The Top 3 Fundraising Metrics You Should Be Tracking

Fundraising is an increasingly data-driven activity, just like most other forms of business and marketing today. 

For nonprofits, this makes sense. Effectively stewarding your limited resources with quantitative insights derived from data is a responsibility that simply comes with running a nonprofit. It’s essential for growing your reach and pursuing your mission over time. 

Looking towards the new frontiers of nonprofit technology, artificial intelligence can take much of the guesswork out of campaign planning. However, you still need a solid understanding of the data that drives more technically complex processes that you might adopt, like AI.

But where do you start? What are the most important fundraising metrics that a nonprofit should prioritize tracking?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and different metrics will be important in different circumstances, but here are what we consider to be three critical top-line metrics that nonprofits should track, study, and seek to improve for healthier fundraising and donor stewardship over time.

Fundraising ROI

Fundraising return on investment (ROI) is a fundamental metric that compares how much money you raise against how much you spent to raise it. 

ROI essentially tells you about the effectiveness of your fundraising campaigns—do they generate revenue through donations, or do they cost more money to run than they make? Both outcomes can be valuable learning experiences, but a negative ROI typically means you’ve encountered issues that need immediate attention to keep your program healthy.

How to Calculate It

To calculate fundraising ROI for a campaign:

  • Subtract its total costs from its total returns (or the amount raised). This gives you your campaign or appeal’s net revenue.
  • Then, divide the net revenue by the total costs. This is your ROI as a ratio. 
  • Multiply this number by 100 to present it as a percentage.

A positive ROI indicates that you raised more than you spent and generated revenue. The greater the ROI, the more effective the fundraising appeal was at securing donations. A negative ROI indicates that you spent more than you raised and lost revenue.

How to Improve It

There’s a practically infinite number of tactical ways to improve ROI depending on the unique context, audience, and goals of your campaigns. This open-endedness is the reason why digging even deeper with data is so useful but can also feel overwhelming.

There’s one core concept to understand: You need to raise more while spending less. The most fundamental way to do this is by better targeting your campaigns to specific donors in order to improve returns. 

For example, rather than sending a direct mail appeal to an extremely broad segment of your donors, try tailoring your message to a smaller but more targeted list of donors who are actually likely to give right now. When you send the appeal, you’ll secure more and larger donations on average than you would have otherwise, and you’ll have spent less on printing and postage. The result is a stronger, positive ROI for the appeal.

Whether you’re seeking unrestricted annual gifts in a mail appeal, asking for support for a specific program via email, or inviting donors to your next big-ticket event, this underlying concept will improve your ROI. Machine learning technology offers the most direct way to get started targeting your donors, offering a quicker and more accurate approach than traditional data analysis techniques.

Donor Retention

Your nonprofit’s donor retention rate is the rate at which you retain active donors from one campaign (or other period of time) to another. How many donors who gave to one appeal gave again to the next one? What does churn look like in your regular giving program? How does your retention of those donors track over time?

Donor retention is critically important to your nonprofit’s bottom line. Retaining the support of existing donors is much more cost-effective than focusing solely on acquiring new ones. Tracking and continually seeking to improve your donor retention rate is a must.

After all, reaching new audiences, catching their attention, and inspiring them to give is a costly and time-consuming process. However, keeping existing donors excited about giving is an easier lift, and it allows your team to focus more on growing those relationships and gifts over time—meaning a larger base of support for more efficient fundraising in the future. This is especially true in your regular giving programs, where the cost of acquisition can be high.

How to Calculate It

To calculate your donor retention rate:

  • Determine the timeframe or specific comparison for which you’d like to calculate your retention rate, for instance, annual retention in your regular giving program.
  • Divide the number of retained donors at the end of the year (i.e. donors who stayed the whole time) by the number of donors at the beginning of the time period. This is your donor retention rate for that particular time frame.
  • Multiply this number by 100 to present it as a percentage.

This will give you a top-line idea of how well your campaigns have retained the support of your existing donors. 

But remember that this formula does not account for donor acquisition, meaning you could see strong retention metrics that are in fact inflated with new donors who joined halfway through the time period. Donor acquisition is great news, but don’t lose track of how well you’re encouraging them to actually stick around over time. 

Effective data management software should make it easy to exclude specific types of donors, like those newly acquired, to keep your numbers accurate. The granularity to aim for will depend on exactly what you’re trying to accomplish, but it’s never a bad idea to dig deeper into the data when possible.

