. Whether they’re applying for the first time or renewing for another year, your members should have no issue completing their application form. Optimize their experience by creating a form that’s user-friendly and easily accessible.
- Encourage additional giving. Give your members options for adding extra donations on top of their membership dues by using your membership management software’s built-in donation tools (or integrating with another online giving tool). Plus, give them the option to upgrade their membership level during the renewal process.
Bonus: Need some guidance before you send your next round of member renewal letters? Take a look at Neon’s handy how-to guide (and don’t forget to grab your free template)!
7. Track your membership engagement efforts.
As you implement different member engagement strategies within your organization, some efforts will inevitably see better results than others.
To make sure you’re moving forward (and that mistakes don’t repeat themselves), you’ll need to be able to track and analyze your engagement in a meaningful way.
Thankfully, membership management software can make such a task much more doable. In fact, depending on your platform, you may be able to:
- Create custom reports. Find and assess the data you need by building your own reports using any information in your database. Then, easily share them with your team or constituents as needed.
- Quickly view fiscal data. Don’t waste time wondering which members have paid their dues; instead, get a comprehensive view of your fiscal situation in as little as one click.
- Evaluate event success. Assess event registration and attendance, view payment records, and compare overall success between multiple events to see which are worth revisiting next year.
When you use powerful membership management software to handle all your reporting needs, you’ll be able to easily gain insight into your engagement success and use that knowledge to prepare for the future.
Needless to say, developing a successful membership engagement strategy is a major undertaking for any organization. But with these tips in mind, you’ll be able to confidently navigate all of your future membership engagement endeavors!
For more ways to engage supporters through your membership program, take a look at these additional resources:
- Double the Donation’s Top 10 Fraternity and Sorority Management Software: Whether you’re trying to manage membership dues, chapter meetings, or improve your alumni outreach, these tools can help you make membership management simple.
- BidPal’s How to Boost Member Engagement Through Charity Auctions: Live, silent, or online, hosting a charity auction is a great way to improve membership engagement. Check out BidPal’s expert tips on how to get started.
- Salsa Labs’ 5 Tips for More Effective Member Management: If you want to improve your membership engagement, you need to learn how to organization your program. Salsa has 5 tips to help make management easier.
Over the years, fundraising has improved dramatically by embracing technology improvements in every aspect of the fundraising process.
More and more nonprofits and individual fundraisers are taking advantage of the amazing tools and strategies now available to them, but there is still much room to grow.
In order to highlight the improvements that have been made over the years and to provide some helpful hints on how to incorporate new technology into your next fundraising effort, we’ve put together a comparison of fundraising of the past to fundraising now.
For this post, we’ll focus specifically on:
- General Fundraising Campaigns
- Silent Auctions and Raffles
Fundraising Then: General Fundraising Campaigns
In the past, fundraising campaigns supporting a nonprofit or annual fund focused heavily on direct mail, email, phone solicitation, and in-person asks. While these methods are still effective, they have inherent flaws that limit the potential of a fundraising campaign.
In general, we find that these outreach methods are significantly limited by their cost, reliance on resources, and the reach they can achieve:
- High Cost. Methods like direct mail can quickly become expensive, considering the cost of postage, the physical cost of your mailer, and any design or creative work that goes into the production of a direct mail ask. Phone and in-person solicitation can have even bigger cost implications because they require having a volunteer or staff member making the calls or the direct asks, taking valuable resources that could be focused elsewhere.
- Resource-Intensive. Traditional fundraising methods are often resource-intensive, meaning many people are needed to make the effort worthwhile. Having one person calling potential donors will never reach its tipping point. Instead, you will most likely need an entire team making calls in order to see donations increase. Again, this can be an effective method of fundraising, but it becomes costly as more and more resources are needed.
- Limited Reach. One of the biggest flaws of these traditional outreach methods is the reach associated with each. While direct mailers can be sent to a large number of people, it is nothing compared to the large numbers that can be engaged with some of the methods we will discuss later in this post! Additionally, phone and in-person solicitation often will have higher conversion rates than mail, but are extremely limited in reach. As new fundraising technology is being embraced, a major benefit is the substantial increase in reach from the same or fewer resources.
As your cause or nonprofit embarks on its next fundraising campaign, keep in mind that the above methods still have a place in helping support your cause. Our recommendation is to continue using these methods (perhaps to a lesser extent), while beginning to shift your focus to some of the new methods we will discuss below.
Fundraising Now: General Fundraising Campaigns
As we learn from traditional fundraising methods and begin incorporating new technology into our fundraising campaigns, it is important to focus on the trade-off between cost, resources required, and reach generated. As we discussed above, traditional methods are often resource- and cost-intensive, with generally low reach.
Shifting to what fundraising looks like now, you’ll find multiple tools available that allow for exponential increase in reach with minimal costs and resources needed.
What does this mean for your fundraising campaign? A larger potential donor audience, lower costs, and higher overall proceeds!
Now, we will focus on three of our favorite fundraising tools for fundraising campaigns: online fundraising pages, peer-to-peer Campaigns, and text-to-give.
Online Fundraising Pages
Online fundraising pages have become extremely popular over the years and are used for many (if not most) existing fundraising campaigns.
An online fundraising page acts as a central location for your cause or nonprofit to tell its story and collect donations from supporters. There are a few factors that are crucial to the success of a fundraising page:
- Be Personal. A personalized story is vital to the success of your campaign. When choosing an online fundraising service, be sure there is functionality to add your own description and story. As you create this story, make it as personal as possible in order to truly connect with your supporters and create a lasting relationship between your organization and your donors.
- Use Visuals. A visual fundraising page will always perform better! When creating your page, be sure to include any images that are applicable. These could be photos of patients who have been affected by the funds your nonprofit has raised, or fun pictures from a recent volunteer or community event.
Once an online fundraising page is created, the benefits will immediately be visible. To start, these pages are not resource-intensive at all, often requiring only one person to set them up, with very reasonable costs.
Even more importantly, online fundraising pages have an endless reach. Based on the story you tell, your page could easily go viral and reach a significantly higher number of people than that of your traditional fundraising efforts.
As more and more people donate, they are able to share their experience via social media, increasing your campaign’s reach with each donation submitted!
Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns
Another popular and effective fundraising strategy of late is the peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) fundraising involves leveraging your organization’s supporters in order to expand your mission’s reach, donor base, and proceeds. P2P fundraising is a multi-tiered approach where donors are asked to raise money in addition to donating.
P2P fundraising empowers an organization’s supporters to become its best fundraising advocates, harnessing the collective giving power of a much larger audience in the process. All of this comes as a result of motivating your initial supporters to become fundraising advocates, inspiring their own networks of friends and family.
As you might have gathered, a P2P campaign’s success is increased tenfold when it is used in conjunction with online fundraising technology. There are many peer-to-peer providers that equip fundraisers with online fundraising pages, social tools, and email campaigns to ensure the success of your campaign.
Staying on top of the most up-to-date technology is vital because of how rapidly P2P fundraising is evolving. Did you know that, for example, peer-to-peer lending allows people to receive loans even when they’re burdened with a bad credit score? As P2P models develop, people will become more familiar with P2P fundraising in their everyday lives (like with the aforementioned lending).
As such, they’ll be more comfortable using P2P software and advocating for your nonprofit, too!
Just like the name sounds, text-to-give campaigns allow your supporters to donate to your cause via text message.
Donors simply text a keyword or phrase to a specified phone number with their desired donation amount, and are then sent a link to complete checkout. The simplicity of these campaigns makes it extremely easy for supporters to donate to your cause without stopping what they are doing. This leads to high participation and support for your cause!
Social Media and Email
All of the tools we’ve mentioned can be effective in isolation, but their true power can be observed when combined with social media and email campaigns.
Once an online fundraising page or peer-to-peer campaign is live, social media and email promotion will help the program gain instant support and make it easy to seamlessly share the giving experience and story of your cause to the masses. The results will be a much higher reach, a larger donor base, and higher proceeds!
Fundraising Then: Silent Auctions & Raffles
Two more fundraising methods that have seen dramatic improvements over the last few years are the silent auction and raffle. Both of these methods have always been extremely popular and are a fun and engaging way to raise funds, most frequently during a special event.
However, the traditional versions of both silent auctions and raffles are somewhat inefficient and typically create more barriers for your donors to support your cause.
We can all agree that silent auctions can be very effective fundraising tools. Unfortunately, their traditional format limits engagement, reach, and funds raised. The main culprit here? Paper bid sheets!
Printed bid sheets create a major barrier for silent auctions, as they not only limit participation to those attending a physical event, but also to those present at the silent auction prize table.
This, of course, negatively impacts your overall reach and participation. Furthermore, because traditional silent auctions are physical in nature, their timing typically only runs during the course of a special event, meaning that your cause/nonprofit is missing out on an extended fundraising time period.
Similar to paper bid sheets, raffles traditionally require paper tickets. We all know how annoying it is to fill out multiple tickets and then track the numbers on each while raffle winners are announced. This process is inefficient and limits participation just as traditional silent auctions do.
Additionally, both silent auctions and raffles typically involve long and arduous checkout processes to ensure that donors make their payments and receive the correct prize. A poor checkout experience can alienate donors and limit further support.
Fundraising Now: Silent Auctions & Raffles
Luckily, silent auctions and raffles have been drastically improved through the use of online and mobile technology. Mobile and online silent auctions and raffles utilize online bidding and ticket purchase, text messaging functionality, and credit card processing in order to make donating through a silent auction or raffle seamless.
Some of the major areas that technology has improved for silent auctions and raffles include:
- Reach. Because silent auctions and raffles can now have their own online page and phone number for online and text message bidding and ticket purchase, your audience is limitless. Just as with online fundraising pages, your silent auctions and raffles can now reach anyone with a phone or internet connection! This means more bidders and higher proceeds.
- Timing. Similarly, because your mobile silent auction or raffle will not be bound physically, you can open bidding and raffle ticket purchase prior to your physical event. This means you can give your supporters a longer window of time to support your cause and submit bids or buy tickets.
- Engagement. Modernized mobile silent auctions and raffles have the opportunity to majorly increase donor engagement. No longer will your donors need to hold on to paper tickets or hover around a prize table. Instead, they will receive instant notifications if they have been outbid or won an item, whether they are at your event or not!
Luckily, there are many great charity auction tools available – we recommend finding one that balances functionality with cost in order to allow your program to raise as much as possible.
After reading this post, we hope that you’ve been able to realize the major changes that have taken place in the fundraising space due to the enhancement of technology. We encourage you to explore these new options in order to find the right balance for your next fundraising endeavor!
Thank you to Zach Hagopian for contributing this informative post! Zach is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that powers 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 through the use of the Accelevents platform and similar products.
Managing your match gift efforts can be a challenge given the complexity of typical programs. Thankfully there are software solutions from a range of vendors for both nonprofits and corporations.
We’ve compiled a list of the top options.
