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In just under 100 days, GivingTuesday, the biggest global fundraising event of the year, will take the nonprofit world by storm. Last year on this giving day, nonprofits raised $400 million in the United States alone (up from $274 million in 2017). With those numbers, it’s hard to believe that some organizations are still unsure about whether GivingTuesday is worth the effort, but when it comes to this well-established and fast-growing fundraising powerhouse of an event, most nonprofits should be asking themselves—can we afford not to participate?

GivingTuesday: A Little Backstory

It’s a “celebration of giving,” says Henry Timms, Executive Director of the 92nd Street Y. The 92nd Street Y started GivingTuesday in 2012 as an antidote to the post-Thanksgiving frantic consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. GivingTuesday—often styled #GivingTuesday due to its social media virality—quickly found purchase in the world market of fundraising during what has traditionally been, in the West, the season of giving. The event falls on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving and is intended to turn consumers who already have their hearts and wallets open, ready to spend and to give, toward putting their resources into charity as December holidays approach.

The United Nations Foundation joined in partnership to support the GivingTuesday mission, and the concept hit the ground running with incredible public support and many big-name sponsors and partners, like technology website, Mashable. People really responded to the notion that anyone can be a philanthropist, regardless of their tax bracket. Says Timms, “although each of our individual acts will often feel small in the face of some of our national issues, millions of simple acts—joined together—add up to real impact.” For many nonprofits, whose life blood often takes the shape of lower-dollar recurring donations from households with moderate incomes, the impact of the whole of their recurring-donor base is felt every day.

GivingTuesday by the Numbers

GivingTuesday could be viewed as a tactic to encourage extra dollars out of an already-active donor base. Some see it as a potential distraction from end-of-year donations that very well may amount to higher dollar amounts than those they might receive during the annual fundraiser, so they neglect to participate, opting instead to focus on the “known quantity” of end-of-year donors. A recent study collected data that show that #GivingTuesday results in new one-time and recurring donors. What’s more, these donors tend to be unique from those who give in the last five days of the year for tax reasons—different donors with different motivations at different income levels. This would indicate that the event does not siphon off end-of-year donations and, while it does encourage an already-active donor base, it also reaches new donors who have the potential to become recurring donors and even lifelong supporters you may never have reached otherwise.

This data is nearly in line with data Henry Timms cites in a 2017 Times article, but Timms goes so far as to report that GivingTuesday actually “enhances end-of-year giving.” And as mature nonprofits and fundraisers everywhere know well, while recurring donors tend to give less per donation, they give more over time (recurring donors give five times as much over a lifetime than one-time end-of-year donors). And you’ll need no convincing that any new donors, one-time or recurring, are a good thing for your organization. According to a 2018 Classy survey, sixty-one percent of Millennials alone say they’ll most likely give more on GivingTuesday than on any other day of the year, and according to Nonprofit Source demographic data, forty-percent of Millennial donors are enrolled in a monthly giving program. Many recurring donors prefer to give smaller dollar amounts over time that aren’t as impactful to their wallets.

Here’s another fun fact, GivingTuesday attracts three to four times the number of donors as a typical calendar day.

The bottom line is—GivingTuesday is highly unlikely to have a negative impact on end-of-year giving and it attracts new donors, including potential recurring donors, the gold-star members of any healthy donor base. The only risk you take where GivingTuesday is concerned is not leveraging the power of this fruitful annual fundraising event. 

Creating a Successful GivingTuesday Campaign

Step 1: Prepare for Launch

Establish a uniquely-branded landing page for your 2019 GivingTuesday campaign. Branded GivingTuesday web pages increase your ROI. It doesn’t need to be flashy, but it should be engaging. Your launch should include some compelling original content such as a video, blog post, colorful images, a memorable slogan or tagline, or even memes you’ve created to work with your theme (some of these tactics you may want to deploy later in your campaign).

For best results, you’ll also want to make sure your donors can engage their networks via Peer-to-Peer fundraising pages. You’ll have to put more effort into your infrastructure, but your current donors are your ambassadors on GivingTuesday—make it easy for them to raise funds for you.

Luckily, robust programs like Arreva’s fully integrated online fundraising and donor relationship management software make it easy for you.

Step 2: Announce & Promote Your Campaign

By the time GivingTuesday rolls around every year, the competition for attention and dollars is steep. In order to cut through the noise and reach those most likely to donate to your organization, you’ll have to be creative. One way to stand out from the crowd is to start promoting your GivingTuesday campaign long before the event approaches. August is a great time to start planning your campaign strategy and to prepare the tactics you’ll deploy in the early days, starting with announcing your GivingTuesday campaign to your current donor base, which is best done about a week from the date itself. For bonus points, follow up with a Thanksgiving day gratitude email thanking donors for their support and reminding them of the upcoming event, and send reminders on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday that GivingTuesday is coming up. Match your email efforts with social media posts (here’s where your memes come in handy), reminding your donor base and potential donors again the night before and then be ready to go all out the day of.