How to Improve It

Failing to retain donors, also called donor churn, can be caused by an extremely wide range of factors. Whatever the specific reasons that individuals choose not to engage with your campaigns, the overarching issue is that you’re losing their commitment. 

This is especially critical when it comes to your recurring donation program since these donors generate such high value for your organization over the long run and can be costly to acquire. The program only succeeds when the churn rate is low.

The best way we know how to address churn at its source is to proactively identify churn risks in advance. Artificial intelligence technology can be used to screen your nonprofit’s CRM, find patterns that lead to churn, and flag these individuals for extra attention. Engage them with phone calls, other forms of personal outreach, or event invites—just don’t ask for another donation right away.

Donor Lifetime Value

Donor lifetime value (LTV) is a measure of how much a donor gives to your organization from their first donation up until the time they stop giving. LTV is often averaged across particular segments of your donor base.

Understanding your donor LTV is important because it allows you to make all kinds of informed cost-benefit decisions relating to acquisition, retention, and stewardship.

For example, acquiring new donors can be costly, but if you know that your campaign will attract a segment of donors with a high average LTV, the cost of carefully acquiring them will be worth it. Additionally, tracking your donor LTV over time can reveal deeper retention issues—if the average lifetime value of a core segment of your donor base is falling, you’re losing them to churn and should address it.

How to Calculate It

To calculate donor lifetime value, use the following formula:

Donor Lifetime Value = Average Donor Lifespan x Average Donation x Donor Frequency

To generate the metrics necessary for the formula, you’ll need to make some initial calculations:

  • Compile the set of donors whose lifetime values you’ll be averaging, whether that’s your entire donor base or just one segment.
  • Determine the average number of years that donors in your segment actively give donations (Average Donor Lifespan).
  • Divide the total value of donations made by those donors by the number of individual donors (Average Donation).
  • Divide the total number of donations in a recent period (for instance, 5 years) by the total number of individual donors. Then, divide again by the number of years during which the donations were made (Donor Frequency).
  • Multiply your Average Lifespan, Donation, and Frequency numbers to generate your LTV for that set of donors over that specific timeframe.

Here’s an example: If 100 donors have given 1,000 gifts (totalling $100,000) in the past 5 years, and your average donor gives for 10 years, your LTV is:

Average lifespan = 10 years

Average donation = ($100,000 / 1,000 gifts) = $100

Donor frequency = (1,000 gifts / 100 donors / 5 years) = 2 gifts per donor per year

10 Years x $100 x 2 gifts = $2,000 LTV

In other words, these donors give 2 gifts of $100 every year for 10 years. The retained support of one of these donors represents a total of $2,000 for your mission over time.

How to Improve It

Many factors and unique contextual elements impact donor LTV, so it can be difficult to lay out a one-size-fits-all improvement strategy. However, the underlying issue is that donors aren’t sticking around long enough to give more and larger gifts over time. 

Churn and disengagement are often at the root of dropping LTV metrics—anything you can do to retain donors and keep them excited about your mission should help. Identify at-risk donors in advance so you can personally reach out, invite them to more events, diversify your campaign offerings, and send a wider range of messages than just the same appeals each year. 

To proactively improve LTV, pursue new stewardship opportunities, like by using AI to identify potential mid-level donors and singling them out for individual outreach. You can also explore corporate giving connections to help donors generate more value for your mission without needing to make more donations themselves.

The exact strategies you roll out to improve any of these metrics will vary based on the unique context and goals. But most importantly, be sure to actively track them over time and use tools like AI and a robust CRM platform to simplify the process of organizing and studying them. 

By taking a strategic approach backed up with data, you can begin to develop concrete acquisition, engagement, and retention strategies for each bracket of your donor base as your organization grows.

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Cause-Related Marketing: A Brief Guide for Nonprofits

In today’s world, consumers want to support corporations that emphasize ethical practices and work to make society a better place. For many businesses, that means taking part in corporate social responsibility and contributing to charitable organizations in their communities. From a nonprofit standpoint, this can lead to an increase in support from businesses and additional revenue for worthwhile causes.

Enter cause-related marketing. When charitable organizations and for-profit businesses work together, this impactful strategy has the power to elevate nonprofit/business partnerships and make a real difference in the world around us. However, many nonprofits fail to recognize the potential that cause marketing holds.