Matching Gift Software Options for Nonprofits
There are two leading matching gift products for nonprofits:
- Double the Donation’s Basic and Premium Plans
Double the Donation (Designed for small and medium sized nonprofits)
Double the Donation provides tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from employee matching gift programs. Within our database of companies that match donations we track programs offered by companies in the US, Canada, and UK, many of which are managed by different corporate vendors.
Nonprofits can either:
- Build and host a custom matching gift page on Double the Donation’s website
- Embed Double the Donation’s matching gift plugin on their own websites
360MatchPro (Designed for large nonprofits)
360MatchPro is the complete end-to-end matching gift solution for large nonprofits and higher education institutions.
360MatchPro helps your nonprofit:
- Automate matching gift identification across your fundraising
- Drive matches to completion
- Get actionable insights
360MatchPro is the next evolution of advanced matching gift tools for nonprofits.
See how 360MatchPro can overhaul your large nonprofit’s matching gift fundraising.
Matching Gift Software Vendors for Corporations:
Is your company considering making the switch to an electronic matching gift system? Here are the leading software vendors which provide everything a company needs to outsource the employee matching gift administration process, volunteer grants, disaster relief, and broader employee giving programs:
AmeriGives manages matching gift programs for many major corporations including:
Founded over thirty-seven years ago, this company has long been recognized for providing outstanding customer support to both corporations and the nonprofits receiving matching gifts.
Benevity was founded in 2008 in Canada but has since developed a major presence with companies based in the United States as well. A few of Benevity’s clients include:
Bright Funds is an online charitable giving platform for individuals and companies that makes it easy to donate to highly effective charities working on the issues that matter most to you. Bright Funds uses foundation-level research to develop funds of high-impact nonprofits working in areas like: the environment, education, water, poverty, health, and human rights. Bright Funds donors build a portfolio of charitable “investments” by selecting the cause-based funds and individual nonprofits that reflect their passions.
Bright Funds is built on the model of a mutual fund: when you make a contribution to a fund, you are supporting a diverse group of highly effective nonprofits.
The company provides solutions to corporations interested in making it easy for employees to allocate their philanthropic dollars.
Causecast is one of the newer, but most innovative players in the space. Causecast’s Community Impact Platform is designed to automate, and encourage Employee Engagement through corporate giving and volunteering programs.
The CIP platform both enables employees to participate with approved causes, all while giving administrators tools for campaign creation, and detailed custom reporting.
For over 20 years, CyberGrants has been a leader in the online grantmaking space. Over time, the company has recorded many firsts in the grant making space including:
- Developing the first online application
- Providing the first online grants administration tools
- Creating the first online workplace giving and volunteering systems for corporations
Cybergrants merged with the JK Group (owners of the Consiva and Easymatch platforms) and manages employee giving programs for many global companies including:
Frontstream, previously TRUiST, provides services including, funds processing and distribution, campaign management, volunteer solutions, corporate gift matching, international campaign expansion, and click and give forms for disaster response.
Some companies FrontStream works with include:
Frontstream works with nonprofits small to large reach their philanthropic goals and continues to grow their nonprofit support system each year.
YourCause provides corporations of all sizes with the CSRconnect Employee Engagement Platform. CSRconnect is a customizable community tool that centralizes employee engagement in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programs including:
- Individual credit card donations
- Personal fundraising
- Matching donations
- Payroll deductions
- Pledge campaigns
- Disaster relief
- Payment distribution
A few of YourCause’s well-known clients include:
Matching Gift Services for Nonprofits and Fundraising Software Providers
We encourage you to check out Double the Donation’s employee matching gift service. We offer the following three ways to integrate matching gift information into a nonprofit’s website or fundraising software:
- Host nonprofit specific matching gift pages on Double the Donation’s servers
- Embed our matching gift database on a nonprofit’s website
- Use our matching gift API to integrate our raw matching gift data into a 3rd-party service
Want to discover more ways to maximize the giving potential of donors? Check out these awesome matching gift and corporate giving resources to get you started:
- 21+ Corporate Fundraising Ideas. Matching gifts is one of Fundly’s top corporate fundraising ideas that both businesses and nonprofits can benefit from. Wanna learn the other 20? Visit their site for dozens of great corporate fundraising ideas!
- Build Your Fundraising Strategy From the Ground Up. Incorporating matching gifts into your fundraising strategy is a must for nonprofits of any size. Check out Aly Sterling Philanthropy’s other fundraising strategy tips to learn more!
- Corporate Matching Gifts: The Vital Tool to Double Donations. Looking to learn more about corporate matching gift programs? Head over to Goodshop’s blog to learn how to get the most out of this useful fundraising resource.
If you’re looking for ways to amp up your annual fund, then you should consider hiring a nonprofit consultant. Fundraising consultants are professional advisers that can offer your nonprofit effective solutions to improve your annual fund.
Since there are so many different nonprofit consulting firms out there, the search may seem like a daunting task. However, with a few strategies, you can find the right adviser for your nonprofit.
Let’s take a look at six strategies you can use to start your search on the right foot.
- Set up clear and actionable goals.
- Determine what services you need.
- Find a firm with annual fund experience.
- Work with a consultant that can connect often.
- Consider the cost of a consultant.
- Narrow down your picks and request proposals.
If you’re looking for more strategies to improve your annual fund, check out this helpful guide.
1. Set up clear and actionable goals.
Before you can start searching for the right nonprofit consulting firm, you need to come up with your goals. Your goals can be anything from a timeline of when you want to have a nonprofit consultant hired to what you want to achieve once you hire someone. Create as many goals as you need to create a clear picture of what you want to gain.
Goals are important because they not only help you see what you’re trying to achieve, but they also help your fundraising consultant figure out the best solution. If you can’t give your adviser a clear idea of what you want, he or she doesn’t know what direction to take.
Setting goals helps you point out the areas in your fundraising you need help with and gives your nonprofit consultant somewhere to start when coming up with solutions.
While improving your annual fund may be your overall goal, it’s not specific enough. If you want assistance that’s tailored to your nonprofit, you’ll need to be as detailed as possible.
To figure out your goals, you should start by determining where you need the most support. Your nonprofit may need help:
- Honing in on what makes supporters give.
- Creating a plan for your year-end fundraising.
- Writing an impactful appeal.
- Finding unique ways to interact with donors.
The important part is to figure out where you need the most help so that the professional can focus on those areas.
The takeaway: Goals set the groundwork for what you need. They give you more than just a way to measure success. Goals help your nonprofit consultant figure out what direction to take so that you can reach the best possible outcome.
2. Determine what services you need.
Now that you’ve got your goals, it’s time to assess how a nonprofit consulting firm can help you. By knowing what services you need, you can narrow down your choice to those that only offer what you need. In order to know what services you want, it’s important to know what a fundraising consultant can do.
That way, when you do hire someone, you can both start your project on the same page and with the same expectations.
In general, every firm offers slightly different services. We’ll cover some of the nonprofit consulting services you can expect to see among most firms:
- Conduct research on your donors’ giving behaviors.
- Create fundraising strategies.
- Assist you with hiring nonprofit professionals.
- Motivate and educate your staff on all things concerning fundraising.
In addition to the services mentioned above, many consulting firms specialize in a particular aspect of fundraising. For instance, digital fundraising consultants can design and develop customized fundraising solutions to meet your nonprofit’s needs.
Let’s say your organization is using Luminate, a fundraising tool created by Blackbaud; you might hire a digital consultant to customize your Luminate system to help track and market matching gifts to boost your annual fund.
Once you have a better idea of what a consultant firm can offer, you can start figuring out which services align best with your needs. You may need just one service or a combination of all that the firm has to offer.
The takeaway: The more you know about what a nonprofit consultant offers, the better idea you’ll have about whether or not you need their services.
3. Find a firm with previous annual fund experience.
While a nonprofit consultant can’t guarantee you success, working with someone that has previous experience planning annual fund strategies gives you a higher chance of having positive results.
We’ll take a look at three things that your fundraising consultant should be knowledgeable in.
A. Matching gift programs.
As you are probably aware, matching gift programs can help you double your donations. Matched giving requires a lot of promotion and education in order to encourage donors to submit a request to their employer.
You want to hire a fundraising consultant that has prior experience working with the various matching gift programs.
If you choose a nonprofit consulting firm that already has knowledge on this subject, they can help you figure out how to best incorporate matching gifts into your appeals. They might even be able to suggest different services that can help make matching gift promotion easier.
B. Online donation software.
Optimizing your online donation forms is key if you want to encourage donors to participate in recurring giving and gift matching. Find a fundraising consultant that can suggest online donation form best practices.
Additionally, you want to find a firm that is familiar with donor abandonment and how to avoid it. The more your consultant knows about donors’ giving behaviors, the better he or she can guide you on how to make your forms better.
C. Unique ideas for communicating with supporters.
You should look for a nonprofit consultant who can offer you a new perspective on how to approach your annual fund.
For instance, if your nonprofit’s past annual fund communications have been largely through direct mail, in-person events, and phone calls, you could consider bringing someone on with a background in online marketing and fundraising to give your next campaign a new edge. The consultant could help coach you through a complete digital strategy from email to social media.
Essentially, you want to find a consultant who can help you both improve upon what you’re already doing and add new skills and approaches to your repertoire.
With new ideas, your consultant can help you discover different, unique ways to communicate with donors and build those long-lasting relationships. Ultimately, lasting relationships with your supporters will help motive them to give regularly.
The takeaway: When you find someone with the right skills and prior knowledge on annual funds, you don’t have to spend time explaining concepts and can start working on solutions right away.
4. Work with a consultant who can connect often.
Communication is key to working successfully with a nonprofit consulting firm. Establishing communication from the beginning means that there will be less confusion later.
Connecting often with a consultant is important because your nonprofit can:
- Get regular updates on your annual fund plan and strategies.
- Communicate your concerns promptly so that the consultant can make changes early on.
- Explain all your needs and what you hope to achieve.
Depending on your nonprofit consulting needs, you may want to choose a local consultant.
Finding a local fundraising consulting firm will help to ensure that you both are familiar with your nonprofit’s donor community and outreach.
This regional bond can help your nonprofit feel more comfortable with a fundraising consultant and spend more time developing in-depth strategies that target your local demographic’s needs and interests.
That being said, finding a firm that’s close by isn’t always feasible. Plus, remote nonprofit consultants present their own strengths that can be extremely beneficial.
Since remote consultants won’t have the luxury of dropping by your office at the drop of a hat, they’re more likely to stay on schedule (and ensure that your nonprofit does, too!). Additionally, remote consultants can bring a fresh perspective and a different frame of reference to the table.
If you’re considering nonprofit consulting firms that are further away, always make a note to ask them how they communicate with their clients. For instance, having the majority of interactions via email might not be the most ideal approach seeing as some messages might get misinterpreted or overlooked.
Instead, make the effort to have more direct communications with non-local firms through regular phone or video chat sessions.