Step 3: Blast Off

On the day itself, start your email and social media communications early, then follow up with multiple posts and reminders throughout the day. #GivingTuesday will be trending on social media, so use the hashtag liberally all day (and even in the days prior). Although you may want to try various tactics throughout your campaign, any content and messaging should run somewhat consistently and thematically throughout so that you build on your engagement success over time. Asha Curran, who spearheads GivingTuesday, recommends nonprofits “use #GivingTuesday as a day to experiment.” So don’t be afraid to try something new!

Don’t hesitate to send multiple reminders on GivingTuesday to your audience to encourage their participation. At the end of the day, you can do one more “last chance to participate in GivingTuesday” message and call it a day. Hopefully a rewarding one!

While GivingTuesday is unlikely to be any organization’s primary funding source, it is nevertheless a great way to attract new donors, and the numbers are nothing to sneeze at. The new donors and dollars you attract on GivingTuesday can make all the difference to those who benefit from the work you do. So if you’ve been waiting to give GivingTuesday your all, wait no longer. Make 2019 your year!

 

You are probably in the middle of planning your year-end fundraising push. Perhaps you have prepared your direct mail piece and are starting to segment your list. The most important segments to consider for special treatment are your major donors, your board, and other special friends. Hopefully many of your board members are on the major donor list, and your major donor list is much longer than your board list!

Of course you’ll want to ensure that each and every board member makes a gift every year. This requires more than a simple reminder at year-end. First it’s important to lay the groundwork, to build board agreement that it is important for everyone to participate. If you don’t have a board job description that includes an annual gift, you should consider creating one. The full board should approve the job description. This builds consensus among your board members and also lets prospective members know what they’re signing up for.

Just because everyone knows what’s expected doesn’t mean you’ll get 100% participation. A reminder at a board meeting about the need to participate is a good start. Then board members need a special letter, signed by the chair. And those who do not respond need a follow up email or phone call with a simple message like “we’re almost at our goal. There are just two of you who haven’t responded.”  And finally you need a big announcement once all the board gifts are in.  If, after all this effort, you don’t get 100%, announce as much at your next meeting. You can still celebrate 95%, and of course that also sends a not-so-subtle message to the outlier about causing the missed goal.

Another group that needs special handling are those who give large gifts on a regular basis. These major donors should not receive a direct mail piece. They also need a special letter at year-end.  The letter should thank them for being a special friend to your organization. It should remind them of what they gave last year, and it should ask for a specific amount this year.

Who should sign these letters, and perhaps add a personal note? This is another place where paying attention to details can make a donor feel special. Is the donor close to the Executive Director? Are they acquainted with the board chair? Have they worked together on a project with program staff or helped on a campaign with the Development Director? Making the ask feel personal is a good strategy for building a deeper relationship.

It’s possible you may have other close friends, loyal volunteers or long-time donors for example, who can make a nice annual gift but haven’t been. If you are using wealth screening to rate your donors, you can look for those long-termers who have high capacity. You already have a close relationship with them. Why not take the time to send them a special message, inviting them to increase their annual participation?

Finally there are those really special friends, those who give especially generous gifts. For those people, you might consider something more than a letter.  A nice lunch with the Executive Director, an invitation for a tour by the Director of Development, or a visit to see a program all can provide an opportunity for a personal ask. There’s nothing like a face-to-face request to repeat last year’s gift, or even increase it.

So before you send out your year-end letters, be sure your board members are correctly coded in your data and excluded from the mailing list. Determine who else needs special handling, based on gift size, volunteer history, or other factors, and take the time to treat each one as the special friend that they are. Remember the 80/20 rule. You should spend 80% of your time on the top 20% since they will in turn provide 80% of your results.

In a very real way, donors are the lifeblood of your nonprofit. Without the funding they supply, the “organs” of your organization cannot function. So how do you maintain a healthy system and ensure that the funds you need to do your work will be there when it matters most?

Growing your donor database is always important, but the ability to attract new donors is of limited value if you’re not actively nurturing and developing relationships with the donors you’ve got. Most experts will tell you that donor retention is key, and they’re right, but keeping donors around is just one of several benefits of building and maintaining healthy relationships with your constituents, a process often referred to as “stewardship.” Stewardship means not only maintaining a flow of reliable funds, but turning new donors into active donors, active donors into loyal donors, and loyal donors into evangelists for your work and your organization.