In this quick guide, we’ll provide you with some key insights and answer the following critical questions on the topic:

  1. What is cause-related marketing?
  2. How does cause-related marketing benefit nonprofits?
  3. What are some examples of cause-related marketing efforts?
  4. What are some best practices for cause-related marketing?

For businesses investing in cause-related marketing strategies, running a successful campaign can mean improved awareness, sales, and reputation. For nonprofits like yours, however, corporate cause marketing efforts can result in increased funding and long-term community partnerships.

Ready to learn more about this win-win situation and see how you can maximize its impact for your own cause? Let’s get started!

What is cause-related marketing?

Cause-related marketing is a specific type of corporate philanthropy in which companies partner with nonprofit organizations to spread the word about their brands while doing social good. By sponsoring a co-branded marketing campaign, the corporation often makes significant financial contributions to the nonprofit as well. This type of campaign creates a mutually beneficial relationship between for-profit and not-for-profit organizations with substantial advantages available to both parties.

How does cause-related marketing benefit nonprofits?

While cause-related marketing is typically seen as a corporate strategy, it simultaneously functions as effective marketing for nonprofit organizations that participate as well. Often, big corporations have larger marketing spends than charities that are typically on tighter budgets. As such, organizations can benefit from these partnerships (and free publicity!) in significant ways.

For example, cause-related marketing can result in the following advantages for nonprofits:

  • Increased funding: A major component of any cause-related marketing campaign is the financial support given by the business in question. Corporate contributions are one of three overarching sources of charitable funding for many organizations, alongside individual donations and grant-giving foundations. When nonprofits partner with these businesses, they collect a significant amount of revenue for their own fundraising needs.
  • Boosted awareness: Cause marketing efforts are a great way to get an organization’s name (and mission) out there in front of potential new supporters who might have never interacted with them before. Thanks to the business partnership, a company’s dedicated customers will be exposed to the charitable cause and even consider becoming loyal supporters themselves.
  • Long-term business partnerships: Although most cause marketing campaigns are short-term efforts, the forging of one provides a chance for ongoing nonprofit partnerships. For example, a business might sponsor a single nonprofit fundraising event then move on to support the organization through additional giving opportunities like matching gifts, volunteer grants, in-kind donations, or payroll deductions.

With these benefits and more, nonprofits are better able to secure much-needed revenue and drive their missions forward.

What are some examples of cause-related marketing efforts?

The first known example of a cause-related marketing campaign was spearheaded in 1983 by American Express. This company vowed to donate one cent to the Statue of Liberty restoration for every time a charge card was swiped, which resulted in increased card usage and new cardholders for the business as well as more than $1.7 million for the foundation rebuilding the statue.

Since then, these nonprofit/business partnerships have flourished. In recent times, a popular way that businesses support nonprofit organizations is by acting as a corporate sponsor on Giving Tuesday. For example, on Giving Tuesday 2020, DoorDash partnered with the leading network of nonprofit food pantries, Feeding America, to provide a meal to someone in need for every meal that was purchased through the food delivery app.

Alternatively, some companies choose to work with and support nonprofit efforts by sponsoring their events. This might happen on a smaller scale, with a local restaurant partnering with the neighborhood community center to host a walk-a-thon or similar fundraising event. When the business provides donations of funding or goods, the organization can, in turn, include them on promotional materials as a key sponsor for the event.

What are some best practices for cause-related marketing?

We’ve walked through some examples of successful campaigns and explored various reasons why nonprofits should invest in cause-related marketing. But how can you make sure your team gets the most out of your partnership efforts? Consider the following best practices.

1. Choose your corporate partners carefully.

Just like recruiting the right ambassadors for a fundraising campaign is critical for ensuring your organization is being represented well, so is choosing your corporate partners thoughtfully on an even larger scale. When you join forces with a for-profit business, their actions and practices reflect on your team, too. Therefore, it’s critical that you don’t go forging partnerships with just anyone!

To get started, consider seeking businesses with similar missions to your own. For example, if you run an animal welfare organization, you might reach out to companies selling pet food or other products. If you work for a food bank, you might consider local grocery stores or restaurants. 

Corporations that have been philanthropically minded in the past might offer a good jumping-off point here. Just be sure to do thorough research before getting deeply involved. After all, the funding you might receive is not going to be worth tanking your organization’s hard-earned reputation by way of a poorly constructed partnership. 