It’s also a good idea to meet with your nonprofit consulting firm in person as often as you can, especially early in the process so that you can clearly explain all your needs and gain a solid understanding of what plan they have in place for your nonprofit.
The takeaway: Connecting regularly with your nonprofit consultant is important because it allows you to know immediately how things are going to be planned. Plus, you can voice your concerns as soon as they arise.
5. Consider how much a consultant will cost.
Not every nonprofit consulting firm will cost the same, and there are no set guidelines on how a consultant is paid. Some may charge by the hour or day while others may charge per project. Additionally, you might be charged food, travel, hotel fees, and other expenses. It all depends on the firm that you decided to work with.
As you consider the price of a nonprofit consultant, ask yourself what’s most important. Do you want:
- Someone that meshes well with your nonprofit’s culture?
- A consultant with lots of experience handling similar nonprofits?
- A firm that can offer creative and unique suggestions for your annual fund strategy?
Once you’ve figured out what is crucial for your nonprofit, you can start to narrow down your options. Perhaps paying a little extra for the skills and characteristics you need won’t seem like such a bad thing in the long run.
The takeaway: The cost of a fundraising consultant is inevitable; make sure that you get the best return on your investment. Consider what services or skills you want from your firm and then compare prices.
6. Narrow down your selection and request a proposal.
Before you make your final choice, it’s a good idea to request a proposal or ask your top firms to pitch their suggestions. A proposal will give you a better idea of what each nonprofit consulting firm suggests you do to improve your annual fund. In other words, it will give you a taste of what to expect.
The proposal can be a formal, in-person presentation or a document that firms send to you with their suggestions. Either way, you should request the same type of proposal from all your top picks to be consistent.
When you request your pitches, give the nonprofit consultant some time to really come up with solutions. If you give them too little time, they’re likely going to send you general pitches that aren’t specific to your nonprofit’s needs. Give them at least 3 weeks to submit their solutions.
After every firm turns in their proposal or presents their pitch, take some time to consider every firms’ suggestions. As you take each one into consideration, make sure you ask the following questions:
- Did the firm offer you solutions specific to your nonprofit’s goals?
- Were they confident in their solutions?
- Did they offer any statistics to back up their suggestions?
Of course, you can add to this list with other questions that are important to you.
Now it’s time to make your choice! Use all the information you’ve gained about each firm to help you decide which one is best for you.
The takeaway: Requesting a pitch is one way to get a better understanding of what each nonprofit consultant suggests your nonprofit do to improve your annual fund. Use this step as a way to narrow down your options and pick the best solution.
With these tips, you can start searching for the fundraising consulting firm that best fits your needs. Look for a firm that meshes well with your nonprofit’s culture and has prior experience working with similar organizations.
If you would like to learn more about hiring a fundraising consultant, check out these helpful resources:
- 11 Top Fundraising Consultants. Now that you’ve got tips to help you hire a fundraising consultant, it’s time to start your search. Check out this list of our top consultants.
- Top 10 Fundraising Consulting Firms. As you begin looking, you might realize that not every consultant offers the same services. Check out these consulting firms to find one that meets all your organization’s needs.
- Nonprofit Fundraising Ideas. Looking for more ways to boost your annual fund? Get our full list of fundraising ideas to help you raise even more funds this year!
- Top Fundraising Consultants in Ohio and Indiana. If you think that hiring a local consultant is the best option for your nonprofit, check out our list of consultants located in the Midwest.
We all know that online fundraising is quickly taking the nonprofit world by storm. More people than ever are making their charitable contributions via online avenues. That’s why we’ve compiled 11 of the best online fundraising ideas that can help your nonprofit raise more money in the digital age!
Here’s what we’ll be covering:
- Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
- Matching Gift Drive
- T-Shirt Fundraising
- Online Donation Forms
- Online Giving Days
- Text-to-Give Campaign
- Viral Fundraising Campaign
- Online Cashback Websites
- Online Auctions
- Donation for a Vote
Crowdfunding is proving to be one of the most popular ways for nonprofits and individuals alike to raise money for causes, projects, or events that they care about.
For those new to the term, crowdfunding essentially makes use of a nonprofit’s or individual’s existing network of supporters, friends, family members, coworkers, peers, and even acquaintances.
Nonprofits and individuals can set up crowdfunding pages and then share those pages on social media sites and via email.
A typical nonprofit crowdfunding page looks like this:
Most crowdfunding platforms allow nonprofits to:
- Upload images and videos.
- Write a detailed description.
- Post updates and comments.
- Share the campaign across social media sites and email.
- Set up giving levels or tiers.
- Send out automatic acknowledgements to donors.
- Track metrics like number of donors, average donation amount, and total amount raised.
If you want to make the most of your nonprofit’s crowdfunding campaign, follow these best practices:
- Interact with your supporters: Your donors want to know how your online fundraising campaign is going! Keep them in the loop by posting updates and responding to their comments on your crowdfunding page.
- Post at least 4 photos or videos: Media gives your donors some context and allows them to see exactly what they’re donating to. Make sure that your photos look professional and highlight the people, animals, or communities that your nonprofit serves.
- Set up giving levels: Including donation tiers or giving levels on your campaign page allows donors to select the one that they prefer. To create an even bigger impact, you can list out the specific actions that your nonprofit can accomplish with each donation amount.
Main Takeaway: Crowdfunding is one of the best online fundraising ideas for nonprofits. Most crowdfunding platforms enable you to get up and running in just a few minutes, and you can start raising money from your supporters in no time!
2. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a type of crowdfunding that many nonprofits pair with fundraising events like walkathons, marathons, and cycling events.
Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns typically follow this structure:
- A nonprofit sets a goal, determines a timeline, and plans a peer-to-peer event.
- The nonprofit reaches out to loyal supporters and asks them if they want to participate in the fundraiser.
- If supporters are willing to participate, they then set up their own online fundraising pages (with the nonprofit’s help). These individual pages link up to the nonprofit’s main peer-to-peer fundraising page.
- Individuals reach out to their networks to ask for donations on the nonprofit’s behalf.
- Supporters’ friends and family members make donations via the individual’s peer-to-peer fundraising page.
- The nonprofit collects the donations, acknowledges and thanks supporters and donors, and hosts the (typically active) event.
Here’s an example of an individual’s peer-to-peer fundraising page:
This individual peer-to-peer fundraising page is linked to the nonprofit’s primary fundraising page:
This peer-to-peer campaign follows a few best practices that we’re a huge fan of:
- They include several images: Both the nonprofit’s main page and the individual’s campaign page have images and videos that allow supporters to see exactly what their donations are going toward.
- They describe what the contributions will help accomplish: Each page highlights the need for homes and volunteer time in Austin. Both pages have giving tiers that describe what a donation amount will be able to buy. For example, $300 will buy a stove, while $500 will buy a roof.
- Each description is detailed: A good peer-to-peer campaign description is the key to encouraging people to donate to your cause. Without it, people won’t know why you’re raising money! This campaign has listed out the reasons for fundraising and lets people know why building homes in Austin is important.
Main Takeaway: Peer-to-peer fundraising is a type of online fundraising that enables your nonprofit to raise more money and acquire more donors. As your supporters reach out to their networks, your nonprofit can introduce more people to your cause and mission.
3. Matching Gift Drive
Take online giving days one step further. Ask a local company or major donor to match donations made on a particular day to double the amount you raise.
Time sensitive fundraisers work well because they create urgency, a good motivator for supporters. Plus, since each donation goes twice as far, donors will be more likely to participate.
Unlike with corporate matching gift programs that apply only to employees, matching gift drives don’t have restrictions on who can participate!
The key to a prosperous campaign is promotion. Get the most people to participate by sending emails to your donors on the days leading up to the event.
Social media is also an effective place to promote your online fundaiser. If your museum is running a matching gift drive, for example, you can publish posts on Facebook and Twitter that tell donors any tickets purchased or contributions made during your drive will be doubled by your sponsor.
You should include the name of your sponsor making the matches—whether it’s a local business or major donor—and a link to where supporters can learn more about the drive.
Also, let donors know about the many ways they can contribute. Provide your donors convenient ways to give, such as:
- Donation pages.
- Mobile-responsive forms.
- Crowdfunding pages.
The more fundraising options donors have, the more likely they are to make a donation.
Think about it this way: if you’re hosting a giving day, but only accept donations through a form on your website, this limits the number of people that can contribute to your cause.
If donors encounter your marketing while browsing on their phones, they’ll want a way to donate with that same device. If your form is confusing or hard to read, donors may reconsider donating to your organization.
With that said, make sure that you have a variety of ways to collect donations before launching your matching gift drive.
Main Takeaway: Knowing that their gifts will double for a limited time is a great motivator for donors. Use that knowledge to your advantage and host a matching gift drive.
Bonus: For matching gifts year-round, see how Mercy Corps helps their supporters determine if their employer matches donations on their branded matching gifts page from Double the Donation.
4. T-Shirt Fundraising
Another effective way for nonprofits to fundraise online is by selling t-shirts. Your nonprofit can deisgn t-shirts as merchandise for your organization and sell them online to your supporters.
T-shirt fundraisers are a fun, engaging way to raise money for your nonprofit because they allow supporters to show their love for your organization while still getting something back in return.
For supporters who many not be able to donate as much as they would like due to financial limitations, t-shirt fundraisers offer them the opportunity to contribute to your cause without breaking the bank.
Your nonprofit can get started by promoting t-shirt sales in conjunction with different fundraising campaigns. For example, you might sell holiday-themed t-shirts during year-end giving to capitalize on the seasonal spirit.
Even further, the t-shirts you sell can double as marketing materials for your nonprofit’s brand. When people see their friends wearing your organization’s shirts, they may get inspired to start contributing to your nonprofit.
When choosing an online host for your t-shirt fundraising initiative, select one that:
- Offers plenty of t-shirt customization options.
- Allows you to upload original designs for your shirts.
- Gives you the freedom to set your own t-shirt prices.
- Charges a low-overhead fee so you can keep more of your profits.
- Gives you the ability to customize your nonprofit’s t-shirt sales page.
As your organization starts selling t-shirts, remember that customization is key! Supporters are more likely to buy your organization’s shirts if they feel the product (and sales process) reflects the brand they have come to know and love.
Bonus: Learn more about selling t-shirts to raise money for your nonprofit with Bonfire!
5. Online Donation Forms
One of the most traditional ways to raise money online is through the tried-and-true online donation form. In many cases, donation forms allow you to brand your page and create special fields to capture specific, related information.
Best of all, online donation forms can be mobile-friendly so even more of your supporters have access.
Since there are many customization capabilities available, your organization can create a form that is completely unique to your brand.
Here is an example of what your online donation form could look like:
As you can see, the Water Project does a lot of great things with their donation form:
- First, the donation form has preset giving buttons, making it easy for the donor to choose a gift amount.
- Secondly, donors have the option to set recurring gifts.
- Last, the option to share contributions on Facebook and Twitter is predominantly displayed.
