Whenever I meet with a new client, I ask them to fill out a questionnaire that identifies strengths and weaknesses in their fund raising program. Some of the most important questions in the questionnaire have nothing to do with actual fund raising but, rather, are more focused on how well the organization communicates with its donors. For example, how many times do they communicate with their donors via email a month? How many non-solicitation letters do they send a year? Do they have a social media strategy?
What I find with most organizations is that they avoid regular communication because there is a fear of over-communicating with donors. Unfortunately, for these organizations the old adage “out of sight, out of mind” is a better way to view the effects of their lack of communication. The non-profit world is a very competitive market to get the attention of current and prospective donors. Some organizations overdo their communications to the detriment of the donor relationship. However, if you are not communicating with donors on a weekly basis, you risk missing their generosity.
The following are some recommendations to help improve your communications and help set the stage for more effective solicitations in the future:
- Weekly Digital Communication: In the digital age, there is no excuse not to be in front of your donors on a weekly basis. Emails and Digital Communications tools (ie. Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, etc.) are low to no cost tools that provide the means to share your dreams, your needs and your impact. Most of these communications should be updates that communicate news about your organization. By reaching out to your donors on a weekly basis, you are showing how dynamic your work is and that there are always reasons to support your mission. By increasing the number of non-solicitation communications with donors it will make the solicitation communications more powerful and meaningful.
- Multi-Channel Communication = Greater Giving: Most studies show that the average gift solicited from multiple sources of communication is greater than if the gift is solicited from a single source. As an example, if a donor receives a solicitation from a letter in the mail they might open it up when they get home after a long day at the office and not be motivated to respond to the letter. However, if they receive an email with a similar message a day or two after they skimmed the original letter, there is a greater chance that they will click on the link to give online or go back and fill out the reply device from the original letter.
- Communications as Stewardship: Fund raising is all about building relationships with your donors. A very easy way to strengthen those relationships is to recognize donors and thank them for their generosity. If you don’t have a strong communications program it is harder to find ways to recognize these important benefactors. However, if you are communicating more frequently through emails, digital newsletters or direct mail you have multiple opportunities to highlight your donors to tell their story, thank them and inspire others to follow their lead.
- Make sure to have a Road Map: If you don’t have a strong communications plan you should be strategic about how to build one over time. Taking the time to create a Communications Calendar will help ensure that your communications fit well within the schedule of your program or institution. Create a calendar that lists all the opportunities you want to engage with donors on a month-to-month basis. Include monthly emails or letters. Include in person and virtual events that donors can attend to promote through your communications channels. In addition to providing you an easy to follow schedule and ensure your communications are strategic the Communications Calendar provides accountability as you improve your connection to donors throughout the year.