2. Avoid coming across as insincere. 

A big concern with cause-related marketing strategies is that, when not done well, the organizations involved can be seen as hosting a cheap marketing ploy or scam. This often occurs when communications surrounding the partnership focus on emotional manipulation or guilting the audience into giving.

To avoid this negative light on your organization and its mission, be sure to communicate the impact of your partnership so that your audience understands its purpose. For example, you can incorporate real success stories about people who have benefited from your services. In doing so, you remind potential supporters and customers of the philanthropic need behind your organization rather than functioning as just another request for money. 

3. Spread the word about your partnership.

While a lot of awareness about your cause-related marketing will likely come from your corporate partner, don’t forget to communicate the relationship and campaign specifics to your supporters as well. 

Here are a few ideas to get the word out about your cause marketing efforts:

  • Include details in your organization’s newsletter. If you already send updates to supporters in a regular newsletter, whether physical or digital, be sure to include a snippet about the campaign.
  • Send a postcard. A postcard in the mail can be a simple way to grab your audience’s attention and share basic details about your partnership. Since a postcard contains a limited amount of space, be sure to direct readers to another resource where they can learn more about getting involved. 
  • Share information on your social media profiles. More than likely, your organization has profiles on major platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Use these social networking sites to spread the word and encourage your followers to do the same. 
  • Update your nonprofit’s website. Your website is the main hub for information about your organization’s mission, services, and fundraising efforts. Create a dedicated web page that includes information about your cause marketing efforts, and be sure to link to your partner’s website as well!

By taking the time and effort to market your cause marketing partnership, you can increase the impact that your campaign has on your organization’s bottom line. The more people who hear about it, the more you’ll raise for your mission and the more your business partner will benefit as well! 

If you’re considering taking part in a cause-related marketing campaign, following these best practices is a great way to set your team (and the corporation’s!) up for continued success. 

All in all, cause-related marketing strategies have the potential to drive dedicated organizations forward—both nonprofit and for-profit businesses alike. To get started as a nonprofit, be sure to keep an eye out for philanthropic-minded corporations and see where these partnerships can take you. Best of luck!

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Building an Engagement Strategy to Boost Board Member Morale

You want your organization’s board members to be your biggest supporters, but sometimes, you’re so preoccupied that you forget to properly cultivate them into engaged champions of your cause. While this may not pose an immediate threat, the impact of neglecting board members’ experiences can heavily impact their work (and consequently your organization’s success) over time.

If you want board members to succeed and be excited to serve, they’ll need to be thoroughly invested in the mission and their work, which requires some extra effort on your end. This starts the moment they express interest in joining your board and extends throughout the duration of their term. In the end, the extra investment will be well worth it.

Whether you’re new to board leadership or are simply looking to revamp your engagement strategy, you’ve come to the right place! Board engagement requires a unique approach at every organization, and to help you design a thorough engagement strategy, we’ll walk through these key elements:

1. Why Board Engagement Matters

An engaged board is crucial to the health of any organization. Engaged team members are naturally more impactful because they’re willing to devote the necessary time and effort to complete their tasks and exceed expectations.

An engaged team is much more knowledgeable and passionate about the organization. This directly translates into a handful of valuable benefits, including:

  • Better governance in the boardroom since everyone will be focused on producing the best outcomes for the organization
  • Improved public relations because they’ll naturally spread the word about all the noteworthy work your organization is doing
  • More board recruitment opportunities, including an increased pool of participants who have heard great things about serving on your board

Overall, engaging your board members will lead to valuable opportunities for the organization. On the other hand, a disengaged board can work against your vision, making it difficult to make progress. 

Nurturing engagement is certainly challenging, but failing to do so can eventually produce insurmountable obstacles for the executive director and the board itself.

2. Ways to Boost Board Engagement

Now that you’re aware of why board engagement matters, it’s time to jump into the fun part: creating a plan for enhancing the board experience. 

Bear in mind that it’s not enough to simply increase responsibilities and demand more of your members’ time. These individuals have to want to go above and beyond. To inspire your approach, we’ll walk through a handful of simple yet highly impactful strategies that encourage board members to stay involved.

Provide a meaningful onboarding experience.