All these features not only help boost your awareness and funds, but they also make the giving process convenient for your donors.
Of course, if your organization wants all of these features (and more!), you’ll have to chose an excellent fundraising software provider.
Look for a vendor that has a responsive technical support team and an easy-to-use interface; you shouldn’t have to be an expert in CSS and HTML to create a professional-looking form. With a simple donation form builder, your organization should be able to drag and drop the elements you want to use and customize them to fit your needs.
If you’re using a fully customizable platform, you’ll be able to create a form that is unique to your organization or recruit a technology consultant who can design a form catered to your needs.
When creating your online donation forms, be considerate of your donors’ time and keep your donations quick and simple.
Main Takeaway: Creating a convenient and beautifully designed donation page starts with finding the right software. Find a provider that offers the features that will make donating quick and easy.
Bonus: One convenient way to give online is via text-to-donate software. Visit MobileCause to learn more about giving on the go with text-to-donate tools!
6. Online Giving Days
The most common online giving day is #GivingTuesday, a national day of charitable giving started a few years ago by the 92nd Street Y in New York.
While your nonprofit might already participate in #GivingTuesday, that doesn’t mean that you can’t organize your own online giving day for your supporters!
Just so we’re clear, an online giving day is a 24-hour period where a nonprofit tries to raise as much money as possible from its supporters.
An online giving day has to have a lot of digital promotion and advertising to make it effective. Reach out to your supporters:
- With emails.
- Over social media.
- Via text message.
- On your website.
- With videos.
These digital outreach methods should contain information about your giving day such as the time, ways to donate, what the funds will go toward, and how supporters can get more involved.
Here’s an example of an animal nonprofit that promotes #GivingTuesday on Twitter:
— Homeward Pet (@HomewardPet) November 27, 2016
Of course, Twitter has character limitations, so this tweet had to be short and sweet. Your other digital promotions for your giving day can go a bit more in-depth and include more specific information about your online fundraiser.
Whatever route you take, make sure that you explain what the funds are going toward and provide supporters with a link to your online donation page.
Main Takeaway: An online giving day can be an energetic and fast-paced way to raise money for your cause. Electrify your donor base with lots of digital promotions and encourage them to give as much as they can in just 24 hours!
7. Text-to-Give Campaign
Text-to-give came on the scene as a digital fundraising method in 2010 when millions of dollars were donated to the American Red Cross to support victims of the Haiti earthquake.
Since then, text-to-give (or text-to-tithe for churches) has become a mainstream way to raise money for any organization or cause!
Today, text-to-give tends to work like this:
- A donor will text a keyword to a specific number that has been assigned to a nonprofit.
- The donor will receive a link as a text message.
- The link takes the donors to a mobile-responsive donation page where they can make a contribution.
It’s that easy!
When choosing a text-to-give tool, look for a provider that is PCI-compliant, which means the company follows strict rules to ensure a high level of security.
Ease of use and integration are also vital characteristics to look for in a text-to-give tool. You want the giving process to be quick and simple for donors as well as have a way to export data to your CRM.
Many nonprofits, schools, and churches use text-to-give technology as an online fundraising avenue throughout the year, but it’s also a popular donation method during fundraising events. One of your speakers can make a live appeal and ask people to give with their cellphones (all of your attendees will likely have their phones in their pockets or purses!).
Main Takeaway: Text-to-give is quickly becoming one of the most popular online fundraising ideas. Don’t get left behind with this fundraising trend!
8. Viral Fundraising Campaign
You’ve likely heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but you may not know just how successful that particular viral fundraising campaign was.
In just a month and a half, the ALS Association was able to raise $115 million (and tons of awareness!) for ALS research by asking people to pour cold water on their heads.
Another example of a viral fundraising campaign is “Movember.” For this viral campaign, men grow out their facial hair during the month of November and make donations in support of men’s health.
These are just two of the many viral fundraising campaigns that nonprofits have started. Why not start your own?
Keep these tips in mind before trying to launch a viral fundraising campaign. And remember, it might take a few months or even more than a year for your campaign to go truly viral.
- Don’t ask for too much. You aren’t going to receive a ton of donations if you ask for $500 every time. Instead, ask people for small contributions like $5, $10, or $20. Once a campaign goes viral, all of those little donations will add up!
- Create a memorable hashtag. Hashtags help group your social media posts and make your nonprofit’s message easier to find on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Create a memorable and punchy hashtag. Use it in all of your social media posts and encourage your supporters to use it, as well!
- Get to the point. A viral campaign has to be focused and targeted. It’s not the time to explain every single detail of your nonprofit’s mission. Instead, boil down your vision to a few key points and use them interchangeably throughout the duration of your campaign.
- Make use of all of your digital channels. Post on Facebook. Tweet out a promotional message. Snap a picture and post it to Instagram. Start a Pinterest board. Send out emails. Use every digital communications channel at your disposal!
Main Takeaway: It might take time to get a viral fundraising campaign off the ground, but if you can do it, your nonprofit’s mission and vision will be made known to supporters across the country and even around the world!
9. Online Cashback Websites
Online cashback sites can be used by nonprofits as well as individuals who are looking to raise a little extra money while doing something that nearly everyone loves: shopping online!
Let’s break down how most online cashback websites work:
- Someone in your nonprofit needs to buy office supplies or something else online.
- The staff member begins their search for office supplies at an online cashback site.
- Once the items have been purchased, a percentage of the total amount is deposited into a cashback account.
- Your nonprofit can withdraw the cashback amount at regular intervals (typically monthly or quarterly).
Common cashback sites include:
In addition to these sites, Amazon, the largest online shopping marketplace, has created an affiliate program that enables nonprofits to receive a certain percentage of sales that originate on the nonprofit’s website.
With Amazon’s affiliate program, your nonprofit can place banners, images, and links on your website that will direct users to a page on Amazon’s site. If the user makes a purchase, your nonprofit gets a cut of the purchase from Amazon.
While cashback sites aren’t going to help your nonprofit break any fundraising records, they are an easy way to raise more money from online shopping. Signing up for most of these cashback sites is easy, and everyone in your nonprofit can participate!
Main Takeaway: Online cashback sites can supplement your existing fundraising efforts. If your staff does a lot of online shopping, sites like Ebates and Amazon can be an easy way to raise extra funds!
10. Online Auctions
Online auctions are essentially digital silent auctions that are more cost-effective and are open to all your supporters, increasing fundraising potential even more.
Just like with any charity auction, you’ll need to procure items and experiences that excite your guests and encourage them to place bids.
Look for unique items that your guests won’t be able to find anywhere else. Look at the following suggestions to help you get started:
- Sports memorabilia.
- Backstage passes to a concert.
- Tickets to an exclusive museum exhibit.
- And so much more!
Generate excitement before your event by creating an auction catalog with images and a description of each item (or experience) and teach registered guests how to place bids to prepare them for the big day.
Main Takeaway: Online auctions make it possible for supporters from all over the world to participate and are cost-effective so that you can raise the most money from your event.
11. Donation for a Vote
The donation for a vote online fundraising idea gets your supporters engaged in a silly challenge in return for their contributions.
Here’s how this fundraiser works:
- Create a list of silly challenges that your staff or volunteers are willing to complete.
- Create a poll, asking your supporters to vote (with a donation) for the challenge they’d like to see your team complete.
- At the end of the poll, record your team completing whatever challenge received the most votes and post it on social media.
The challenges you pick should be interesting and if possible, related to your cause in some way.
In the video, thank your supporters for their contributions, and mention how the funds will be used to further your cause.
Supporters will get a kick out of seeing you do a silly task, and you’ll raise more money for your cause!
Not only will donors like seeing a hilarious video, but they’ll also appreciate that you want their opinion and input. Plus, supporters will encourage their peers to vote so they can see their favorite challenge win.
Main Takeaway: Donation for a vote is a fun (and potentially viral) way to raise money for your cause. Makes sure to choose your challenges and continue to encourage your supporters to vote.
Once you start bringing in that fresh funding, you’ll want to be sure you’re being fiscally responsible and financially accountable.
It’s easy to get lost in the exciting rush of new funds, but you need to be smart about how you handle it. These 7 financial strategies can help you do just that:
- Be prepared with better financial reports.
- Forget about spreadsheets.
- Get everyone involved.
- Stay focused with performance analytics.
- Strategize about growth.
- Use forecasting and budgets to set goals.
- Stay on top of report changes.
You can read more about those seven practices here. And as long as you follow them, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of following through on the 10 online fundraising ideas detailed above.
We hope that these 11 online fundraising ideas have inspired you to go out and try some different fundraising techniques.
For more ideas and tips, check out these helpful resources:
- Beginner’s Guide to Online Fundraising. Need to get back to the basics when it comes to online fundraising? Visit MobileCause for an in-depth beginner’s guide to better understand this important subject.
- 80+ Fundraising Ideas. Couldn’t find what you were looking for with our online fundraising ideas? Check out our full list of ideas. You’re sure to find the perfect fundraiser for your cause!
- Church Fundraising Ideas. If you’re looking for ways to raise money for churches and other faith-based organizations, we’ve got a list of ideas that will help you reach your goals.
- School Fundraising Ideas. Schools need to find family-friendly ways to raise money and engage their students. Check out this list of top ideas from Fundly to get started!
- Top Online Donation Tools. If you want to start fundraising online, you’ll need software to accept donations. Use this list of top tools to find online donation software for your organization!
- Crowdfunding Websites for Individuals. An essential part of crowdfunding is picking a platform, and with over 190 crowdfunding websites in the United States alone, there’s a lot of options to choose from. Luckily, we’ve narrowed down the list to our favorite 9 websites!
Sending out fundraising letters might seem like an old-fashioned way to ask for donations, but they can be extremely effective when written correctly!
If you’ve been looking for fundraising letters, look no further! We’ve got six of the most common fundraising letters that nonprofits should be sending out to their donors.
Here’s what we’ll be going over:
- Donation Request Letters
- Church Fundraising Letters
- Individual Fundraising Letters
- Matching Gift Fundraising Letters
- Sponsorship Letters
- Donor Thank-You Letters
1. Donation Request Letters
What are donation request letters?
Donation request letters are nonprofit fundraising letters that charitable organizations send out to individual donors and/or prospects.
They can be sent on their own or included in a welcome packet that contains pamphlets, booklets, and additional information.
When should you use them?
Your nonprofit can use donation request letters at any time of the year! However, they are particularly effective toward the end of the calendar year when donors are determining their pre-tax season finances. People also tend to be more charitable in November and December, which means that your donation request letter has a better chance of encouraging a donation.
You can send out donation request letters to any of your donors, but these types of communications are better received by older generations. While millennials respond to digital donation appeals, the baby boomer generation overwhelmingly prefers direct mail.
Your Organization’s Name
City, State ZIP
Dear [Donor’s Name],
[Begin with an emotional appeal. A success story or a narrative that tugs on your donors’ heartstrings hooks your readers. Keep it short, though!]
