Individual giving is all about building relationships. The most successful individual giving campaigns utilize specific tools to improve the donor stewardship process and strengthen relationships in order to increase donations.
Building relationships sounds easy enough, but it’s crucial that your organization establishes a plan before starting the work. A 2015 study of 29 nonprofits found that establishing a plan had the single greatest impact on the success of their campaign. Nonprofits working from a plan saw a greater impact from other investments in their fundraising program, such as investing in their staff or devoting time to individual donor meetings.
Creating Your Communications Plan
Your plan should identify the goals and activities associated with each step of the donor engagement cycle. Secondly, your plan needs to cover which messages and channels belong to each phase.
A well-written PR plan acts like a GPS for your fundraising team. With your fundraising goal as the destination, the plan tells you each step you’ll take to get there. Abandon the GPS and you risk losing valuable time and resources, not to mention losing your way.
A PR plan is also a helpful tool for guiding written communications. Any message from your organization should be consistent with your brand, appropriate for the occasion and platform, and accurate in information. When correctly executed, communication builds trust and credibility, leading to a stronger response to fundraising efforts.
Step 1: Research
At Prosper for Purpose, we are believe in doing our homework. A poorly-researched plan is likely to fall flat, and it isn’t worth it to take that risk.
The first group to identify are your key audiences. Examples might include current donors, donors with the capacity to give more, prospective donors, and prospects within a certain radius of your organization.
Next, learn about your target market. Why do your donors give to your organization rather than other similar organizations? What motivates them to choose you? Who else might have the same motivations? What are their pain points and what solutions do you offer?
Sending a donor survey is a great way to verify what you think you know about your donors. The more information you can gather about your donors, the more accurately you can identify new prospects and compose messages that resonate with those individuals.
Interviews, case studies and focus groups are other viable research methods. Whichever method you choose, research provides context, allowing you to measure the campaign’s effectiveness in the evaluation stage.
Step 2: Plan
As previously discussed, a strong communications plan is your key to a successful campaign. Your plan should include the following:
- Situation/Problem Statement
- Key messages
As you go through each of these steps, consider how you can differentiate your organization from your competitors. Understanding your positioning is less about how you perceive your organization and more about how potential donors see you. What makes your organization uniquely valuable, and what do you offer that others cannot?
These points of differentiation should be reflected in your key messages. Speak to the benefits of your offer rather than listing its features. Ultimately, all relationship building comes down to building trust and adding value. If potential donors don’t see value in the relationship, you won’t see an increase in giving.
You should also have a quick pitch prepared with brief answers to the following questions:
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Who do you do it with?
- What makes you different?
One component of the plan (#7) is key messages. As you’re defining these messages, consider how these might change throughout the campaign. This is helpful as you create your content calendar, which maps out your strategic communications for the year.
A content calendar is important for staying organized, meeting deadlines, and making sure that your content is adjusted for any important events or holidays. An Excel workbook or Google Sheet with different tabs for your newsletter, social media and other owned media is one easy way to manage a calendar.
Step 3: Implement
After you plan your work, you work your plan. This phase is where you execute your strategies using your chosen tactics. With your plan as your guide, you can begin creating content for your campaigns.
Here are some popular channels nonprofits can use to inform, engage and inspire their target audience:
It is imperative that your nonprofit organization have an active online presence. If you have little to no presence online or if your website is outdated, your prospects are far more likely to move on to a competitor with whom they can interact online.
Most nonprofits spend just 1-2 hours a week on social media. While this is less than most businesses, knowing how to take and share good photos and videos is a simple, low-cost way to share your story. Check out our post about strategy-driven social media for nonprofits for more ideas on how to connect with your audience.
As important as it is to have an online presence, traditional media (such as television, newspaper, radio and magazine) still matters. In today’s world, traditional media can come across as threatening and pushy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can avoid this perception by carefully crafting your messages to be memorable rather than menacing.
In order to give the media a good story, do the research. Your pitch should demonstrate that you understand the publication. And don’t forget to pitch smaller publications — they tend to be more flexible with their content and pitches can be less competitive.
Email marketing continues to be a great communication tool for any organization because it’s easy, inexpensive, quick, personal, and it typically offers a healthy ROI.
There are a variety of email marketing providers to choose from, including MailChimp, GetResponse, Emma, Constant Contact, AWeber, and Vertical Response. Whichever platform you choose, there are few things to remember:
- Make sure your emails are valuable, relevant, and sent to the right people. Know the rules about solicitation so you don’t break them.
- People are opting IN to your content — make it matter.
Your donors are your biggest supporters, so simply thanking them is not enough. It’s important to reach out to them promptly (within two weeks) to let them know how their donation was used and why it matters.
Anytime you are thanking a first-time donor, call them! According to Bloomerang, more than 60% of first-time donors do not make a second donation, but first-time donors who get a PERSONAL thank you within 48 hours are four times more likely to give a second gift.
Donors want to know they made a difference and they want to feel the love. Give them other ways to engage with you — tell them to subscribe to your blog, follow you on social media, or attend a meet-and-greet.
Keep donors up-to-date so they know how appreciated they are. Send them a note, or feature them in a blog or social media post. By appreciating your donors, you will create advocates, ambassadors and champions for your brand.
Step 4: Evaluate
Now it’s time to evaluate what you’ve implemented. Or as we like to say, measure what matters. Measure your results against your original goals and analyze campaign performance for every phase. Repeat what worked. Replace what did not.
These days, the world of communications moves at lightning speed. Having a strategic communications plan is the most surefire way to generate results. Follow these steps to create a plan and you’ll be well on your way to building stronger, long-term relationships with donors.
Looking for support from an expert PR team in planning your fundraising campaign? Click here to set up a free 30-minute consultation call.