Your board of directors is likely comprised of individuals from all different walks of life and various experience levels. They join for all sorts of reasons, whether they’re looking to develop valuable skills, contribute to society, network with other leaders, or socially interact with others during this time of social distancing. Regardless of those reasons, you need to recognize that many of them might have minimal experience with this type of role. 

Being in a leadership position may not come naturally for some people, but sufficient guidance can go a long way. Lay the groundwork for your board members with an onboarding experience that sets expectations and helps them understand their roles upfront. For example:

  • Assign a board buddy to show new members the ropes, guide them through their first few meetings, and answer any questions they may have. They’ll appreciate having a friendly face in the boardroom.
  • Create a welcome packet that condenses down necessary information. Include a summary of your nonprofit’s history, your organization’s bylaws, a list of current board members, and a calendar of upcoming events.
  • Walk through each role’s responsibilities to remove any ambiguity. Be sure to communicate that all members should actively advocate for your mission, collaborate with their fellow board members, and come fully prepared to meetings.

Joining a board of directors for the first time can be intimidating. Offering an exceptional onboarding experience can go a long way to break the ice and clarify expectations. This sets the right tone from the start and helps everyone get up to speed quickly so that they can start to make actual progress.

Make the most of your meetings.

Your board members lead busy lives. On top of serving your board, they also balance their work and home lives. So, time in the boardroom must be maximized to the fullest extent possible. Otherwise, they’ll easily become irritated and will mentally clock out before you realize it.

Especially if you’re meeting in a virtual or hybrid format, your officers need to invest plenty of time into keeping board members focused and fully engaged during meetings. Here are a few ways to help board members make the most of their time together:

  • Share agendas in advance. A clear and focused board meeting agenda with discussion topics will enable board members to come fully prepared and ready to contribute with thoughtful questions and insights. Consider setting time limits and noting the goal of each item as well, whether that’s to inform, seek advice, or arrive at a decision. That way, you won’t waste time discussing items that were meant to be a quick update.
  • Encourage board members to participate. Those who passively listen won’t help you accomplish your goals. Encourage attendees to comment and ask questions as they think of them, instead of waiting until the end. Even if they’re afraid to cause dissonance, all board members’ opinions should be heard. You might also ask if anyone has anything to add after each discussion item, giving them one last opportunity to chime in.
  • Limit routine business items. Meetings are the board’s primary opportunity to collaborate and put initiatives into motion. While you certainly need to cover the “have-to’s,” be sure to devote plenty of time to strategic discussions regarding your mission.

Your board chair and administrator will lay the groundwork for your meetings, making sure they hit all the necessary talking points and stay focused. However, it’s up to board members to come prepared and ready to participate in every meeting. Every step you take to make the boardroom more engaging will make preparation and participation much easier on them.

Encourage interaction outside of the boardroom.

Only communicating during meetings will hinder your organization’s growth. When board members connect outside of the boardroom, engagement will thrive. Whether they’re discussing your mission or their personal lives, here are two ways they can stay connected between meetings:

  1. Retreats: An annual (or semi-annual) retreat gets board members away from the usual meeting space, allowing them to think critically about your organization’s progress. While smaller organizations may only need an afternoon, larger organizations might need two days to cover their bases.
  2. Social Events: Informal gatherings enable board members to connect on a personal level. Whether in-person or virtual, a more relaxed environment allows them to talk about their personal lives, promoting camaraderie and impacting their chemistry in the boardroom.

However your board members interact, just make sure they stay in touch between meetings. This will go a long way to ensure that they stay connected with your work and keep your organization top of mind.

Thank them for their hard work and dedication.

Don’t let your board members’ hard work go unnoticed. Remember, they’re volunteers; they choose to give their time and can walk away at any point. Pat them on the back for a job well done on a regular basis. Otherwise, they may interpret your silence as a lack of appreciation, leaving a sour taste in their mouths.

Not thanking your board is the easiest way to lose even the most passionate contributors that you worked so hard to recruit.

Among other organizational leaders, the executive director should reach out on a regular basis to personally thank board members for their hard work, whether that’s via phone call, face-to-face, or some other means. Some organizations even shine the spotlight on outstanding board members by featuring them in their newsletter or posting about them on social media. Align with each board member to make sure they would appreciate public recognition first though.

If you’re looking for more ideas – try hosting thank-you events, creating a recognition wall, or giving a small token of appreciation like a gift card or t-shirt. No matter which approach you take, make sure to tailor your strategies and thank them in ways that are meaningful to them. 

