June 26, 2019
There’s another source to explore—one that non-profits often overlook. Individual donors can provide continuous, reliable funding that grows over time. However, many organizations don’t invest resources in pursuing recurring contributions in any meaningful, systematic way.
Instead of tailoring their approach, they target everyone using the old annual appeal, or a combination of the traditional newsletter and updates on a variety of social media platforms. These efforts target broad, generic audiences, and they fail to engage current or prospective donors in ways that develop lasting, rewarding, personal relationships. In the end, not enough of the “right people” are hearing what non-profits have to say. And, if they do, it’s going in one ear and out the other.
Nonprofits that take this approach are effectively viewing donors as objects rather than as people. It’s easy to see existing and potential contributors primarily as cash, checks and credit cards—not as individuals with interests, preferences, and personalities.
It’s understandable—that’s the way it’s always been done. But not knowing who’s behind the money can make it incredibly difficult to connect with prospective and existing donors on a personal level. Even the most experienced nonprofit professionals can struggle to determine who they should be approaching, how to effectively reach their audiences, or what messages will resonate with them.
The solution? Get familiar with the donor pool!
The concept is simple: Find out who’s most likely to donate, where they get their information, and what makes them tick. Then, target those people through customized media and messaging over the entire life cycle from initial contact to conversion to retention.
In practice, it is more of a strategic commitment for non-profits than what many are doing now, but the returns are entirely worth it. The inevitable question, of course, is how to go about this.
One nonprofit focused on poverty did this by asking its current donors how best to connect with them, segmented the audience, and then handed things over to teams comprising internal staff and external “customers” to create “snapshots” of the most promising groups—names, faces, and personal “stories.” These teams then “walked the walk,” stepping through each prospect’s journey from contact to conversion to retention. Marketing and Development took the resulting maps to design and execute targeted outreach strategies, focusing on messaging, media, and delivery channels they were confident would reach and resonate with prospects. Pushing out “before-and-after” stories through videos, blogs, and other media to the social platforms these audiences used was a key part of the approach, and the organization more than doubled contributions the next year.
Personalized “relationship marketing” changes the individual donor game for non-profits. It makes it easier to forecast with confidence and helps to maximize gifts that keep on giving. And, it works for nonprofits of all sizes. While it’s a big undertaking and it’s helpful to have a dedicated, innovative Marketing and Development staff, that isn’t completely necessary—with a little outside help, even smaller organizations can do this with executive leadership and program personnel.
For many organizations, individual donations can be a significant part of a diversified funding strategy, even if the results haven’t been there in the past. Let’s face it. Newsletters often tend to go unopened and tweets get lost in the crowd. But investing in a targeted individual giving strategy can have a significant return on investment.
There’s money to be had, but there are faces, names, and personalities behind each dollar. Taking the time to get to know them leads not only to more dollars raised for your programs, but also to strong, long-lasting relationships with your donors.
Read our article on this topic, Anatomy of a Non-profit Donor
View the related presentation, Targeting and Retaining Better, Long-lasting Donors
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Tom Morley is Founder, President, and Managing Director of Snowflake LLC, a Certified B Corporation® consultancy dedicated to helping organizations transform lives and build communities through strategic planning and organization, people, and marketing strategies. He worked for more than 15 years as a senior leader with “Big 4” firms BearingPoint and Deloitte Consulting before launching Snowflake in 2014, with the goal of collaborating with non-profits, governments, and responsible businesses to bring about social change. Over the course of his career, he has worked with over 75 different clients across sectors and industries, in the US and abroad, advising and supporting them in their efforts to accomplish greater things for the greater good.