There’s regular fundraising, and then there’s small shop fundraising. Raising money when you’re limited to a very small fundraising staff presents some unique obstacles that aren’t typically faced by larger organizations. Thankfully, online fundraising is evolving rapidly and makes life easier for small development departments.
In this article, you’ll learn how to use digital fundraising tools to ease your workload and raise more money in the process. Here are some tried-and-true methods some of our nonprofit friends are using!
Automate What You Can
Working for a small fundraising shop can be overwhelming! Resources are scarce, fundraising goals are audacious, and everyone wears a number of hats. Automating some processes will save everyone time and effort.
Talk with your team to decide if you can automate or schedule these things ahead of time using free or cheap tools:
- Receipts for online donations, as provided by your online donation processing tool
- Follow-up emails and progress reports for donors, which can be written in advance and sent out automatically if you have a CRM platform in place—sign up for free Salesforce.com licenses at https://www.salesforce.org/nonprofit/get-started/
- Social posting, using free tools like https://hootsuite.com/ or https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/
- An automated email series for new donors, along the lines of the one on the right.
When automating any process, spend some time making it as personal and engaging as you can—in other words, it should be as human as possible. Automated emails and communications can easily come across as cold and impersonal. Don’t let that happen to you!
For example, resist the urge to make your donor receipt basic and uninspiring. Avoid sending a receipt that merely says, “Thank you for your donation of (amount) to our organization. Please retain the following transaction details for your records.” Instead, take this opportunity to turn your receipt into the kind of thank you email that you’d be delighted to find in your inbox. Let the donor know how you’ll use their donation and connect them with the mission in a personal way, using images and stories. You’ll still want to include the transaction details, of course, but this is a valuable donor retention opportunity.
And even before the automated email goes out, customize the message on the thank you screen donors see after they give online. In particular, make sure to configure your online donation platform so that social sharing buttons appear on the thank you page; simply by inviting donors to click a button after they give to invite their social networks to join them can double your online giving income! Plus, those extra funds will come from folks that are likely not already in your donor database, expanding your base of supporters. This feature is common in most platforms, but it needs to be activated.
Scheduling social posts ahead of time so you can enjoy well-deserved time off and vacations, building an automated email series designed to inform and inspire new donors, and automating other processes are all great ways to reduce the strain on your staff.
Not all automated processes need to be donor-facing. If your online fundraising platform can accommodate it, build and save custom reports ahead of time to save yourself some work. You can also set certain integrations between your fundraising platform and donor management system to save your bookkeeper or accountant the time and effort of moving data manually.
Build Donor Retention into Your Day
In the business world it’s common knowledge that it’s six times as expensive to acquire a new customer as retaining one; for nonprofits we’ve heard the figure is eleven times! Retaining donors is a more cost-effective fundraising method than recruiting new donors. Unfortunately, nonprofits often ignore this clear, practical strategy since they think they’re too busy.
Retaining donors is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. You need to make them feel loved, appreciated, and valuable. They need to know that you’re using their money well and that it’s making a difference. And they need to be encouraged to give again. And most of all, make sure you don’t treat your donors like an ATM and only reach out when you’re asking for money. Simply reaching out to say thank you, share success stories, and help them understand the impact they’re making possible with their support is your single best strategy to retain supporters.
When you’re a small shop, the list of donor retention best practices can seem overwhelming. To ensure your donors get the attention they deserve without overwhelming yourself, build donor retention time into your everyday schedule. Pick a couple of simple donor retention strategies and set aside a little time on a regular basis to work on them. Try things like:
- Starting each work day with two or three phone calls to donors.
- Beginning your board meetings by having members write thank you cards to donors or call a few of them simply to express gratitude.
- If possible, have your board on tap to call larger donors right after they give; research by Bloomerang found that the lifetime value of a donor doubles if they get a call from a board member within 48 hours of giving.
- Setting aside time one day a week to have lunch with a larger donor.