Our community/nation/world is facing [problem(s) your organization is trying to fix]. While we are actively [insert current solutions your organization is attempting], we need your help to make our efforts go even further!
You can help us [solve the problem you’re trying to fix]. Your support is crucial to our efforts to [solve the problem].
If you’re able, we’d love it if you could make a donation of [amount] to help us achieve our mission and [solve problem].
Thank you in advance for your contribution. Your donation will go toward [insert effort, accomplishment, or project].
Here are the ways you can make a donation:
— Make a donation online at [URL to donation page or crowdfunding campaign page]
— Call us at [phone number]
— Send a check in the pre-stamped envelope we’ve included (no cash, please!)
— Text [keyword] to [text-to-give phone number]
Thank you again!
[Signature of an organizational leader]
[Typed name of organizational leader]
P.S. [End with an update about an upcoming event, volunteer opportunity, or other information]
2. Church Fundraising Letters
What are church fundraising letters?
Church fundraising letters can take many forms. They can be used to ask for general church-related contributions, but they can also be used for specific fundraising efforts such as:
- Charity auction item requests.
- Fundraising event donations.
- Sponsorship requests.
- Mission trip funding.
- Church building funds.
- Missionary support.
It’s common for churches to send out fundraising letters to notify congregants when church events or other fundraising initiatives are occurring. These types of fundraising letters can be used to share the details—date, time, location, etc.—of the event as well as encourage those who can’t attend to give in advance.
For our purposes, we’ll be talking about a generic church fundraising letter that you can use to ask for general contributions.
You can send church fundraising letters to members of your congregation or to community members, depending on your fundraising need.
When should you use them?
You can send out church letters whenever you have a fundraising need! Churches rely on the generosity of their congregants to keep the doors open and the lights on.
Of course, you shouldn’t send out too many church fundraising letters. Limit your letters to a few per year and rely on in-person appeals during a church service for the majority of your fundraising efforts.
Your Church’s Name
City, State ZIP
Dear [Church Member’s Preferred Name],
Greetings! We hope this letter finds you well and that you’ve had a relaxing, blessed holiday season. Because you’re an important part of our church family, we thought you’d want to know about our big plans for this new year.
As you may know, our congregation is growing. Just like any family, the more members you have, the more room you need. We’re pleased to invite you to be an important part of this exciting process!
This Sunday afternoon, [your church’s name] is hosting a special event to raise money for the brand new sanctuary and bell tower. How blessed are we to have so many members like yourself that we need to build an entirely new structure?
It’s our greatest hope that you’ll be able to join us at [date and time] for a family fun carnival! Snacks and drinks will be provided for a small price. The only thing you need to bring is your sense of fun and adventure!
Admission is free, but of course, willing contributions of any size are always accepted.
If you have any questions about the event or the new sanctuary or bell tower, please feel free to reach out to our special projects coordinator, [name] at [phone number] or email her at [email address].
As always, have a blessed day. We hope to see you Sunday!
3. Individual Fundraising Letters
What are individual fundraising letters?
Nonprofits aren’t the only ones who have fundraising needs! Sometimes individuals need to raise money for a cause, project, or life event.
If that’s the case, you can use individual fundraising letters to send out donation requests to members of your community and local businesses.
Whatever you’re raising money for, an individual fundraising letter can help you generate funds for your cause, project, or event!
When should you use them?
You can use an individual fundraising letter whenever you need to raise money for a cause or project that means a lot to you. Of course, you shouldn’t just rely on fundraising letters to raise money.
You can set up a crowdfunding campaign to supplement your fundraising efforts. You can also use your fundraising letter to direct people to your crowdfunding page to give them an easy way to make a donation.
City, State ZIP
Dear [Donor’s Name],
My name is [your name] and I am [describe your position/situation/background]. I am looking to raise [amount of money] to help me pay for [project/expense/cause/etc.].
[Include information about why the cause or project is important to you and how it could potentially impact the reader or those you serve].
I’m writing to ask you to support me and my [cause/project/etc.]. Just a small donation of [amount] can help me [accomplish task/reach a goal/etc.]
Your donation will go toward [describe exactly what the contribution will be used for].
[When possible, add a personal connection to tie the donor to the cause. For example, if you’re raising money to help build a school in a developing country and you’re writing to a teacher, emphasize the fact that everyone deserves a quality education].
Thank you in advance for your contribution. You have no idea how much it means to me to have your support.
Here are the ways you can make a donation:
— Make a donation online at [URL of your crowdfunding campaign]
— Send a check in the pre-stamped envelope I’ve included (no cash, please!)
— Come to my fundraising event on [date] at [location] [when applicable]
Thank you again!
[Your typed name]
4. Matching Gift Fundraising Emails or Letters
What are matching gift fundraising letters?
Matching gift fundraising letters are tangible letters (or emails) that nonprofits send out to donors to remind them to submit matching gift requests.
For those who don’t know, matching gifts are a type of corporate giving program. After an employee has made a charitable donation to an eligible nonprofit, they can submit paperwork to their company’s HR department. If the donation and the nonprofit meet the company’s requirements, the business will make a contribution to the nonprofit for the same amount.
However, many donors simply don’t know that their employer offers a matching gift program.
That’s where a matching gift fundraising letter comes in!
Your nonprofit should send out communications to remind donors that their contributions might be eligible to be doubled (and sometimes, even tripled!).
When should you use them?
The best time to promote matching gifts (besides during the donation process itself) is directly after a donation has been made.
Your nonprofit is still fresh in donors’ minds, and they’ll be more likely to submit a matching gift request.
As soon as a donor has made a contribution (regardless of how the donation was made), your nonprofit should send out an automatic email that:
- Thanks them for their donation, and
- Encourages them to submit a matching gift request.
You can also follow up a few days later with a matching gift fundraising letter if the donor hasn’t already submitted a matching gift request.
Here is an example of a matching gift fundraising email:
This is an excellent example of a direct mail letter/postcard that promotes matching gifts:
Use these letters and emails in conjunction with one another to maximize your nonprofit’s matching gift potential!
5. Sponsorship Letters
What are sponsorship letters?
Sponsorship letters are used by nonprofits that are looking to receive corporate sponsorship donations for a specific project or event.
Sponsorship letter packages include:
- A sponsorship proposal cover letter.
- A sponsorship levels document.
- A sponsorship acknowledgement letter.
The proposal letter is the formal request for a sponsorship donation. It explains the nonprofit’s fundraising need and details how the funds will be used.
The sponsorship levels document is how companies decide how much they would like to give. This document lists out a few different sponsorship levels and the perks that come with each level. The higher the donation, the more perks the company receives.
The sponsorship acknowledgement letter is a thank-you to the company after they have made a donation. Your nonprofit can send out an acknowledgement immediately after a donation has been made and after the event has ended.
When should you use them?
Sponsorship letters should be sent out well in advance of your event or project. You want to give the company enough time to consider and respond to your donation request.
Your Organization’s Name
City, State ZIP
Dear [CEO/CSR Manager/Business Owner/etc.],
[Open with a description of your organization. Give some brief background including your mission, vision, and how you serve your community.]
We are hosting our [event name] on [date] at [location]. Last year’s event was such a huge success that we decided to host the event again!
In the past, this event has raised [amount] and has [list out specific accomplishments using statistics and figures].
This year we’re hoping to raise even more! Our goal is [amount], and we were hoping that you could help us reach that goal.
By becoming one of our corporate sponsors, you’ll be able to [list out projects that corporate donations could help accomplish].
We’ve also listed out some of the incentives and perks that your company can enjoy should you decide to become one of our corporate sponsors (see attached Sponsorship Levels Document). Regardless of the amount you choose to give, your company name will be included in our event program and you’ll be included in the press release that we’ll publish on our website.
We’re accepting cash donations as well as in-kind donations of goods or services. Feel free to make a contribution that you’re comfortable with.
See the attached Sponsorship Levels Document to find the giving level that’s right for your company. If you’re ready to make a donation, please tear off the perforated section of the following document and send it back to us in the self-addressed envelope we’ve enclosed.
I’d like to thank you in advance for your generosity. Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly at [phone number] or [email] if you have any questions.
Sincerely/All the best/etc.,
[Your printed name]
6. Donor Thank-You Letters
What are donor thank-you letters?
Donor thank-you letter are pretty self-explanatory.
These letters (or emails!) are meant to be used after a donor has made a contribution of any kind, including:
- Monetary contributions.
- In-kind donations.
- Volunteer time.
- A matching gift from an employer.
- And more!
When should you use them?
Your donor thank-you letters should be sent out as soon as you receive a contribution. Donors should receive an acknowledgement within two days of making a donation.
Feel free to send out an acknowledgement email as well as a direct mail letter. You can never be too appreciative of your donors!
Your Organization’s Name
City, State ZIP
Dear [Donor’s Preferred Name],
I can’t tell you how much all of us at [nonprofit name] appreciate your contribution to our cause. Thanks to your donation of [amount], we’ll be able to [list out specific goals, objectives, etc.].
I also wanted to let you know that we’ll be [hosting volunteer event, opening up our nonprofit’s doors for tours, holding a fundraising event, etc.]. We’d love to extend an invitation to you to participate in this opportunity! Our current donors have all enjoyed developing a stronger partnership with our organization, and I’m hoping you’ll do the same.
Thank you again!
[Your printed name]
We hope that these six fundraising letter templates have given you some insight into how to write an amazing fundraising appeal. Which ones have you used in the past? Which letters have you had the most success with?
If you want to learn more valuable fundraising tips, check out these additional resources:
- Must-Know Nonprofit Software: Every nonprofit needs fundraising software if they want to raise money online. Learn about the top vendors providing nonprofits with top-notch tools to help you raise more donations.
- Online Fundraising Guide: Looking for more ways you can raise money online. You’re in luck! This extensive guide will lead you through everything you need to know about raising money online.
- 113+ Fundraising Ideas: Put your new fundraising letters to use by hosting a fundraiser. With our list of over one hundred ways to raise money, you’re bound to find an idea that will work perfectly for your nonprofit.
With so many platforms and vendors out there, choosing the right donor database for your nonprofit is no easy feat.
But when you consider how crucial your donor database is to the success of your operations, it couldn’t be more important to choose the right one.
With the right platform on your side, you’ll be able to get a comprehensive picture of your donors and more efficiently manage your efforts to see better fundraising results.
Unfortunately, many nonprofits go into the buying process unprepared. Without having done their research and knowing the right questions to ask, these organizations fall into many mistakes that can hurt their operations and limit their success.
Luckily, these mistakes are completely avoidable if you know what to expect when shopping for a new nonprofit CRM.
To prevent you from falling into the same traps, we’ll take you through the top 13 tips to keep you from making mistakes when choosing a donor database:
- Don’t shop for the wrong type of software.
- Put thought into your reasons for buying.
- Select a platform that supports all of the users you need.
- Find a platform that has room to accommodate all of your constituents.
- Give your organization room to grow.
