Dearest Donors: A Love Letter

Your donors are likely your organization's lifeline, and it's important to acquire donors, keep them egaged, and move them further up the ladder of engagement. But you need to treat your donors with love, and cultivate a real realtionship.

Blackbaud brought together 14 nonprofit experts in an eBook to share tried-and-true donor retention strategies, tips, and ideas. We reviewed the advice and are bringing you the highlights of Show the Love: Thoughtful Engagement to Retain Donors.

But first, why should you care? According to research conducted by Chuck Longfield, Chief Scientist at Blackbaud:

  • First-year donor retention rates have declined to the point where, on average, nearly three out of four newly acquired donors leave within the first year. Yikes.
  • Acquiring a new donor costs six to seven times more than it costs to retain an existing donor. Double yikes.

Now that I have your attention, here are some tips we pulled for showing your donors the love:

  • Thank them. Seriously, it's only two words: thank you, and it means the world. You can thank your donors by giving them a call, taking them to coffee, and sending them a hand-written note. What are other ways you like to thank your donors? Get creative.
  • Give 'em 12 "touches" per year. A touch can be a simple "I'm thinking of you" note, a phone call to say that you're thinking of them, or even a reminder of how important they are to your life. Remember: this touch is all about letting them know that you value them.
  • Reach out to your donors on holidays: Halloween, Valentine's Day, Veterans' Day... Get to know your donors and know what holidays they celebrate and what's important to them. Celebrating them on their day of celebration shows that you really care.
  • Create a retention calendar. This will be a calendar outlining all of the times you're going to reach out to individual donors throughout the year. This calendar will be your roadmap to communicating with your donors and to keeping them engaged regularly.
  • Find out what your donors need from you. Healthy relationships are never one-sided. Check in with your donors and see what they need, how they're doing, and how you can involve them more (if that's what you both want). One way to check in with your donors is to send out a poll or survey to figure out exactly what they need from you to get more involved in your issues. What you think they need maybe quite different then what they actually want.

This is just the beginning, but it's a few big steps in the right direction. This eBook is thorough and filled to the brim with great tips. We're going to highlight a few more points in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

And, in the meantime, what are you doing to show your donors the love?


Is It Time For A New Website?

It's easy for nonprofits to get lost in the shuffle of acquiring new donors, engaging audiences, and planning online campaigns. This makes it easy for you to forget about your website - huge mistake! Your website is where your donors will come, where your activists and volunteers will engage, and where your campaigns will live. It's critical that you update your site, and that you revamp it when the time is right.

...But when IS the time right? And what's the right way to do it?

Idealware recently launched a workbook to walk you through the steps of preparing to build a website, the right way.

In this workbook, you'll get a walk through the whole process, including:

  • the ins and outs of choosing a team of web stakeholders;
  • how to “audit” your site, evaluating what you want out of it;
  • really identifying the needs of your constituents;
  • the best way to evaluate your graphic design and usability;

To dive a little deeper into the workbook, you'll really want to focus on tailoring this workbook toward your nonprofit. Make sure that you're answering these questions honestly, and thinking about the goals and objectives of your organization.

  • Who is going to be in charge of the website redesign? You will need a strong project manager who not understands your website, but who understand the basic prinicples of web design and web development.  
  • Who's responsible for your public image? Your branding? Who is in charge of making sure that your social media handbook is updated as new social networks emerge?
  • Is your content management system (CMS) working for you? No one CMS is right for every organizations, and you need to make sure that your CMS is meeting your needs. The workbook provides a checklist to help you figure this out.
  • What are your priorities? And what do you want your website to accomplish? How will you make sure your priorities are realistic and concrete?
  • So, you've focused on your own goals and your own priorities, but let's think about your audience. What are their goals? Why do people visit your website?
  • Is your site easily navigatable? And is it responsive (desktop, mobile, and tablet friendly)? You want to make sure that you're reaching your audience where they're at.

These questions just skim the surface of the conversations you need to be having. But they're critical questions. To dig further in, check out the full, free workbook with 10 simple worksheets. Is it time for you to get a new website?


Can You Make A Campaign Go Viral?

Let me cut to the chase: You can't make campaigns go viral. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create awesome campaigns that are compelling, sharable, and focused on building a ladder of engagement with your community and network. This is one of the key concepts that I discuss in my book Social Change Anytime Everywhere, co-written with Amy Sample Ward of NTEN.

Last week, Ann Marie van den Hurk at interviewed me about the Ice Bucket Challenge. She asked if I thought other nonprofits were going to try to duplicate its success. I know  many organizations will want to attempt this, and if you are one of these organizations, you need to continue reading.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was an incredible success. The ALS Association raised over $94M in less than a month for a disease that most Americans aren’t very familiar with. 5,600 new people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS yearly. Now, many Americans understand how devastating this disease is and how finding a cure for ALS could lead to cures for Alzheimer’s and other diseases. 

However, the reality is that very few campaigns go viral. And going viral should NEVER be your goal. Why? Because the allure of going viral is a distraction to your organization and your mission

As I mentioned to Ann at, to raise money and be successful in advocacy campaigns, organizations should invest their energy in creating compelling and sharable content that focuses on:

  • Fostering your community and network
  • Motivating your target audiences to take action through targeted engagement
  • Defining measurable goals connected to specific outcomes
  • Being prepared for successes and learning quickly from failures

There are no short cuts to creating social change. You need a mobilized base of supporters who believe in your mission and who are consistently engaged across multiple channels.

Jeremiah Owyang, of Crowd Companies came up with the checklist Ten Simple Steps to Replicate The Ice Bucket Challenge.” My favorite suggestion is “find a four leaf clover.” You are going to need that four leaf clover if your nonprofit expects to replicate the viral success of the Ice Bucket Challenge.  