- Choosing an unusual holiday (like St. Patrick’s Day or Independence Day) to send donors a fun card—everyone sends Christmas cards, but you’ll get donors’ attention with a Flag Day card!
Putting these strategies into practice will strengthen your relationship with existing donors, which will make them more likely to give again. They’ll also set you up for better success when asking donors to consider making a recurring gift, giving a larger donation, or even including you in their estate.
Track the Right Metrics
We know, we know. Metrics are boring. But they’re important…especially if you’re a small department that needs to make the case for different tools or additional staff.
The ability to prove—with real numbers—the effectiveness of your fundraising efforts is critical for small shops. Every nonprofit will track slightly different metrics, and each development department will have different goals and definitions of success. We highly recommend tracking:
- New and lapsed donors, which will give you an idea of your donor retention rate;
- Donor retention rates, or the portion of your donors who give again within a year. This helps you gauge everything from the effectiveness of your communications to the adequacy of your receipts;
- At-risk donors, or past donors who haven’t given in the last nine months, meaning they soon may become lapsed donors and merit stewardship and outreach;
- Churn rate, which is the opposite of your donor retention rate;
- Donor lifetime value, which tracks the average dollar value of a donor over the period of time in which they engage with your nonprofit;
- Your ratio of one-time vs. recurring donors, which helps you understand (among other things) how sustainable your fundraising efforts have been. Recurring donors tend to almost always continue giving into the new year, versus only about a third of one-time online donors, so be sure to prioritize inviting online supporters to sign up as sustaining members; and
- Donation amount segment performance, which will provide insight into the giving capacity of your overall donor base. This statistic shows the number of donations that are made in different “amount segments.” So, for example, first determine your amount segments: say, $5-$30, $31-$50, $50-$100, and so on. Then, identify which segment includes the most gifts and use that information to inform future asks. If your $50-$100 segment is the most popular one, you wouldn’t want to ask for $20—your donor base is already giving above that amount! Asking them to make a gift of, say, $60 would be more effective.
There are, of course, many more metrics you can (and probably should!) track. But these metrics will give you a good idea of the health of your donor base, which will inform your future fundraising strategies. Check out our recent blog post for a more thorough breakdown of these stats, how to measure them, and what they mean for your organization.
Being on a small fundraising team often means you’ll wear a lot of hats. It also means you’ll need to streamline your processes to free up more time to focus on different projects. Mercifully, technology makes that easier than ever. Focus on automating what you can, retaining the donors you acquire, and tracking metrics that help you understand your donor base’s health. You’ll still wear a lot of hats, but you’ll be a more successful, efficient fundraiser!
Abby Jarvis is a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.
Ellie Davis says
I liked that you mentioned the ability to prove the effectiveness of your fundraising efforts is one of the most important parts of a fundraiser. My sister is thinking about raising money to support a good cause in her company, and we are looking for advice. I will let her read your article to help her understand more about fundraisers.
Thanks for sharing these great and helpful tips. I’ll probably share this with my friend who is part of a nonprofit organization. Great post!
Lloyd Gardner says
Thank you for the informative article. The nonprofit I lead (on a part time basis) is atypical, so making connections with potential donors is difficult. Not having necessary fundraising/fund development experience does not help, so the tips are appreciated.
Julie Stiles says
Thanks for the appreciation Lloyd! We hope you can put some of these tips to good use in supporting your nonprofit. We have many other articles on fundraising on the site, with more to come in the next issues.
Jean Lindgren says
I’m the grant writer for Planet Drum Foundation, a very small 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in San Francisco, CA. Planet Drum isn’t a typical nonprofit so fund-raising is a challenge. I appreciate all the insights you provide!
Julie Stiles says
Thanks for your kind words and for being a Blue Avocado reader Jean! We know fundraising is an ongoing challenge and try to hit as many different aspects of it as we can. If there are topics you’re particularly interested in that we haven’t covered, please let us know by filling out the contact form on the site and we’ll see what we can do!