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Changing Course Amid A Pandemic

Changing Course Amid A Pandemic

Our original topic for this news­letter was the spring appeal.

COV­ID-19 has changed a lot, but it does not have to change everything.

Before we talk about spring ap­peals, let’s spend a few minutes addressing what’s on everyone’s mind: the novel coronavirus pan­demic. For many donor-centric organizations, this is a doubly tough time: contributions are down at the same time that many organizations, and the services they provide, are needed most.

If this sounds like your organiza­tion, then consider doubling down on the need to connect with past donors and would-be donors. Many companies and organizations are using the pandemic as a reason to appeal to customers and donors. Cutting through this will require honest, simple communications. If the people that benefit from your service are particularly impacted by the pandemic and its ramifica­tions—job losses, income reduc­tions, etc.—then lay that out.

Be direct. Be transparent. Be persis­tent.

Onto the Spring Appeal
At first glance, a spring appeal cam­paign may seem daunting—espe­cially in current circumstances. The year-end push—including what was probably your biggest annual fund­raising period—ended not long ago. You are dealing with the pandemic. You may think you don’t have time for a spring appeal.

We suggest you reconsider—and think differently.

With a few simple steps, your spring appeal can be differentiated from your other campaigns, and that can help make it successful, even during these unusual times. Here are a few ideas we have used with clients that have helped create successful spring donor outreach campaigns.

Make Your Appeal A Non-Appeal
One of the enduring themes that we stress with all donor communica­tions is to make the story about your cause and/or your members—not so much about you. If you’re going to break this rule, the spring outreach is the time to do it.

Try approaching your spring cam­paign as a donor update. Your just-completed year-end push probably talked about the goals you were striving to meet. Your spring campaign is a great time to provide a brief recap on what you—with the help of your donors, of course—ac­complished last year.

Considering the current environ­ment, highlight some of the ways you are helping your constituents during the pandemic, or some new initiatives you’re planning. You can also highlight upcoming milestones or projects in the year ahead—look­ing beyond the novel coronavirus isn’t a bad way to spread a little hope.

Grassroot Communication | Spring Donor Appeal Campaign

Think Simple
Your spring appeal campaign does not have to be grand. While it’s al­ways nice to attract new and repeat donors and higher donations, your spring appeal can be more focused.

For instance, you may want to start by filtering out donors who gave in your most recent campaign. Then perhaps add ones that have given before but not recently, or that have interacted with your organization in some way, such as opening an email or attending an event. Tailor­ing your outreach in such a way can help keep the campaign cost-effec­tive while targeting likely donors.

Another idea: be very specific in what you want. Of course, every nonprofit wants more and bigger donations. But if you articulate a simple, achievable goal, donors may be more motivated to respond.

Maybe there is a specific project in your near-term plans with a modest budget. Describe it, be clear about the funding needs, and go in for the ask. If the novel coronavirus pan­demic has created specific needs, then articulate them, put a target amount on the total you need, and reach out with a donor-specific request.

How do you get to that number? Great question. We recommend breaking your project or goal down to a key number. Let’s say you are generating funds to provide kids with backpacks full of school supplies when they can all go back. Your goal is to help 1,000 kids, and you plan to spend $30 per child on a backpack and supplies. Your total goal is $30,000, but look at it this way: you need $30 donated 1,000 times. The key number for donors to know is $30.

Hammer home in your outreach that $30 will make a difference for one child. Ask for $30 and ask again. And remind your would-be donor that for every $30 donated, a child has school supplies for the coming year.

Being this direct ensures the would-be donors know what you need—and what you want. Ones that can afford to give more than $30 prob­ably will. Ones that don’t know how much to give will lock in on the $30—which is exactly what you want.

Get Creative
Spring appeals are a great time to get creative, for several reasons. First, if you’ve followed the above advice, you will have a smaller list than a larger, year-end appeal. You’re also communicating with your would-be donors, not just asking them for money.

There are a few ways to take advantage of these steps. If you’re doing a physical mailing (and we hope you are), consider enclosing a creative giveaway—something inexpensive and appropriate for your organization that you can safely source. Or, use the spring theme and drop in a packet of seeds. Such small surprises and tokens of appre­ciation are always popular, and would provide an extra special lift during these times.

While you’re at it, think about surveying your audience to glean in­formation that will help you with future initiatives. Maybe you want to gauge their views on a particular topic or issue that has emerged in your space. Digital surveys are easiest, so don’t be afraid to include a simple link on paper that your would-be donor can use.

Putting Donor Identity into Practice

In our last issue of Donor Centric, we gave an introduction to the concept of donor identity and the role that it plays in not only donors’ decisions to give in the first place, but also in their motivation for giving.

If your organization is to maximize its ability to attract, reach, and resonate with donors, you’re going to need to narrow your focus and make donor identity a point of emphasis.
But how do you achieve that?

Here are two things your organization can start doing today, to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward.

1. Collect Data
The most obvious first step is learning about your donors! You can achieve this in a few different ways. First, check out your social media demographics. If you have a decent following on any social media platforms, use your platform’s analytics tool to start viewing what data is available on your followers. You might find that your followers, and the people who gravitate toward your organization, are much different than you had initially thought!

Next, issue a survey to your email list. If you don’t already have an email list – whether it’s through a newsletter subscription or otherwise – now is as good a time as ever to start putting this together. Send a survey out to those on your list, asking people to provide a little information about themselves. This might be in the form of a short questionnaire, a poll, or another method. You don’t need to pry into someone’s personal life for this to be effective. Learning about someone’s occupation, the country or state where they reside, and a few of their interests and passions can provide your organization with a wealth of insight.

