Thursday Thoughts | Stewarding Donors with Non-Donation Asks
Welcome to another installment of Thursday Thoughts, a dedicated space for our friends in nonprofit sector leadership to reflect on reports, statistics, and other trends—because when our community shares knowledge, we can all do more good. Check out our last installment here!
Year-end can be understandably very focused on fundraising, but given the importance of strong donor stewardship and high inflation that may place donating out of reach for some supporters, many nonprofits are curious about how to engage their donors without asking for gifts.
We asked our partners, what are your recommendations for nonprofits that want to build strong donor relationships with non-donation messages and asks? Here’s what they said.
Robin L. Cabral
Thanksgiving is naturally a time of gratitude and “giving thanks.” I recommend that folks consider using this time to thank their donors, including organizing thank you calls by Board members or other volunteers, sending out cards of thanks, and perhaps even dropping by donors’ homes with homemade goodies if your supporters are interested! Immediately following Thanksgiving is GivingTuesday, so why not flip this day of giving and, rather than be a day of asking, make it all about thanking your donors?
The holiday season is a time of joy and giving back. I recommend that nonprofits mail out “no ask” holiday cards, give donors a gift by dropping off holiday plants such as poinsettias or even branded nonprofit organization swag, or even send a holiday greeting video or personalized text message.
Robin L. Cabral, MA, CFRE is a fundraising coach, nonprofit strategist, and consultant. With over 25 years of experience, she has raised millions of dollars for small to mid-sized organizations. For more great resources, staffing to help you thank your donors, or even a coach to inspire more ideas, visit www.hireafundraiser.com or book a free 30-minute consultation.
Erik Rubadeau, Yeeboo Digital
Never underestimate the power of “thank you.” Saying thank you to your donor base is one of the most important but under-sent messages.
Say thank you for all the previous support. Say thank you for just being on the list and sharing your work with their friends and family. Say thank you for caring about the cause that you work for.
When people feel appreciated and seen by you, there’s a very good chance you will be top of mind when they have capacity to give another gift.
Another touchpoint to consider is to show successes from the previous year while also providing an exclusive preview of the work to come. Knowing and celebrating the outcomes achieved is a key part of the donor experience, and exclusivity helps strengthen the value of the relationship.
The giving season is a great time of year to reflect, but it’s also a great time to look to the future. Send a message that highlights some big wins from the year that was and a view on the upcoming opportunities and challenges in the year ahead. Giving your donors a sneak preview into the work you want to be doing provides a nice bit of exclusivity for those close to you, but also helps set the stage for the campaign to come and the support it will need when it does.
Founded in 2010, Yeeboo Digital is a collection of strategic, technical, and creative digital experts with a focus on technology, communications, and fundraising for the nonprofit and charitable sector. To learn more about their innovative solutions and commitment to helping clients realize their potential online, visit their website.
Ashley Allison, ABD Direct
When you’re building strong, long-term committed relationships with your donors, it’s essential that they hear from you more than just when you are asking for money. Non-donation messages are more important than ever as these touchpoints can have a big impact on whether a donor will go on to give in the future, or even stay on your email list at all.
Cultivating a donor list with non-donation messaging is an important part of building powerful and sustainable fundraising programs that stand the test of time. Here are some principles and ideas we recommend:
- Exclusivity: To highlight how special your donors are to you, provide exclusive opportunities that give back to them! Ask them to sign up to receive a specially-designed sticker or other swag (bonus: by collecting mailing info, you can fill in the gaps in your data!), exclusive downloads like screensavers, free or discounted event invites, and invitations to calls with organization members like your executive director, spokespeople, or board.
- Impact: Send a Donor Impact Report highlighting their past giving and share examples of tangible successes that they helped create. This is a great opportunity to use different senders and voices—someone who has been served by your organization or someone on the ground like a field organizer are great options.