The Numbers

First-year donor retention rates range from 22% to 29% on average. But fundraising expert Adrian Sargeant says, “...even small improvements in retention rates translate to whopping improvements in the lifetime value of the fundraising database. So 10% increase in loyalty now can lead to 200% increase.”

Why do donors leave? In his 2001 study, Sargeant asked former donors of ten national charities what caused them to stop giving to a particular cause. Here’s what they said:

 

 

Several of the above answers arguably fall under the heading “Communication failure,” and when we combine them, we see that over 25% of donors potentially defected due to poor communication on the part of the organization. And if you assume that donors are prioritizing other charities because you didn’t engage them, that number goes up to 47%.

 

Relationship Goals

When we talk about donor retention, we’re talking about making sure that new donors become repeat donors, but if we’re doing it right, we’re really talking about developing a relationship with each donor based on what we know about them. So while we absolutely want to keep our donors as long as possible, just keeping them isn’t enough--for us or for them. The people who provide the funding that allows us to do our work are individuals who want to feel like their individual contribution means something.

Specifically, a developing relationship with a donor should include the following goals:

  • Engagement - the donor feels informed and engaged with the cause and the organization due to appropriate communications, transparency, and adherence to preferences
  • Investment - the donor feels not only financially invested in the cause and the organization, but also a sense of ownership, as though they’re helping to drive progress
  • Advocacy - ideally, the donor develops (or you develop in your donor) enough engagement and investment in your work that they become an advocate for your organization, helping to spread the word and bring in funds from their networks.

 

Achieving these goals requires a process that includes segmenting donors into useful categories, communicating with them appropriately and authentically, and giving them ample opportunity to provide feedback and participate in driving your goals and successes.

Segmentation

Developing a relationship with a donor means understanding as much as possible about that individual, including their career, hobbies, preferences, and more so your communications hit home and your fundraising asks, event invitations, and campaign requests are appropriate and welcome. And that’s where segmentation comes in.

Who are your donors, where are you in your relationship with donors, and what do your donors want/need from you right now? Segmentation tells you all this and more. Is this a first time donor? Send a thank you and a welcome. Has this donor participated in a recent campaign? Give them a sense of what you’ve achieved through their efforts and let them know about upcoming campaigns and events they might be interested in. Is this a long-time donor? Recognize their ongoing loyalty and impact in a personal way. The more you know about your donors, the better you can craft your communications to develop and solidify relationships with your donors.

“For each donor group, nonprofits should determine the level of engagement necessary to effectively manage the relationship and seek to involve donors accordingly. For larger donors (e.g., foundations, high net worth individuals), this may mean pursuing a relationship that goes beyond the provision of capital to become a partnership to achieve shared goals. For smaller donors (e.g., online donors), this may mean finding opportunities for more informal engagement (e.g., through fundraisers, volunteering or social media).” -The Bridgespan Group

Donor segmentation just means tagging your donors based on their behavior and preferences so you can categorize them--and communicate with them--appropriately. Here are just a few useful ways you might segment donors:

  • Level of giving - donor “tiers” help you target asks appropriately
  • Motivation for giving - identify donors with a personal stake in your cause
  • Frequency of donations - when is the right time to ask?
  • Needs/requirements - email or phone? Special access at events?
  • Social media engagement - find your online advocates
  • Prior participation - what appeals to this donor?
  • Industry - target for specific events and asks
  • Hobbies - engage interests

Communication

Your first and possibly most important communication with a new donor should be a heartfelt “thank you” for their initial donation. It’s your first chance to let them know how much you appreciate the fact that they chose to send a portion of their hard-earned cash your way, and if you don’t use it, it may be your last--after all, Sargeant’s survey found that 13% of donors quit donating at least partly because the charity didn’t acknowledge their donation.

And while too much of anything can be...well, too much, it’s important that your “thank you” note isn’t the last time your constituents hear from you. Donors want to know where their money is going, how they’re making an impact, and who they’re helping. Experts advise aiming for 12 contacts a year, including acknowledgments, updates on successes and impact, and invitations to engage and be a part of the work you do.

As important as the timing and targeting of your communications is the connection you make, so strive for authenticity. Your goal is not just to check off a box in a process but to spark a bit of satisfaction and yes, even joy in your donors every time they hear from you. You are asking your donors to join you in a movement for change, so let them know why that movement is important to you, and give them a sense of what it’s like to take the resources they provide and use them to make real change.

Storytelling

As we’ve discussed at length [elsewhere], stories of the actual people your organization--and your donors’ dollars--are working to help are absolutely critical in engaging donors on an emotional level with the work you do and the people you do it for. And the more individual the story, the better. This is partly--or perhaps largely--due to a phenomenon known as the “identifiable victim effect,” which describes the tendency for humans to be more willing to give aid--and to offer more substantial aid--when they can identify a specific victim who is impacted by the problem. While we’d all like to think we’d help just because we know a problem exists, hearing or reading a story about a specific person facing that problem creates an emotional connection that drives us to act.