- Choose a platform that supports all of the necessary functionalities.
- Make sure the database can be integrated with the necessary third-party platforms.
- Explicitly ask about price.
- Make sure your platform doesn’t require difficult data migration.
- Your platform must be secure.
- The platform should come with enough training.
- Make sure your organization will receive sufficient support.
- Consult a second opinion.
By the time we’re done, you’ll be prepared to pick the perfect donor database. Let’s get started!
Need a refresher on buying software? Check out Salsa’s infographic before diving in.
Donor Database Tip #1: Don’t shop for the wrong type of software.
Fortunately for nonprofits everywhere, there are tons of different fundraising software solutions to help organizations optimize the fundraising process.
Unfortunately, this multiplicity only complicates the buying process.
When shopping for a new nonprofit donor database, you’ll first want to make sure that a donor database is actually the type of software you need.
To refresh, nonprofits use donor databases to house all of the important information they receive about their donors throughout the span of the donor’s’ relationship with the organization.
You can track virtually anything, like:
- Biographical information and demographics
- Contact information
- Households and relationships
- Donation and volunteer history
- Interests and affinities
- And much more!
Donor databases allow organizations to track all donor data centrally, so all data sources can communicate with each other to give nonprofits a 360° view of their donors. Nonprofits can then use these insights to get to know their donors better and target them with more personalized outreach strategies.
While almost all nonprofits will benefit from using a donor database (especially when it comes to email campaigns!), donor databases are the most generalized type of fundraising software. If you’re looking for something to help you with a more specialized effort, chances are you should be shopping for a different solution.
The takeaway: There are many different types of fundraising software out there. If you’re shopping for a donor database, make sure it’s the best solution to fit your needs.
Donor Database Tip #2: Put thought into your reasons for buying.
If you’re considering a new donor database, it’s probably because your organization needs a change.
Maybe you’re limited by the incomplete insights you’ve been receiving from housing your donor data in multiple platforms.
Maybe you’re tired of wasting so many man hours cleaning up your data.
Maybe you’re already using a platform that’s too expensive, and you just want something a little more affordable.
Point is, there are many reasons why nonprofits shop for a new (or their first!) donor database.
While we couldn’t possibly list out all of the reasons organizations shop for new software, here are a few of the most common:
- To gain a more complete understanding of their donors.
- To achieve more efficient or seamless operations.
- To free up staff time.
- To better organize their data.
- To better oversee staff and volunteer efforts.
- To switch to a platform that’s easier to use.
- To upgrade to a platform that’s larger or more scalable.
- To switch to a platform with a more comprehensive feature set.
- To find a platform with better support or training.
- To change to a platform that’s more cost-effective.
While all platforms will provide similar benefits, some platforms will be better at providing certain functionalities than others.
That’s why it’s important to determine exactly why you’re shopping for a new nonprofit CRM. That way, you can make sure that the platform you end up buying actually aligns with your reasons for shopping.
The takeaway: Going into the buying process aware of why you’re shopping will ensure that your organization finds a solution that can address the areas you’d most like to improve.
Donor Database Tip #3: Select a platform that supports all of the users you need.
To accommodate nonprofits of all sizes, donor database vendors usually price their software partially based off of how many people can use it.
Unfortunately, many organizations go into the buying process unaware of this fact and end up buying a solution that can’t support all of the users they need.
That means at least one important staff member won’t have access to all of the tools and information required to help them do their job as well as possible, limiting the greater success of the organization.
Luckily, this mistake is super easy to avoid. All you need to do is determine how many staff members will be using the software before you buy. This way, you can select an interface that gives you the right number of users for your organization, like DonorPerfect:
While some organizations with small staffs only need access for one or two users, large organizations might need a platform that supports dozens. It all depends on the needs and makeup of your organization.
The takeaway: Don’t buy a solution only to find out that all of the necessary staff members don’t have access to it. Think about how many users you’ll need from the beginning to find a donor database that’s the perfect size for your organization.
Donor Database Tip #4: Find a platform that has room to accommodate all of your constituents.
The price of donor databases is also usually influenced by the number of constituent profiles that it allows.
And it makes sense! Nonprofit donor databases are donor-centric, so it’s only natural that their price would be determined by the number of donors they can accommodate.
As such, you’ll want to check (and double check!) that the nonprofit CRM you’re considering can hold the entirety of your donor base.
If not, you won’t be able to track all of your donors’ important information, leaving you with little to no insight into a portion of your base.
Check out DonorPerfect’s donor database software to see what a comprehensive product looks like for your constituent profiles. Below you’ll see a list of donor profiles:
Considering that one of the main benefits of using a donor database is to give your organization the most complete picture of your donors available, buying a platform that’s too small would totally defeat the purpose of buying new software.
The takeaway: Find a platform that’s the right size for you so that all of your donors will be housed comfortably in your new donor database.
Donor Database Tip #5: Give your organization room to grow.
On that note, when determining how many supporter profiles your new nonprofit CRM should hold, you’ll also want to look towards the future.
Chances are, your nonprofit is growing and changing quickly. And with the help of your new donor database, your growth should skyrocket!
So, what does this mean when shopping for software, exactly?
Your donor database shouldn’t just support the number of donor profiles you have right now; it should also give you room to grow.
Buying a scalable solution ensures that you can continue accommodating all of the new donor information you receive as your base expands.
If you buy a solution that’s too limited, you’ll only be buying a new donor database sooner.
However, be wary. While you want to dream big, you also don’t want to buy a solution that’s too large, or else you’ll be wasting money on something you don’t need.
The takeaway: When determining how many donor profiles your new database should support, consider the foreseeable future. You’ll want to strike the perfect balance by finding a solution that can grow with you but that still fits your current needs.
Donor Database Tip #6: Choose a platform that supports all of the necessary functionalities.
While most donor databases will have a similar set of basic functionalities, some are more comprehensive or specialized than others.
Because features vary from platform to platform, you’ll need to determine whether or not the provider you’re considering has all of the functionalities you need to execute your efforts.
For example, if you’re buying software with the main goal of making your operations more efficient, you’ll want to find a donor database with as many automated features as possible, such as generating donation receipts after supporters submit their donations online.
In addition to automation features, to get the most out of your CRM, you should look for the following capabilities:
- Detailed constituent profiles. Not only is it important for you to track a donor’s basic information and past giving history. To get a complete picture of each donor, you should be able to add custom fields to your profiles to track a donor’s interests and past interactions with your nonprofit. Take a look at Salsa’s detailed donor profiles:
- Gift management and custom webforms. When you have a CRM that can process donations and build forms, you don’t have to worry about transferring your donor data; it will already be integrated with your donor database.
- Email Communications. Collecting donor data can be used to improve your communications and provide donors with the most relevant information. With that said, having the ability to send out mass and automated emails through your CRM can make the process seamless. For instance, your segmented list of donors can easily be linked to your automated communications so that you can send targeted emails.
- Reporting and analytics. Another piece of your CRM should be focused on analyzing the data from your donor profiles and donation forms to provide you with reports on giving habits, as well as preferred donation methods. This information can help you improve your online fundraising efforts. Check out Salsa’s reports:
If the platform you buy doesn’t have these features, it won’t provide a very good solution for why you’re shopping.
Never fear, though! Even if the base platform you’re considering doesn’t have all of the functionalities you need, these gaps can often be addressed by compounding your donor database with expansions.
Expansions simply refer to other software solutions that have been developed by the same vendor and, as such, are easily integrated with your donor database.
For example, because Salsa specializes in CRMs, they provide excellent donor management software that can be integrated with your CRM to provide a more comprehensive set of features.
Whether you’re supplementing your donor database with expansions or just need the base software, make sure that your platform of choice will support all of the features you need.
If not, it’s time to look at a different solution!
The takeaway: Buy a donor database that has all of the required features so you can most effectively manage your fundraising efforts.
Donor Database Tip #7: Make sure the platform can be integrated with the necessary third party platform.
If the platform you’re looking at doesn’t have all of the features you need, you might still be able to supply those features with integrations.
Integrations are similar to expansions in that they can be added onto your donor database to provide additional functionality.
The only difference is that these platforms that have been developed by a third-party vendor, so incorporating them into your donor database might prove a little more difficult.
Some common donor database integrations include:
- Payment processing
- Email marketing
- Social media profiles
- Wealth screening and prospect research services
- Matching gift services
- And more.
Make sure that your donor database can support any integrations you need to fill in the features you’re missing.
If you’re already using a third-party platform to supply these missing functionalities, this will be as simple as asking your vendor if the software can integrate with your current platform.
For example, if you were using Quickbooks to manage your accounting (for more nonprofit accounting tools, click here), you would want to make sure that it could be easily integrated with the donor database you’re buying.
Check out Salsa Labs’ donor database integrations with both Double the Donation’s matching gift ools below:
Salsa integrates with DonorSearch’s prospect research tools, too:
It will be much more difficult (and potentially detrimental to your operations) if it turns out that the third-party platform you’re using isn’t integratable with your new donor database.
Switching to a new platform will require more data transfer and time, since you’ll have to learn a new interface. In other words, it will only detract from your fundraising efforts.
The takeaway: Your new donor database should support all of the integrations you need to provide all of the features that will set you up for success!
Donor Database Tip #8: Explicitly ask about price.
Considering that price is one of the biggest anxieties that nonprofits have when shopping for new software, you’d be surprised by how many organizations don’t ask about price.
It’s an all-too-easy mistake to make. The organization goes onto the vendor’s website, sees the list price, and automatically assumes that’s what they’ll be paying.
Seeing that the donor database fits into their budget and has all of the features they need, the organization gets excited and rushes into the contract stage without stopping to ask their vendor explicitly about price.
That organization is then in for a rude awakening once they read or sign that contract and realize that there are a bunch of hidden costs they aren’t aware of.
While we would all like to hope that any donor database vendor would be transparent and spell out the costs, unfortunately that won’t always be the case.
That’s why it could not be more important for your organization to ask about the costs outright.
Donor databases are highly customizable tools. Thus, even the same platform can vary drastically in price.
The list price (that displayed on the pricing page of the vendor’s website) usually only accounts for the number of users, the number of donor profiles, and the basic feature set.
However, there are many other factors that can influence the price of your nonprofit CRM, such as:
- Expansions and integrations.
- Costs associated with training and IT support.
- Payment processing fees.
- Data transfer and clean-up.
- Updates to your software as technology advances.
Make sure your donor database actually fits into your budget by asking about costs at the beginning of the buying process.
The takeaway: The price of donor databases can be impacted by many different factors. Ask your vendor explicitly about costs to make sure your purchase won’t strain your organization fiscally.
Donor Database Tip #9: Make sure your platform doesn’t require difficult data migration.
In order to get up and running with your new donor database, you’ll need to transfer over all of the donor data you already have.
Unfortunately, data migration will always come with difficulties. It’s a long process that requires:
- Cleaning up your existing data (as to only transfer what’s relevant).
- Exporting it from the old platform.