- Light-touch asks: In the barrage of end-of-year emails, pepper in some creative light-touch actions for your donors. For instance, invite your donors to send a holiday card to a relevant recipient, download useful information relevant to your organization’s mission, or sign an action that is a “New Year’s Resolution” style commitment to your cause.
- Keep it simple: Sometimes just saying “thanks” is all you need. This email message can be as simple as a video or clever graphic featuring your staff, those your organization serves, or your board.
For more than 40 years, ABD Direct has fostered dedicated partnerships with non-profit charitable and progressive advocacy organizations, pushing the boundaries of direct response fundraising and securing the resources they need to fulfill their critical missions. Learn more by visiting their website.
Kyra Rogan, Veracity Media
When year-end fundraising is top-of-mind, it’s critical to also find ways to engage your supporters without making them feel like an ATM. Some of the absolute best ways to do this are to:
- Make those engagement opportunities authentic and meaningful,
- Diversify the communication channels you’re using (multichannel supporters are going to be some of your most-dedicated donors!), and
- Segment and cater to your supporters who were part of these efforts over the last year—they were a part of your success, so be sure to recognize them for that in your content!
As you focus your efforts on finding authentic ways to engage those supporters who maybe don’t have the means to donate right now, be sure to uplift your engagement asks through all of your channels, from email and online ads to mobile messaging to mass Twitter messaging. For example, we’ve found by reaching out to Twitter followers using our in-house auto-DM tool that 70-80% of Twitter action-takers were not previously on our clients’ email lists!
Get started by asking yourselves these questions:
- What is your organization doing right now that your supporters can be a part of, like a phone drive?
- Are there active advocacy efforts going on? Can they help by chiming in with their own message to an entity you’re trying to persuade or asking their Instagram followers to share your story?
- Would texting be a more effective way to make the ask than email? Maybe you want them to call a legislator, and this way they’re already on their phone! Texting is also a great way to make other asks, like requesting that they follow you on social media.
- Would engaging your supporters over Twitter DMs make sense if you want them to share a tweet or other short message?
- Is there a volunteer drive or another event happening? Can they use their personal channels to uplift your organization’s event or message?
Veracity Media is a social-impact digital strategy firm specializing in political campaigns and non-profit advocacy based in the heart of Washington, D.C. whose mission is to help organizations and elected officials get their message out by engaging their audiences and turning them into active supporters who can be tapped to achieve programmatic goals. Visit their website to learn more.
Jennifer Parker, K2D Strategies
There’s no doubt this last year has been a wild ride in the nonprofit fundraising space. Organizations are seeing some of the highest average gifts we’ve seen in years, while also witnessing a fall off in donor giving and retention as the highest inflation rate in over 40 years continues to affect donors’ choices and disposable income.
As we approach year-end and are anticipating a windfall of revenue for some, nonprofits need to keep donor stewardship and engagement top of mind to ensure donors (and those who aren’t yet donors) are engaged and cultivated. This is also a critical time to build emotional investment with donors, so they see your communication with them as a relationship that’s committed for the long haul.
Here are a few ideas to consider as you continue building your strong donor relationships without a direct ask or push for year-end giving:
- Acknowledge that things have been tough on everyone and thank the donor for all of the support they’ve been able to provide. This can be done in a heartfelt personal email, or through a “thank you” video from staff or recipients of funding. Bonus points for filming your video on an iPhone or other smartphone to underscore the authenticity and person-to-person feel of the message.
- Offer an inexpensive freemium, such as a sticker (or digital sticker) that the donor can use to outwardly show their support for your organization without making a gift. (We recently reactivated more than 10,000 digital constituents for an advocacy group with this approach—fingers crossed for year-end!)
- Share the results of this past year’s support and the impact their giving has made. We recently did this for one client as part of a monthly stewardship series we developed. In this case, we gave midlevel and major donors insight into the backstory on a big land acquisition, using video, still photos, and infographics. Since launching this series last year, we’ve seen retention among these donors increase eight percentage points!
These cultivation efforts will not only show your donors how much you care, they may even inspire some donors to make unexpected gifts.