Online Advocacy Drives List Growth

Online advocacy as a tool for list growth and new donor acquisition is hotter than ever. Actions such as petitions and pledges serve to engage cause-minded individuals and convert them into valuable supporters. has been at the forefront of online acquisition for over 15 years. It has an online community of over 26 million civically active members all working to make the world a better place, and they are looking to engage with your organization! This infographic tells the story of Care2’s members, their passions and their donating philanthropic behavior.

Here are some highlights:

  • 75% of our members female
  • 56% of members give to organizations they see on Care2

Check it out:

Tap into the power of Care2’s members, we would love to hear from you.





Kickstarter’s Founder Launches Nonprofit “Dollar A Day”

Kickstarter’s founder Perry Chen, who resigned from his position at the crowdfunding platform, recently launched the nonprofit Dollar A Day to raise money for charities. Chen helped spark a movement that raised over $1 billion dollars for individual projects that has led to startups, social change initiatives, etc. via Kickstarter. Can he replicate this for nonprofits?

Chen told the media that one of the inspirations behind Dollar A Day was to make it easy for people to discover nonprofits that they might not be familiar with.

Here’s How It Works.

Every member who joins Dollar A Day, commits to donating $1 each day, which goes to a different nonprofit that gets featured daily on the site. Members sign up by providing their credit card numbers and are billed $30 a month. They can cancel their donation subscription at any time.

Members receive follow up emails about featured nonprofits so that they can learn more about the organizations that their donations are supporting. To date about 800 people have signed up via the Dollar A Day website. This translates into over $800 being donated to a featured charity daily. While $800 may not be buckets of money, could this be a new venue for nonprofits to reach new audiences, especially if Chen and team use their savvy marketing skills to expand the website’s reach? Sure, but only if Chen’s new platform provides an easy way for donors to opt-in to nonprofits email list.

Unfortunately, “donations are processed anonymously by Network For Good. Your name, address, and email are NOT shared with nonprofits. [People] can always sign up for more info on any nonprofit’s website,” according to the Dollar a Day Website.

Dollar A Day says this policy protects donors privacy and prevents their members from getting bombarded by emails from several charities. However, by not empowering donors to quickly opt-in to share their information with charities they are interested in supporting, it prevents donors from building long lasting relationships with nonprofits. This is also quite problematic as donors are the lifeblood of nonprofits.

How Does A Nonprofit Get Selected For Dollar A Day?

According to the website, they select innovative and high impact nonprofits with responsible track records in six key areas: Education, Health, Economic Development, Arts and Culture, Environment, and Human Rights.

The featured nonprofits for the next 60 days can be found here.

If your nonprofit is interested in being a recipient of Dollar A Day, consider setting up a unique landing page that focuses on conversions for these particular donors who are coming to your website via Dollar A Day. Of course your homepage should be optimized for conversions and feature a story about Dollar a Day around the time they highlight your nonprofit to their members.

Chen says, Dollar A Day is “really about trying to finding a way to support and shine a light on nonprofits already doing great work and getting people to directly engage with them.”

I think the platform has potential. But will it raise a significant amount of money for nonprofits and bring in new donors? That will really depend on how the platform evolves especially after hearing feedback from the community.


Is SEO Dying, Or Do You Just Need to Revitalize Your Content?

SEO certainly has its critics. Some call it snake oil. But SEO is critical to your website, online advocacy, and online fundraising.

If your nonprofit is about to embark on a website redesign, a website audit, or even online content planning for year-end fundraising, it's important to come up with a content strategy that is tailored to your specific audiences. This also will benefit your site's SEO.

I'm going to highlight a few of the best content marketing strategies visualized in this infographic:

  • Develop a consistent tone, message, and personality for your brand. It's critical that the entirety of your online presence has consistent branding with the website. Branding social media outposts will provide a more seamless user experience as users move from the website to social media sites and back.

  • Headlines are everything. It's true, a headline can make or break whether someone will click through to read your content. One way to come up with great headlines is to brainstorm several headlines at once. I like to make a list of 10 to 15 potential headlines and circulate them among our team for feedback and suggestions. This may be time consuming, but it's worth it.

  • Don't just post...Engage! I've said it before (in Tips for Writing An Awesome Social Media & Communications Guide), social media is like a cocktail party, it's meant to be social. Don't just sit back and watch the comments roll in, engage and respond. Generate dialogues, encourage questions, and even keep notes about your audience's comments to use for future content.

  • Quality is as important as quantity. Well sort of! While quality is more important than quantity, quantity is also important. If your nonprofit has a blog or a tumblr and you don't have the staffing or resources to keep it updated (even if you've got 1-2 awesome posts), it might not be the thing for you. You don't have to be where everyone else is. You just need to be where your audience is. Your constituents will notice if you don't ever update your content. This is why it's important to create a content calendar that you use to regularly curate quality content. You can even check out these tips to rock your online presence.

What strategies resonate with you?


So you want to get into online advocacy?

It starts with the action!  An engaging action, one that is shareable and appealing to not only your audience, but also friends of your supporters, is the first step in launching your effective online advocacy strategy. 

Once you have created your action:

  • Don’t just rely on email.  Yes, send it to your email list, but also post your action on social media, use “self-serve” channels like the DailyKos, and see if bloggers will display it on their sites.
  • Segment your supporters and target your emails.  Avoid the unsubscribes and worse, the dreaded MARK AS SPAM, by sending your emails to active supporters and those who would be interested in taking your action.
  • Use paid acquisition to get your action in front of an audience.
  • Think about working with another group or organization to amplify the action.

Bottom line, just creating an awesome action is not enough.  Get the full scoop on effective online advocacy from this white paper by PowerThru Consulting and Care2.

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