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Merge Fields Make Bad Friends

1008988 smallBetter leveraging technology for fundraising

Technology is a gift. And a curse. The same beautiful technology that allows us to launch campaigns in our pajamas, order lunches from our desktops and play P.I. on donors and foundation sources can also be a buzzkill.

It overwhelms our email boxes, creates ever growing task lists and buzzes at our bedside with product pitches. But on the upside: while it used to take weeks to catch up with every donor that gave to your rubber-chicken (yes, we said it) dinner, now you can easily thank everyone at once with the help of a database, a form letter and a pre-printed signature. Click. Click. Print. Mail. Done. 

But here's the problem. That same technology that makes us great at automation is making us terrible at fundraising. It's impersonal and not even close to enough to begin meaningful dialogue. You can't build relationships with merge fields. And let's be honest here: I didn't even read your thank you letter.

Even though your resources are limited, there's still a middle ground. Technology can be your friend. Here's how to use your technology smarter AND build relationships with those merge fields you all want to meet so badly.

Fundraising and innovation go hand-in-hand. But in every case, from the rise of stamps to social media, the early adopter was quickly copied by thousands of others, reducing initial gains. 

The trouble is, too many of us don’t follow best practices. So, you've hooked them once. Don't get too excited. If a new donor gives only once – as nearly 60% do – then you’re often left with a loss on your initial investment to gain that new donor. The true benefit of acquiring a donor can only come when that donor is retained over the long term.

So here are 5 tips to leverage techonology AND relationships to keep donors engaged, retained and giving.

1. Automation is only the starting point.

Yes, it's ok to send an automated donor thank you letter (in fact: we highly recommend it), but it must be followed up with a more personal invitation - to do more than give. For example, when nonprofits call new donors to say “thank you” those donors feel significantly more valued and reward the organization with increased loyalty and money. In fact, there is a direct relationship between thank-you calls and the following year’s giving — donors who received thank-you calls give 40 percent more the following year. Your shiny new technology can help keep track and automate some "personal" messages for important donor dates (their 'give-aversary' or 'birthday') but don't forget, it's the REAL personal touch that will insure your next donation.

2. We know events are hard work (throw them anyway).

Events are key to cultivating donors. They're the next step in your budding relationship. You've done the polite acquaintance dance- a few thank you emails here and there, a nice phone call. But the event gives you time to really say thanks and PARTY! Donating to an event is seen by many people as an equal exchange—they give you some money, and you give them an experience. Your job, then, is to make the event such an amazing experience that, in order for it to be fair, they need to donate even more. How do you get people to pre-pay their way into intanginable awesomeness? Use the best (psst...they're free) event tools out there to craft brand-friendly and beautiful invites. Then, create a schedule for promoting your event and touching base with your RSVP's and invite list (psst...you should do this at least once week for a month leading up to the event). Did you know that Eventbrite provides you with custom code to embed your swanky new page onto your website? Give it a try. 

3. Marketing matters. 

Ever feel like you are the "best kept secret" or "hidden gem"? Hey, that's actually a euphemism for bad marketing. Stop hiding, nobody forced you under that rock. With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the bevy of social media available for free, there's almost no excuse for the world not to know your story. Be deliberate in your strategy. When is the last time you shared meaningful knowledge or told a success story? Does your mission statement ring loud and clear across all channels? But you don't have to slave away all day in front of your phone or computer. Use hootsuite, tweetdeck or a myriad of other software to schedule (and strategize) your content. Looking for tips and tricks on how/when to post on social media? Well, we've got you covered. Check out our social media basics infographic

4. Create a culture of fundraising.

Creating a culture of fundraising will relieve some of the pressure that comes with fundraising. Having every aspect of your nonprofit’s daily operations tied into fundraising will make it part of the daily routine. Get everybody on board- starting with the board. Make sure that all Board members, staff and loyal supporters "like", "follow" and "share" the organization's content. Make sure to create incentives for employees to invite their friends to take part in supporting your organization and make a weekly practice of saying "thank you" to your top donors. Just be careful not to fall in the cliche traps that many fundraisers turn to.

5. Measure it. 

How can you cultivate people if you don't know who they are on a macro-level? Use tools like Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics, etc to learn more about your website visitors. Conduct free Survey Monkey surveys to pitch program ideas or ask for input on events. Use Constant Contact and your donor database to learn more about who responds to appeals and what they like. Tracking donor progress is a crucial step to make sure you’re on target to meet your goals. It’s important for organizations to standardize reporting to monitor any program's success. Make a list of the standard metrics your organization intends to monitor regularly to measure marketing progress and performance. Consider: the engagement level of participants (number of gifts, emails sent, Facebook messages sent, goals achieved) and proactively communicate with participants regarding their activity levels to encourage them when and where it is needed. 

Need help turning your technology into a gift (and shedding that ole curse)? We're marketing mavericks with a passion for tech. Let us help!

 

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