Engagement and Ownership

In addition to regular updates telling donors who and how their donations are helping, keeping donors loyal to your cause and your organization requires engaging them in the work on multiple levels. Asking for input and requesting participation in programs intended to guide your organization’s priorities great way to let your donors know you value their input while ensuring that your nonprofit benefits from a wide range of perspectives.

Surveys are an excellent tool in this regard, and if you’ve done a good job with segmentation, your surveys can be targeted to particular donors. Not only will this yield more pertinent results, it tells donors you care about them as people. The more you acknowledge donors as individuals, the better they’re going to feel, and the better your donors feel about you and your work, the more loyal they become. A survey targeted, for example, to C-level executives might acknowledge their industry leadership and expertise, and in doing so, let donors know you value their experience and want their input as experts in their fields

Along similar lines, creating a donor advisory panel and an internal listening process engages donors in the cause, gives them a sense of ownership over the work, and invests them further in your organization.

Events

With donors segmented by factors like location, industry, and interests, you can include them in your invite lists for events from fundraising dinners and galas to convention parties and local meetups. Each event in physical space is an opportunity to shake hands with your donors and thank them personally, tell them face-to-face what they’re helping you achieve, and even present new initiatives or introduce donors to some of the people benefitting from your work and their generosity.

Keep It Moving

Bottom line, and we can’t stress this enough, this is a relationship, and it needs to be nurtured like any other. By paying attention to who your donors are and what motivates them to give to your cause, by connecting with them on a human level and maintaining an awareness of their humanity, by treating them with the loyalty you hope they’ll show your organization, you can build solid, long-term donor relationships and make your nonprofit stronger than ever.

We know that peer-to-peer fundraising accounts for nearly 25% of all online giving, but we also know that people are inundated with fundraising requests. So what can you do to help your P2P participants make sure their ask stands out from the crowd?

It all comes back to storytelling. A fundraising request from someone the potential donor already knows might get your foot in the door, but it’s your donor’s testimonial that will convince them to give. A P2P fundraising page provides space for participants to become the hero of the story, telling friends, colleagues, and contacts how their support of your work has helped to change the world for the better, and how their involvement has changed them.

Image source: Together Rising [https://togetherrising.org/peer-peer-fundraising-faqs/

As we discussed way back in “Elements of a Story”, our two-part article on the power of storytelling in fundraising and the elements that make a story work, stories that engage the reader’s emotions are more likely to result in donations. We also talked about the factors that engaging stories have in common, including character, conflict, plot, resolution, and validation. Let’s see how those elements figure in a peer-to-peer campaign.

Testimonial Writing Prompts

For the purposes of P2P fundraising, the participating donor’s testimonial is where the storytelling happens. You don’t need to provide a crash course in story structure, but you can help participants tell their story as it relates to your organization’s work by providing a few basic questions or “prompts” designed to tease out an engaging personal story. And it just so happens they map pretty well to those elements we discussed previously, with minor tweaks.

  •    What makes this cause personal for you? Why did you get involved? (character)
  •    What is the problem, as you see it, that our work helps to solve? What happens if we don’t do it? (conflict/plot)
  •    What has been the result of your involvement? What progress do you see? (resolution/validation)

Participants don’t need to answer all of the questions, but by keeping them in mind, they’re more likely to craft a testimonial that evokes empathy and truly communicates the benefits of the work your organization is doing in the community. The more specific they can be, the better.

Call to Action

It might only amount to a few words, but a call to action is one of the most important pieces of any fundraising request. It should clearly communicate exactly what action is requested along with a sense of the urgency of the need (donate now!).

Here’s what a sample testimonial might look like:

I’ve been donating to [Matt Talbot Center] since they helped my brother on his road to recovery from drug addiction. The disease of addiction is an epidemic, and Matt Talbot works to heal people who are ready to heal, giving them the tools and resources to start a new life. Without their work, without the dedication of their staff, I truly believe my brother might not be here today. I give whenever I can, and I’m happy to say that I know my donations are making a difference in the lives of real people. Right now they need extra help due the burgeoning opioid crisis. I hope you’ll join me in donating today. [https://www.mtcenter.org/get-involved]

The human brain loves stories, and everyone’s story is different. Helping your peer-to-peer fundraising participants to craft the most engaging story can make all the difference in how well their networks respond to fundraising requests. Make sure they have everything they need, including examples of testimonials from successful campaigns and all the support you can give them along the way, and your peer-to-peer campaign will be miles ahead of the crowd.

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