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The Proven Formula for Donor Newsletters

The Proven Formula for Donor Newsletters

by Tom Ahern, of Ahern Donor Communications — www.aherncomm.com

In the 1990s, a Seattle fundraising shop called the Domain Group took the garden-variety donor newsletter, stripped it down to its components, and began testing … to see if they could come up with something better. Sort of like rebuilding a hot rod.

Domain eventually developed a formula that made a donor newsletter HIGHLY worth doing: some Domain clients began raking in more gifts through their newsletters than through their direct mail appeals.
Domain had its hot rod. Think about that a moment. Read more ›

Building Diversity Friendly Campaigns

Eden Stiffman, a contributor to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, has written an eye-opening article about how to reach out to more ethnically diverse donors. According to the article by Eden Stiffman, “6 steps to Attracting More Diverse Donors,” the current donor population is over-representative of Caucasians at the expense of other racial groups when compared to the US population as a whole.

One piece of advice Stiffman offers is for the non-profits to re-evaluate the tenor and content of their donor communications. For example, the stories told by organizations should be “culturally appropriate” and “welcoming” to people of other races and religions. Be wary of culturally offensive stereotypes that might accidentally show up in your organization’s marketing materials.

This is especially true of images, many of which depict people of color as the needy beneficiaries and only white people as staff members, board members, donors and CEOS. Featuring more diverse staff and organization leaders could go a long way in conveying to donors that there is serious commitment to diversity in place. And producing newsletter content in multiple languages may be appropriate depending on the ethnic breakdown of your organization’s donor base.

As always, examining the composition of this donor base is the first place to start when determining how to execute your strategy to attract diverse donors. And the best way to assess the demographics of the support base is to perform a high- level donor analysis (which we can do for you right now!)

Eden Stiffman, the contributor, also suggests getting a second opinion regarding how your organization’s message is perceived.

Sometimes it’s helpful to bring in someone from outside the organization to provide a new perspective,”, he notes.

Please feel free to contact us if you need that new perspective.
Our campaign experts would be delighted to take a second look at your donor engagement approach!

 

See article: ”6 steps to Attracting More Diverse Donors” by Eden Stiffman; the Chronicle of Philanthropy

Measuring the Mind of A Donor

Currently, there is no universally accepted numerical index that captures donor sentiment, that is, the enthusiasm potential donors  feel about their own financial situation and thus their expected willingness to make generous contributions to their preferred charities and non-profits. Donor sentiment is tricky because there is no guarantee that prospects will donate even if they feel optimistic  about their purchasing power and there is no rule stating that people refuse to give when economic conditions sour.

However, a consumer sentiment index is a relevant metric that comes to mind when trying to find a proxy for a measure of how donors might behave in the near future. Looking at the University of Michigan’s well known consumer confidence index, we see that the figure rose 4.7 points from a month earlier to register a reading of 98.2 in December. This is great news because it is the highest reading since January of ‘04 and implies that consumers feel very optimistic about the economy at the present moment.

This positive sentiment is expected to translate into healthy consumer spending and consumers who spend more are more likely to further contribute to nonprofits if presented with the right opportunity. It is exactly the type of economic environment that fundraisers hope for as expectations of future growth also rose more quickly than they did last month. Organization directors should keep in mind, however, that the index may misrepresent economic reality and may become volatile.

A separate consumer confidence indicator, released by the Conference Board also rose in December to 113.7 from a revised 109.4 in November with the surge in optimism most pronounced among older consumers, according to Lynn Franco, Director of Economic indicators at the Conference Board. Older donors tend to give in greater volume to charitable causes ; according to a 2013 study on generational giving habits commissioned by the software firm Blackbaud,? Those born in 1945 or earlier give an average of $1,367 a year compared to millennials who average $481 in annual gifts.

Crucially, the older generation prefers direct mail communications which, according to Jen Love (Co-founder of Fund-raising consultancy Agents of Good) and Tom Ahern (an industry expert in writing fund-raising communications) is still the most effective medium through which to reach donors.

Sources:

See article: ‘Flattery Will Get You Everywhere’ by John Hanc, The New York Times – 11/6/16

Special Interview with Lisa Sargent of Sargent Communications: Pt 2

DC: Six years ago, social media was picking up a head of steam in our culture, but non-profits were still getting on the train; SM communications were often “siloed”. You spoke about the perception among non-profit professionals of “fragile followers”. How has this changed or how is it changing? And do you have a personal feeling about the future of SM for non-profits?
LISA: Before we talk social media, if you’re interested in digital channels with fundraising clout, think email. Direct mail still trumps it, and email’s overall donation response rate is only 0.07%, on average, but according to M+R’s 2016 Benchmarks Study3, more than a third (34%) of all online revenue for the top 25 nonprofits [in its study] can be tracked directly to an email appeal. And for the remainder of its study participants, the average is 27%. List churn – or the “fragility” of followers, if you will – remains an issue, just as it does for direct mail. Attrition is a fact of life: the goal is to minimize it, across whatever channel you’re working … and that holds true for social media too: if your feed is boring or “we-focused,” you won’t have many followers for long. Silos, too, remain an issue across every channel, and are still just as damaging to overall quality and consistency of messaging, and eventually, results. As M+R’s study put it so beautifully: “Our job is not to block the exits; ours is to throw the doors open and welcome people in.” Read more ›

Special Interview with Lisa Sargent of Sargent Communications: Pt 1

Welcome to the July issue of Donor Centric, a bi-monthly resource for our friends in the nonprofit sector.
In 2010, Lisa Sargent of Sargent Communications spent six weeks taking the pulse of leading executives from U.S. nonprofits; she wanted to know the common challenges that they were facing, as well as the most effective strategies they were employing to acquire, engage and retain donors.

Her interviews with more than a dozen executives from organizations with combined annual revenues of more than $14 billion revealed key insights.

Lisa published the results in a report entitled “What’s Working in Donor Fundraising and Development Today?” It was originally sent out to Lisa’s own clients and subscribers, but was soon picked up and republished by a number of online sites. We’re including that original report as an insert with this issue.

Recently, we caught up with Lisa to ask her what’s changed in the last six years since that study. You’ll find her candid responses on the state-of-the-sector enlightening.  Read more ›

How Donor-Centric is your Organization?

More Than a Buzzword

Welcome to another issue of Donor-Centric. We produce and send this resource out to friends in the non-profit sector with the hope that you’ll find it useful and stimulating.

cover4-16webOver time, we try to address many of the challenges you’re facing. In this issue, however, we’re talking about the subject that first gave this newsletter its name. Being “Donor-Centric” has become one of the great “buzzwords” in recent years. But that does not mean that the idea is fully understood or, more importantly, actually applied.
Clarity is the first step. Our Five Question Test and Simone Joyaux’s Donor-Centric Pledge are offered up as a yardstick for you to evaluate your own organization. As always, if we can be of further help, call us!