Your Brand Promise

We’re all guilty. That shiny new object looks just like a “silver bullet.” In our excitement, we forget what’s important in fundraising. Like your brand promise.

Why you exist, how you talk, what you believe, the impact you make, the feelings you stir… all these and more are wrapped up in your brand promise.

Everyone in your organization needs to understand, treasure and be true to your brand. Your leaders should grasp how it shapes fundraising. Development staff should be in tune with the organization’s mission, marketing, and financial goals and strategies (see our Balanced Scorecard for Nonprofits).

So repeat after me: If it doesn’t sound like you, don’t do it.

One way to live up to your brand promise is to invest more in front-end stewardship and cultivation instead of adding renewal efforts and mining your deep lapsed file on the back end. This way, your donors feel loved and your retention rates reflect it.

Some ways to improve on the front-end include:

  1. Develop a multi-channel welcome series. You can’t say thank you enough. But this also gives you a chance to deepen your donors’ understanding of what you do, why you do it, and how you do it.
  2. Ask for feedback. Surveys are a useful way to hear from your team (remember, donors are partners). Think about chat rooms on social media and give out a phone number specifically for donors to talk about issues, problems, or anything they want to get off their chest.
  3. Communicate more frequently and effectively. We often get asked how much communication is too much. Believe me, your donors will let you know. But too often nonprofits shut down communication with donors because a few of them may feel like you are over-communicating. Usually it means you are over-asking. Be creative in your messaging and don’t always ask for money! Rather, communicate more about the brand promise and the impact they are having. Giving away money is usually an irrational human behavior, so make them feel good about taking that action and demonstrate clearly the impact of what they are doing for your mission.

Sounds simple, but we know it isn’t. More effort in communicating and delivering on your brand promise, though, is sure to strengthen your donor relationships – and that’s what it’s all about in the end.

Marketing Essentials

Marketing & Media, Tim Oleary

I took a course recently at Cornell University called Marketing Your Brand Through Social Media. We talked about the disruption of emerging technologies, evolving channels, and complex communication. And yet, it became clear to all of us there that some things haven’t changed at all… the fundamental questions still driving what we do.

  1. Who are our donors?
  2. What do they want?
  3. How can we do a better job than other organizations of satisfying those desires?

That’s really it. Sounds simple, right?  Well, we all know how easily the fundamentals get lost in mass fundraising as opposed to a personalized, one-to-one approach.

So, begin with #1. Do we truly know our donors and everything about them?  Not even close.  We may have their giving history, some basic demographics, and so on.  But to truly know your donors, we have to understand what motivates them to give to your mission and others, what are their lifestyles like, and how do they prefer to communicate with you

Then comes #2. What social (and emotional) return on investment are you offering them?  Why you and why them?  Are you where your donors like to be?

Finally, #3. How can they see the impact of their gift?  Are you thanking them properly, accurately, and often?  How well are you convincing them to give again?

None of this diminishes the power of social media to do much of the work above. Same story with market research. But my point here is that we now live in a world where fundraising relationships are circular, not linear. Gone are the days when we simply push out fundraising messages and gather only checks in return.  Donors want to be more engaged and involved, even if that is just through discussion.

Media disruption, then, isn’t an unsettling complication. It’s an amazing opportunity to build on our donor relationships. Where even the gloomiest retention rates can be turned around by a serious look at these three marketing and fundraising essentials.



Proactive Planning & Budgeting

Fundraising Management, Tim Oleary

Ahh…Springtime. The flowers bloom, the weather warms, and development professionals come out of hibernation to work on the next fiscal year’s plan and budget.

Don’t get caught napping this year. Follow these tips for proactive planning and budgeting…

  1. Strategy First – Make tactics the servants of strategy. Begin by looking at how many donors and net dollars you need to achieve your revenue goals, then work backward on the tactics. Most organizations simply split their budget into lines like appeals, acquisition, lapsed, etc.  Look at the budget in its entirety and get out of the box to figure out how to reach your strategic goals.
  2. Net Efficiency – For a clearer picture, use key metrics like net cost to raise a dollar and net cost to acquire new donors rather than just focusing on gross revenue figures to meet a budget line.
  3. Micro-Segmentation – Where should your biggest investment be in the fiscal year ahead? If you said something like “lapsed” or “sustainers,” you have painted too broad of stroke. Today’s world consists of micro-segments, ones that require more personalization without the added cost. How will you address this?  For example, break “sustainers” up into current sustainers giving via credit card vs. EFT.  Go further with converted sustainers vs. directly acquired sustainers. You get the idea.
  4. Multi-Channel – Yes, budgeting for multi-channel campaigns can be more difficult, especially the more integrated they become. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in the work. After all, Blackbaud’s 2015 Charitable Giving Report tells us that online giving, mobile giving, and social media engagement are growing at a fast pace.
  5. Flexibility – Ever played dueling spreadsheets? Try mapping out a few budget scenarios that get you to the same goals. This gives you flexibility in ultimately deciding which is the best direction to take for your program and prepares you better for unforeseen challenges. Don’t get back-doored into just one approach simply because that’s how you’ve always done it.
  6. Testing – It always pays to put new offers, messages and creative in front of your donors. So set up a testing “slush” fund to drive your 12-month testing plan and constantly tune up the performance of your programs.
  7. Research – Lastly, include some research and modeling in your budget. Relationships matter in our world and the only way to truly get to know your donors’ their preferences, lifestyles, and giving habits is to invest in market research and modeling.

What we’re talking about here is spending a little extra time up front on a proactive budget—rather than scrambling midway through the next fiscal year. So shake off those winter blues and get to work on your plan and budget now!