- Importing it into the new platform.
- Going back over your data to ensure that it was correctly transferred.
Just how difficult this process is will depend on how compatible your current systems are with your new donor database and how much support the vendor provides.
With some platforms, data transfer will be much more involved. While this might not seem like a big deal, choosing software that requires an especially difficult data migration process is a big mistake.
Not only will this be a headache for your organization, but it can also put a dent in your operations.
Think about it: the longer it takes you to transfer your data over, the longer it will be before you can start using your new software to improve your fundraising.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should jump right in and do it yourself. Data migration is a complex process, and each platform is different. The best vendors will assess your data and provide you with assistance, if necessary.
Remember that your constituent data is the most valuable data your organization has — importing it right the first time will ensure your organization can raise more and be more efficient in the long run.
The takeaway: Data migration is a huge part of getting your donor database set up. Find a vendor who will provide you with the support you need so that it won’t be hassle.
Donor Database Tip #10: Your platform must be secure.
Your donor database will be home to all of your donor data, including your donor’s sensitive information.
That being the case, you’ll want to be absolutely sure that the donor database you’re considering has the proper security measures in place to protect this information.
One of the main features your donor database should include is advanced control over permissions. This feature will allow you to give only certain staff members access to information, so that only the people who absolutely need access to confidential information will have it.
Additionally, if your donor database comes with online fundraising tools (or you’re otherwise accepting donors’ payment information), you should make sure that the database is PCI-compliant. Being PCI-compliant simply means that the platform’s payment processing tools are in keeping with the security standards set out by the Payment Card Industry.
Failing to ask about security could mean that you’re putting your supporters’ confidential information in jeopardy.
If that information were to fall into the wrong hands, not only would you be damaging the trust you’ve so carefully built up with your donors, but you might also face legal repercussions.
Secure your peace of mind by asking your vendor about security!
The takeaway: Handling sensitive information requires the right precautions. Asking your vendor about security is the only way to ensure that your donor database can properly protect your donors.
Donor Database Tip #11: The platform should come with enough training.
Let’s be honest—many of us aren’t as savvy with technology as we’d like to think.
While we hope that your donor database will be relatively intuitive for your staff to use, learning how to use any new platform will naturally require some training.
Without the proper training, you and your staff might be able to use your donor database, but you definitely won’t be able to utilize it as effectively as possible.
Get the most out of your new software by making sure it comes with the level of training you need.
Most vendors offer a couple of different options for training to accommodate for a range of budgets.
The most basic option is usually a free, pre-recorded training video you can watch on the computer. While this will give your staff a general idea of the platform’s interface and functionality, training won’t be adjusted to fit the unique needs of your organization.
If you’re willing to splurge a little bit, you can pay to receive custom training. With this option, someone will walk your staff through the platform with a specific focus on the modules you’ll be using most. Training can either be done online or on-site, and staff will have the opportunity to ask any questions that might come up.
Whether or not customized training is worth it to you will depend on the needs and resources of your organization. But if you need it, make sure it’s a viable option.
The takeaway: The proper level of training will allow your staff to make the most out of the new donor database to see the best fundraising results.
Donor Database Tip #12: Make sure your organization will receive sufficient support.
Your working relationship with your vendor won’t just end the minute they’ve set up your donor database and taught you how to use it.
You’ll be using your platform for years to come (at least, we hope so!). Chances are, at some point during these many years, you’ll run into some technical difficulties.
If your vendor provides excellent support, this will be no big deal. They’ll quickly field your problem and get you back on track before you’ve strayed too far.
Now imagine the other scenario: your donor database suddenly crashes, and you can’t get a consultant on the phone. You try to contact them by email, but still no luck. Days go by before—finally—you hear something back.
After days of waiting, it looks like your problem is going to be resolved. But once you have that consultant on the phone, they’re inattentive and unhelpful, and it still takes them a week to fix the issue.
Meanwhile, your organization has been missing out on a countless number of fundraising opportunities. Who knows how many dollars you’ve lost or how many new donors you’ve missed out on.
Point being, it could not be more important to make sure that your platform comes with sufficient support. Your vendor should be readily available to help you with any issues that come up and should be able to address these issues with little turnaround time.
When it comes to your fundraising, it could make all the difference!
The takeaway: Buying a donor database with insufficient support can be detrimental to your fundraising. Make sure your software is always running at top speed by choosing a donor database with support that’s attentive, efficient, and available.
Donor Database Tip #13: Consult a second opinion.
Say you’re making a big purchase like a car or a mattress.
You’re shelling out your hard-earned dollars, so you wouldn’t just go into the purchase blind. We’re willing to bet that you’d probably go online or flip through Consumer Reports first to see if you could find any reviews that would help you make your decision. You might even ask one of your friends for their advice on which product they like best.
So, why wouldn’t you do the same when shopping for your donor database?
Second opinions not only attest firsthand to the value of the product you’re considering, but they can also give you that extra boost of confidence you might need before going through with the purchase.
In other words, consulting a second opinion will help you decide if the platform you’re considering is really the right one for you.
For the best advice, turn to current users.
While you can likely find reviews online, you should also ask your vendor if they can refer you to any of their other clients whose organizations are similar to your own.
The advice of current users will be invaluable. They use the platform every day, likely to assist with efforts similar to your own.
Nobody better understands the day-to-day difficulties that nonprofits face, so they’ll be able to give you a well-rounded view of the platform’s strengths and weaknesses.
It never hurts to ask, so don’t be shy about requesting references from your vendor. If they have happy customers and a truly great product, they’ll want to put you in touch!
The takeaway: A second opinion will give you the assurance and insight you need to decide if the new donor database you’ve been considering is the perfect fit for your organization.
There are a lot of considerations that go into choosing the right donor database for your organization. With so much to think about from fundraising to constituent profiles, it’s no wonder that nonprofits can run into so many obstacles.
However, if you go into the buying process prepared, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to avoid these mistakes.
Now, start the search for your perfect donor database!
For more information on donor databases, take a look at these additional resources:
- Nonprofit CRM Software. Check out our guide on CRM software for all the tips and helpful pointers your organization needs.
- Donor Database Software: Top 10 Nonprofit Platforms. Take a look at out top 10 donor database platforms for nonprofits to get your search started.
- Salsa’s 7 Tips to Convince Your Board to Invest in Fundraising Software. If you need help convincing your board to invest in fundraising software, check out Salsa’s tips to win them over.
As we were putting together our very own guide to annual giving, we realized something — annual fund development would be the perfect topic for the launch of the Fundraising Strategies and Nonprofit Tech Carnival.
Why? Annual giving is something every nonprofit has to tackle, and true annual giving success only occurs when a nonprofit can master a huge variety of fundraising skills and tactics.
And now, with all the technology that’s available, there’s more to gain but also more to master.
With that in mind, we decided to reach out to all of you, our readers and friends within the nonprofit community, to see what helpful tips and advice you have.
We received all sorts of great advice and have divided it into the following categories:
- General Annual Giving Best Practices and Improvement Tactics
- Tips for Better Annual Gift Solicitation
- Annual Fund Communications
- Ideas to Grow the Annual Fund Through Fundraising Events
- Strategies to Build Donor Trust
General Annual Giving Best Practices and Improvement Tactics
Ronald Pruitt’s “Growing Your Annual Fund: 7 Top Strategies”
What better place to start a carnival all about annual fund development than with a blog post about just that? In this article on 4aGoodCause’s blog, Pruitt details 7 actionable strategies that nonprofits can implement to optimize their annual giving campaign.
For instance, he offers this online donation form advice for recurring giving:
The key to turning one time donors into recurring givers is to make recurring giving as clear and convenient as possible.
NeonCRM’s “Annual Giving: The Definitive Guide”
If you want a comprehensive look at annual giving, this is a great resource.
One section that’s particularly helpful for this carnival comes toward the end of the guide, when the resource covers how fundraising software can help.
As the resource details:
Your annual campaign is all about stewarding donors and getting to know them! Donor databases make forming deeper relationships with your donors so much easier.
Tina Jepson’s “How Crowdfunding Can Help You Raise More Money for your Annual Fund”
This post on CauseVox’s blog is all about how you can use crowdfunding to help raise money for your annual giving campaigns.
In the article, Tina shares examples of how crowdfunding can help you engage your supporters in a new way, expand your campaign’s reach, and raise more money.
The article is designed to help your nonprofit decide if crowdfunding is right for your next annual giving campaign.
DonorSearch’s “Annual Fund Strategies: A Nonprofit’s Guide”
In this detailed listing of annual fund strategies, DonorSearch separates the advice into four sections:
- Campaign planning
- Outreach and Stewardship
- Direct Asks
For instance, within the section on campaign planning, they suggest that nonprofits should conduct prospect research.
The guide explains:
Major gifts will make up a large portion of the funds you’ll raise during your annual campaign. Prospect research will help your organization focus in on those who have the financial resources and philanthropic drive to be major gift donors.
David Blyer’s “Monthly: The New Preferred Giving Cycle”
In his article on monthly giving’s impact on yearly fundraising, David Blyer of DonorCommunity places an emphasis on the fundraising potential awaiting nonprofits who push for monthly giving, specifically through online channels.
He explains that, “The opportunity for incremental, steady income from a monthly giving program is a fantastic way to grow your annual funds.”
Salsa’s “Amazing Guide to Advocacy”
After thorough research on annual giving, it’s likely that you’ve encountered plenty of advice about offering other engagement opportunities to your supporters.
This diversity of engagement experiences gives donors the chance to see more sides of your organization and build a deeper connection to the cause and the work you do.
As far as diversifying engagement goes, advocacy activities should be at the top of the list.
Qgiv’s “How to Retain More Donors During Your Annual Campaign”
What better way to end the best practices section than with a resource that talks all about annual campaign donor retention?
The resource gets to the core of how crucial retention is and how powerful a force the annual campaign can be in that effort, explaining:
Since an annual fund is all about raising money and developing relationships with donors, there are ample opportunities for your nonprofit to engage with supporters in a more personal way.
Tips for Better Annual Gift Solicitation
Claire Axelrad’s “3-Word Formula Guaranteed to Raise More Money”
This article comes to us from Claire Axelrad, the fundraising expert behind Clairification. In the article, she covers three words that can make all the difference in the world during your next annual giving campaign.
What are those three words? You. Because. Thanks.
Sounds simple, but the beauty is in the simplicity. Head over to the original article to learn how Claire turns those three words into fundraising magic.
Little Green Light’s “6 Steps to a Successful Fundraising Appeal”
You can’t develop your annual fund without a proper appeal strategy in place. Little Green Light has put together an eBook all about that appeal process.
The free resource leads readers through the six steps of the appeal process, from identification to post-appeal analysis.
Stefanie Pous’ “Throughout the Generations: Trends in Annual Giving”
For this very carnival, Stefanie Pous of Elevation Web put together an analysis of annual giving trends based on donor age group.
