Years ago, I realized that donations at my then-employer had been relatively stagnant for a few years. As a result, they weren’t coming close to their fundraising goals and cuts to my program were being discussed. Like anyone whose primary source of income is threatened, I panicked.
I decided to take the initiative to find out what opportunities they might be missing to engage with and cultivate donors. I dove into all the data from their donor management system, I spoke with the development director, and even spoke to a few donors. All of that work yielded some interesting insights, but nothing that would account for the lack of growth.
So I decided to look at their marketing instead. Maybe something was missing the mark or even upsetting donors. And lo and behold – there I found my answer. Their website was static and outdated and their marketing strategy in general was treated as an afterthought. It turned out that many donors just weren’t all that excited about what our organization was doing – because we weren’t giving them any reason to be. Donors who aren’t excited and inspired don’t give.
Many nonprofit staffers are surprised that the answer to increasing donations often isn’t traditional development – it’s marketing.
But this should not be surprising anymore. See, for-profit companies have known for a long time that their bottom line will thrive or fail based on their marketing efforts. That’s why they invest so much money in marketing. I’m not suggesting that your nonprofit start acting exactly like a for-profit or that you’re doomed to fail because you don’t have the budget for glossy marketing campaigns. But I am absolutely suggesting that you need to be thoughtful and strategic about marketing if you want your efforts to pay off with donors.
Take this one step further. People are evolving. We are so interconnected now and most of us expect things to be easy and fast nowadays. You can thank (or curse) technology for that. But what you can’t do is ignore it. Especially since all the latest data shows that more and more people (yes, even a portion of the older crowd) are engaging with digital marketing methods like emails, social media, and websites over traditional methods like mailings and print pieces.
Do you want better donor engagement and increased donations for your nonprofit this coming year? Do you want to make sure that your donors feel inspired, excited, and appreciated? Of course you do. And I’m here to help.
Here are 5 smart ways to use digital marketing to help your donors feel the love:
1. Tell them what they want to hear
By this, I don’t necessarily mean kissing your donors’ butts. Rather, I think you should talk to them about the things they really want to hear more about. What do they care about? What inspires and moves them? Why are they a donor in the first place?
I can’t answer those questions for you because they will differ from one organization to another and will even differ between groups of donors at the same organization. So you need to think about those questions, use your best judgement, and write down your answers.
Then take those answers and plug relevant material into digital marketing mediums such as email, social media, blog posts, videos, and anything else you can think of.
2. Thank them
Thanking donors should be a primary focus of your development strategy and ideally, you should be doing this in various ways throughout the year. Adding a way to do this digitally just makes sense.
You could add a donor thank you section to your website, write a blog post thanking donors for helping you reach a campaign goal or talk to them about the lives they affected through their donation, or send out a thank you email. No matter how you do it, thank donors by name where you can and when people want to remain anonymous you should honor that wish, but can still add a line saying something like “and thank you to our many anonymous donors who gave generously.”
3. Entertain them
Right or wrong, people love to be entertained and data shows that when digital marketing is entertaining, people are much more likely to interact with it. Conversely, if you send out a marketing piece that is really just a sales pitch or is boring and dry, people keep scrolling, throw it away, or don’t even finish reading it.
If you are incorporating digital marketing into your donor cultivation strategy, then it pays to think about what might make them smile or laugh.
Perhaps a cartoon, a meme, a funny video, or a light-hearted graphic would make a great addition instead of a bunch of text just telling people that you would appreciate it oh so much if they donated.
4. Give them some perks, digitally
Many nonprofits thank their donors with letters, holiday cards, small gifts, and a slew of other physical perks. But what if you offered them some digital perks, also? The younger or more-tech-savvy amongst them will probably love this approach, some digital thank-you’s will cost you nothing (unlike their traditional counterparts), and you get another way to reach out to donors and create that warm and fuzzy connection with your nonprofit in their minds. It’s win-win.
Some ideas for you to consider send out emails, evites, website updates, blog posts, and social media posts about possible perks to drum up donations and/or membership purchases. Here are some ideas for possible perks:
Discounts on memberships, discounts on tickets, discounts on anything bought from your gallery or eStore, access to a donors-only section of the website where they could get exclusive behind-the-scenes videos, invitations to donors-only events, and art/music/video downloads.
You are only limited by what you can dream up, here!
5. Give them everything they need to uplevel their donation
When someone is making the decision to donate (or not) or to increase their giving, research has shown that they are much more likely to make the leap if they have information at their fingertips that helps them do it. Specifically, they want 990s, annual reports, newsletters, and anything else that shows them that donations at your nonprofit are used wisely and they can then see examples of the impact those donations made.
So my recommendation is to put links to these materials anywhere you are asking for donations. This would include web pages which include donation forms, social media posts asking for donations, blog posts, etc. etc.
Although this doesn’t seem like a marketing function, it absolutely is once you see the link between providing these resources and their ability to get someone to donate who otherwise may not have.
I hope these suggestions and insights give you lots of ideas to make your website, email marketing, and all of your digital platforms your strongest donor tools.
Comment below and let me know what your biggest challenge around end-of-year giving is! I read every comment and may be able to give you some targeted suggestions!
You can also download this free PDF for a little more help: 5 Bonus Strategies for Using Digital Marketing to Boost End-of-Year Giving