Finally, just ask. Send an email to current donors only, and ask specifically why they decided to give to your organization. This will help you identify your organization’s greatest pull factors so that you can prioritize them when it comes time to make your next appeal to new prospects or lapsed donors.


Grassroot Communication | Donor Identiy

2. Diversify Your Appeal Strategy
Now that know a little more about your different donors, it’s time to start putting this information to use. But remember – the degree to which you will be able to execute this is dependent on your organization’s resources, as well as your willingness to do so. The vague blanket emails you might send to thousands of people at a time? It’s time to throw them out. It’s time to start diversifying, and you can achieve this in two different ways.

The first option is to use the data you have collected to segment your target audience into different streams. One group might consist of activists who are passionate and vocal about human rights or equality, for example. A second group might consist of people who have recently donated to a nonprofit. A third group might consist of people who are active volunteers at a shelter. Wherever it makes sense for your nonprofit to compartmentalize and start different appeals, do so! Now use this information to tailor each appeal to its specific demographic.

Another option is to make your next email or letter more inclusive. Perhaps you don’t have the resources to create appeals for 10 or 15 different groups at a time. But you can certainly make your appeal relevant to more people. We all can! For example, if your nonprofit provides shelter for animals, your letter needs to appeal to the different types of people you’re looking to convert into donors. For the passionate animal lover, you might want to include a heartwarming story of an animal that your shelter was able to save. For the person looking to adopt a pet, you might want to mention that you are housing animals that are in need of permanent homes.

Can you see why investing in donor identity is so important? If you don’t understand your donors and what motivates them to give, your appeal is going to be vague, dull, and ineffective. The result? You’re only going to have but a fraction of the impact that your nonprofit could have otherwise . . . Start learning about your donors and diversifying your appeal strategy today, and you’ll be well on your way to reaching and converting more prospects into donors.

The first step is finding out each donor’s identity and reason for giving. So how can we do that? Stay tuned for Grassroot Communications’ Donor Centric newsletter Here’s a clue: we can guess, or we can ask. We will discuss both in upcoming articles.

Intro to Donor Identity

In this series, our experts discuss the importance of donor identity and how to leverage it for your organization’s’ bottom line.

Motivation: It Matters.
Not everyone who shows up at a car dealership is looking for the same thing. It’s obvious, right? Every customer is unique and every customer is looking for something different from their shopping experience. In fact, even people who are looking at the exact same make and model have different motivations. A 20-year-old student might be looking to rent the shiny red convertible sports car because he wants a ride that will impress his dates. While a 50-year-old middle manager might be looking to purchase that same car to stave off a mid-life crisis. Thus, a good salesperson needs to know his client and understand her needs before embarking on the path to a sale.

Donor Identity

As it happens, the nonprofit’s business is a lot like the sales business. In order to be successful in finding and converting clients or constituents, you need to understand the range of motivation that drives each of them. For nonprofits, charities, and advocacy organizations, leaders must appeal to each donor’s motivation for giving. This unique motivation is what we mean when we talk about donor identity. It is the donor’s identity that nudges her to take out her pocketbook and write you a check. She sees herself as a certain type of person and donor and because of that, she gives to your org.
Here is an example: Joanne is a breast cancer survivor. It’s a big part of who she is, and because she beat cancer she feels compelled to make a large annual gift to a large cancer treatment center. Joanne was a patient there and she wants to help others like herself beat breast cancer.

Now, here’s another example for a different donor but the same charity. Paul is a cancer researcher at a major health organization. He studied immunology in college and wants to put that knowledge to good use in finding new treatments. Like Joanne, he makes an annual donation to the cancer treatment center. But unlike Joanne, Paul specifically gives because he is intrigued with the advanced therapies being tested on patients who have very aggressive forms for the disease. Thus, we have two donors who both give to the same organization, but for two very different reasons. Knowing what you know about Joanne and Paul what source of communication would you send each of them for a fundraising campaign?

For Joanne, perhaps a heartwarming story of a mother of three who overcame breast cancer (thanks in part to Joanne’s support) would be most effective. And for Paul, how about a rundown of the newest and latest treatment regiment being used for patients as well as their results. This personalization and relationship building is what donor identity is all about. But as you can see, the first step is finding out each donor’s identity and reason for giving.

So how can we do that? Stay tuned for Grassroot Communications’ Donor Centric newsletter Here’s a clue: we can guess, or we can ask. We will discuss both in upcoming articles.

Amazon.com Recommends New Products; We Recommend New Donors

Ever wonder how sites like Amazon.com are able to recommend new products to you that they know you will enjoy?
One word: data.

Simply put, the site looks at your past search history, purchasing behavior- even likes on social media in order to predict what you may want to purchase next. Now imagine that very same idea applied to your organization for the purpose of finding new donors. By looking at prospects’ past voting history, giving behavior, even their political ideology, we can predict which citizens in your area are likely to respond to an appeal from your organization.

This is a powerful tool for acquisition campaigns; instead of reaching out to random people or blanketing an entire geographical area with generic campaign materials, we can;
• Target specific groups of prospective donors
• Send them personalized appeal letter
Thus, the same data that helps us track down high-quality prospects gives us hints on how best to approach, engage and convert those prospects.

This type of micro-targeted outreach is ideally suited for non-profits and advocacy organizations trying to increase their visibility, build their base of support, and grow their revenue. And it’s all made possible using predictive analytics.

When you think of donor analytics, think Grass Root Communication.

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

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 ›