In the analysis, she builds her advice based on the evidence at hand. For instance, she found that Baby Boomers, “are the most generous of all generations — donating $47 billion annually between check writing and online giving.”
Taking that check writing and online giving into account, Pous explains that you should focus your solicitation efforts on voice calls and email but not count out text messaging and social media.
Greta Daniels’ “Segment and Test: A Scientific Method for Annual Giving Donor Analysis”
In her article on EverTrue’s blog, Greta Daniels addresses a critical element of effective fundraising appeals: personalization.
The post discusses the importance of donor personalization when soliciting support for the annual fund, and offers advice on how to create personalized donor segments and test them using a scientific approach.
Annual Fund Communications
@Pay’s “Nonprofit Email Newsletters: 28+ Actionable Tips”
Email newsletters have steadily risen in popularity, and they’re here to stay. Whether you’re looking to share details about your annual giving campaign or call attention to some of your most generous annual fund donors, an email newsletter is likely going to be part of the picture.
Luckily, @Pay has compiled more than 28 tips for perfecting your email newsletters. Find the advice you need to take your annual fund email newsletters to the next level.
Julia Campbell’s “5 Ways to Tackle Your Nonprofit’s Fear of Social Media”
On her #501Social blog, Campbell opens her article by saying the following, “Starting on social media can be a scary proposition for many nonprofits.”
But then she goes on to explain, “While this fear is understandable, unfortunately it is also counterproductive. The benefits of using social media to interact with donors and to tell stories vastly outweigh the potential negatives.”
And she’s right. Bottom line: in our current culture, leaving social media out of your annual fund strategy is unacceptable.
If you’re struggling to get organization-wide support of social media activities, use the advice from Julia’s article.
iATS Payments’ “How Nonprofits Can Benefit from New Facebook Fundraising Feature”
If you really want to take your annual fund growth to the next level, it’s important to stay on the cutting edge of fundraising technology developments.
And recently, Facebook added a feature that lets users create fundraising pages for the nonprofits of their choosing. Handled correctly, this is an excellent avenue for supporters to help your organization grow its communications network.
Ideas to Grow the Annual Fund Through Fundraising Events
Wild Apricot’s “How to Take Charge of Your Fundraising Event”
Have you ever calculated the return on your investment for your fundraisers? If you factor in all the costs, you might discover what many nonprofits discover — your events lose money. But does that mean you should stop running them? Not so fast.
You just have to apply the right strategy and follow a few best practices, which is what you’ll learn in the guest post by Claire Axelrad on Wild Apricot’s blog.
Susan Diener’s “How Nonprofits Can Use Fundraisers to Build an Annual Fund”
In her post, Fundraiser Insight’s Susan Diener addresses fundraising events and annual funds head on.
One surefire way to see new donations come in, while giving you plenty of time with current or potential donors, is through fundraising events. Events are an excellent way to gather people who are passionate about your cause and create some momentum for your annual fund.”
BidPal’s “How to Run a Charity Auction”
These days, many fundraising events feature auctions. They are the perfect opportunity to bring new supporters into the giving fold, so it’s crucial that you host the best charity auction possible.
BidPal offers an entire resource dedicated to just that.
Strategies to Build Donor Trust
WholeWhale’s “Ultimate Guide for the Nonprofit RFP Process, with Examples & Templates”
As more and more annual fundraising moves online, it has become much more of a priority for nonprofit websites to be the best of the best.
Simply put, people are less likely to give if they feel they can’t trust the website they’re on. An underperforming website is going to have a huge impact on the success of your annual fund.
So if you’re in the position where you need a new website, look no further than this resource from WholeWhale to make a nonprofit RFP (Request for Proposal).
Aespire’s “Safe and Secure: Creating a Trusted Web Experience”
This post is all about designing a website that fosters trust with your donors. That way, your annual fund donors can feel safe and secure throughout the online giving process.
As the article explains:
While it may sound complicated and/or scary, website security is relatively simple to implement and has the benefit of reassuring your donors that their trust in your organization is well placed.
From there, the article delves into just how to create a trusted web experience.
James Gilmer’s “Top 20 Reasons Nonprofits Register for Charitable Solicitation”
Charitable solicitation requirements apply when you are asking for donations to grow your annual giving base and when donors make substantial or repeated donations.
While the IRS and registering for charitable solicitation is a complex and intimidating topic to tackle, it is paramount to any nonprofit’s success in all areas of fundraising, especially long-term fundraising for recurring donations to the annual fund.
That’s where James Gilmer’s post on the Harbor Compliance blog comes in.
That’s it for this month’s installment of the carnival!
Don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter for updates! And be sure to email any questions or ideas to Taylor Gibbs.
One of the easiest, most effective ways to raise awareness for matching gifts is through letters. Both online and offline, letters can provide detailed information about matching gifts that helps donors understand how easy and how important it is to submit matching gift requests.
Letter #1 – Acknowledgement emails
When life gives you generous donors, make them thank you notes.
Email is a fast, efficient way to demonstrate your gratefulness directly after a donation is made. Acknowledgement emails can be templates in which you insert a donor’s name and perhaps a few other bits of information in order to deliver a personal touch.
The key is to show your appreciation. Matching gift donors could be former prospects, volunteers, or fundraisers, and they all deserve a good pat on the back. Once goodwill has been built, you can make an appeal for matching gifts.
The letter should focus on the thank you, and the matching gift appeal should be kept to a minimum. However, adding matching gift appeals to thank you notes can serve as the reminder that donors need to take the time to make their donations go twice as far.
Here is a sample acknowledgement email from Piedmont Healthcare:
A matching gift appeal in an acknowledgement letter could be as simple as:
- Are you eligible for a matching gift? Ask your employer today if you can double your donation to [insert your nonprofit’s name here].
- Does your employer offer a matching gift program? Find out now if your donation can go twice as far: [insert link to a dedicated matching gift page].
- You might be eligible for a matching gift. Ask your HR department today if your employer will make your gift have twice the impact.
Thanking donors is one of the keys to donor retention. When you thank them, you’re also extending them a courtesy by giving them the chance to give more without giving any more of their own money. They want to help your cause as much as possible, and you don’t want to leave easy money on the table.
When to send: After a donation.
Who to send to: Recent donors.
Why to send: Thank you for a donation and to make a matching gift appeal.
Letter #2 – Thank you letters and postcards
You might call direct mail snail mail, but what snail mail lacks in speed it more than makes up for in emotional impact.
People know when you’re sending them an automated message. Direct mailings could be automated messages, too, but there are ways to prove to donors that your direct mailings have been touched by real people that can’t be accomplished through email.
While you won’t have the time to hand write every thank you letter or postcard, merely signing your name at the bottom can do wonders to let donors know that you took personal time out of your day to attend to thanking them for their generous gifts. Caring doesn’t have to be complicated. It just has to come across.
Direct mail is more expensive than email, due to the price of stamps, so you may not want to mail to everyone. Prospect research can help to reveal which donors are eligible for matching gifts, so you aren’t sending special letters to people who won’t be able to send a matching gift.
Other people worth mailing to are donors who you know prefer direct mail to email. Many older donors still prefer direct mail, and will be more receptive to matching gift appeals made through this medium. Another thing that not many people know is that online donors prefer to move offline as quickly as possible. Even online donors like offline contact.
When to send: After a donation.
Who to send to: Matching gift eligible donors who prefer direct mail to email.
Why to send: Some donors prefer tangible materials to electronic communications.
Letter #3 – Paper inserts with other communications
Incorporating matching gift appeals into emails and direct mailings entails editing your current marketing materials. The alternative is to create entirely new materials that can accompany your established donor letters.
Here’s a sample matching gift insert from the National Kidney Foundation:
Paper inserts can be mailed along with almost any direct mail communication. You might send donors magazines, acknowledgment letters, or volunteer information, and with each communication you can include a paper insert to remind them of the possibility of matching gifts.
Even for people who don’t donate, including a paper insert in a direct mailing can help to encourage them to give. Including matching gifts in fundraising appeals increases response rates by 71%, and those donations are 51% higher in average amount.
Reminding donors about matching gifts can help boost your fundraising, but reaching out to people who have yet to give can do a world of good for your nonprofit, too.
When to send: Any time you send a communication through direct mail.
Who to send to: Prospects and donors.
Why to send: Raise awareness for matching gifts to boost fundraising.
Letter #4 – Newsletters
Many nonprofits use formal newsletters to keep donors up to date on all the happenings about the organization. Matching gifts are worth a dedicated email just to announce the opportunity.
The best strategy is to dedicate one or two newsletters a year, depending on how many you send, entirely to matching gifts. Check out this example from CMTA.
Think of this equation. One email, one goal.
When newsletters have a singular focus, donors are less likely to be distracted by news of your recent fundraiser or listings of upcoming volunteer opportunities. By focusing on matching gifts, donors have one call to action to pay attention to, and thus one action to take on their minds.
That said, split newsletters can work, and certainly help to save newsletter real estate. Splitting might mean that matching gifts share a newsletter with one or many other topics. You might even choose to include a matching gift appeal as a sort of banner ad along the side of the newsletter.
Just like with thank you letters, split up email and direct mailing of newsletters to those donors who best respond to the respective mediums.
It’s best to send matching gift newsletters during the times of year when the most donations come in, as you’ll reach more people at times when they’re in the giving mindset.
When to send: Once or twice throughout the year. Why not pick a slow time, like August, or May
Who to send to: Donors and volunteers.
Why to send: Keep donors up to date about your nonprofit’s matching gift policies and need for additional funds.
Letter #5 – Year end and new year appeals
Timing matters. Depending on how your nonprofit times its letters, your organization stands to either build more meaningful relationships or miss out on opportunities to do this.
Many donors prefer to give at the end of the year. This is when people tend to be most aware of their finances in terms of how much money they’ve spent over the prior twelve months and how much they have left to give. A lot of businesses and nonprofits also make their big pushes for donations during the last months of the year.
Year end appeals can mix calls for donations with matching gift appeals. These letters aim to encourage people to give while reminding them that matching gifts will help to deliver the biggest impacts possible. Year end appeals can be tailored for the time of year, in terms of embracing any seasonal holidays or other special occasions in regards to the language used and the layout of the communication.
For more information on year-end fundraising strategies, check out Double the Donation’s comprehensive guide.
New year appeals are similar to year end appeals, but they tend to focus on reminding donors to seek matching gifts more so than doing that in tandem with encouraging donations.
Many people have already given for the year, and the start of the new year is an ideal time to reach out to everyone who has donated in order to remind them that they can still do a little bit more to help your cause.
When to send: End of the year and start of the new year.
Who to send to: High quality prospects and current donors.
Why to send: Encourage donations and remind donors about the possibility of a matching gift.
Takeaway: There are many ways to acquire more matching gifts, but none may be able to attain as personal of a touch as letters.
There you have it: 5 different types of letters for your all of your fundraising needs. Hopefully, these letters can help you raise more money for your cause and promote matching gifts at the same time.