Thursday Thoughts | Supporter habits to build this year
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!
When we flip the calendar to a new year, many of us become gripped by the desire to build some new habits. (Drink more water! Read more books! Actually learn to play that harmonica!)
That fresh-start feeling is also palpable at social good organizations. To kick off 2023, we asked our partners, what are some new habits nonprofit practitioners should build with their donors, volunteers, and other supporters to help them meet their long-term organizational goals? Here’s what they said.
Jayme Dingler, What’s Good
As a fundraiser, I think the most important habits you can implement this year are those centered around engagement. Relationship building is the cornerstone of any good development plan, and it can take a while for a potential donor to be ready to give that first gift, or for a current donor to decide to “level up” their giving. In 2023, resolve to increase the number of touches you have with your constituents.
If you add one habit this year, it should be thanking your donors. It is not enough to simply send a tax receipt with a form letter when you receive a gift. Acknowledgement is important, but gratitude can make the difference between keeping or losing a donor relationship. Make sure your tax letter is followed with a sincere, personalized thank you. This is a great opportunity for board participation, and there are a number of ways in which you or your board volunteers can give thanks: make a phone call, send a handwritten note, or even create a video. I was recently asked whether these acknowledgments should go out to donors at all giving levels, and my answer was a resounding yes. Some may disagree, but I believe all donors should be treated as if they have the potential to become major donors. Your $10-a-month donor could be someone who is just dipping their toes into supporting your organization and who has much more to give. If you have the capacity, take the time to extend the same level of gratitude to all of your donors.
Another important habit you should add is making sure your supporters stay informed about where their dollars are going. Send regular newsletters. If that’s a challenge, aim to send a quarterly email update and a bi-annual mailer to those donors for whom you do not have emails. If you have the right staff or volunteer assistance, you should send out monthly e-newsletters and quarterly print mailers for non-email folks. Make sure to include lots of “you” language—that means your news updates should not be framed as what you are doing as an organization, but rather as what your donors are making possible with their generosity.
Simply adding these two achievable goals into your organization’s workflow this year will go a very long way toward solidifying your donor relationships, building strong habits, and increasing your giving this year. I wish you a prosperous 2023—keep being What’s Good in the world!
Jayme Dingle is the author of The Itty Bitty Book of Nonprofit Fundraising: Tips for Board Members from a Development Director who hates asking people for money and the owner and founder of What’s Good, a marketing, fundraising, training, and strategy firm dedicated to helping nonprofits grow and accomplish their goals. Learn more and get in touch at bewhatsgood.com!
Anthony Shop, Social Driver
In 2023, go all in on LinkedIn.
While nurturing relationships with nonprofit supporters in a hybrid world may seem daunting, LinkedIn is a great platform to reach many of the busiest people. It’s where chief executives can embrace the role of chief influencer.
Identify your most important partners, donors, and supporters—those you wish you could run into or have coffee with more often. Create a list of the top 10 LinkedIn profiles, saving links directly to the Activity section of their profile where you can quickly see which conversations they are joining and what they are posting about. Then stay at the top of their minds by liking and commenting on their posts, or even sharing their posts with your network. (Remember, this isn’t about promoting yourself but shining the light on others.) Rather than replying to their posts with prefilled responses, which can feel a bit robotic, take the time to write something personal that shows you are paying attention and care about their perspectives.
In just five minutes a day, social media platforms like LinkedIn can help busy nonprofit professionals combine a personal touch with digital reach. Building habits like these around consistent and personal supporter engagement can lead to greater payoff for nonprofits down the line.
Anthony Shop is the chairman of the National Digital Roundtable and cofounder and chief strategy officer of Social Driver, a digital and creative agency working with clients across the country to deliver communications strategies that mobilize audiences and raise brand awareness. Learn more and get in touch at socialdriver.com!
Lesley Molecke, Cornershop Creative
This year in particular, nonprofit fundraisers and marketers should focus on increasing average gifts, because the typical $100 donation won’t go as far as it used to. But how? At Cornershop Creative, we were inspired by a tactic the Capital Area Food Bank used: they added a checkbox to their donation form, asking donors to add 13% to their donation to counter the effects of inflation. Nonprofits can also counter inflation by focusing on tactics to convert one-time donors to recurring donors through upsell lightboxes, dedicated campaigns, and prioritizing monthly giving on donation forms. Building these habits now will help organizations meet more of their goals in 2023.