3. How to Measure Board Engagement

“Engagement” is often an ambiguous term with no truly accurate way to measure it. It usually refers to the relationship between an organization and individuals, be they staff members, donors, volunteers, or board members. It’s often viewed along two axes: (1) “warmth” or sentiment by the individuals toward the organization, and (2) a number of interactions between the organization and individuals.

In other words, there’s no true way to measure board engagement. It varies across organizations and is often based on opinions, rather than hard numbers. However, there are a couple of ways you can track and analyze engagement, broken down into two types:

  1. Psychological measures. How emotionally connected do individuals feel to your organization? One of the simplest ways to measure psychological engagement is to simply ask. Send a survey, asking members to rate various aspects of their engagement. For instance, ask questions regarding their participation and what they believe can be improved. Take the following survey questions for example:
    • On a scale from 1 to 5, what level of preparation and participation do you dedicate to board meetings?
    • How well do you understand your role as a board member? Are expectations clear?
    • What would you change about the board meetings?
    • Could better organization, including online tools, help you manage tasks?
    • Do you think you could describe the organization’s mission and accomplishments in an elevator speech?
    • What should board members do more of? (e.g. contribute professional talents and resources, tap networks for donations, follow through on assigned tasks)
    • What actions should our nonprofit take to keep developing and inspiring our board? (e.g. diversity of board recruits, virtual meeting options, board education opportunities)
  1. Behavioral measures. Consider the amount of time board members invest in reviewing board materials, communicating via electronic means, asking questions, and completing their tasks. These all serve as latent, non-invasive ways to track behavioral investment.

Having some sort of way to measure board engagement is crucial. Otherwise, you won’t have a reliable way to determine if your strategies are helping, hurting, or making a difference at all. Proactively analyzing engagement means you can adjust your approaches and make sure your efforts are worth it.

Recruiting and onboarding exceptional board members is only the first step in a successful board lifecycle. Successful engagement is a multi-step process—you can’t expect them to stay fully engaged throughout their terms without a bit of motivation.

Remember, board engagement looks different for every organization. No matter how passionate your board members are, your team will need to take extra steps to maintain their involvement and encourage them to stay invested in their work. After all, the last thing you want is a bored board. All that does is waste their valuable time and effort!

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Requesting Donations for Your Capital Campaign: 4 Key Tips

If your organization is looking to build its assets and facilitate growth, you might want to start planning a capital campaign. Money raised through a capital campaign can fund the development of projects like new buildings, renovations, and equipment, or provide start-up funds for new programs and increase endowment

Sounds exciting, but not so fast. Extensive planning is critical to maximize the success of your campaign. This guide will share some expertise regarding capital campaigns in order to bolster your future fundraising efforts. 

We’ll go over a comprehensive, step-by-step process to request donations for your capital campaign. Read on to hear some of our years of insight regarding this process as it is split up into the following steps:

  1. Create a fundraising plan
  2. Request donations online
  3. Send direct mail appeals
  4. Thank donors for their support

We’re bringing you our best practices to help your organization improve and thrive. Dive into our guide, and prepare to learn some game-changing capital campaign fundraising tips. 

1. Create a fundraising plan

Your best foot forward with your capital campaign starts with your team, and fundraising plans are key to benefiting your team and organizing your campaign. With a well-written plan, your entire team will have a document to reference for all of the decisions you make as you move forward with your fundraising efforts. 

Fundraising plans organize vital information about your campaign in one place, allowing you and your team to set goals with confidence. The content of your campaign plan will surely vary depending on the needs of your organization and your capital campaign itself. Some elements you may want to consider include:

  1. Objectives
  2. Goals
  3. How to recognize donors
  4. Leadership structure
  5. Campaign communications
  6. Budget
  7. Timeline

Each of these elements plays a vital role in the creation of a successful capital campaign plan. And luckily for you, a successful capital campaign plan often leads to a successful capital campaign. The plan’s format can vary depending on what works best for you, but every fundraising plan helps achieve the same goal: putting all individuals working on the campaign on the same page.

2. Request donations online

At a time when so much of our lives has shifted online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, online fundraising is more beneficial than ever. In fundraising, we need to quickly adapt our work to the changing societal atmosphere—and a pandemic isn’t exempt from that idea. 

Requesting donations online is key during a time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders. This shift shouldn’t be too difficult, though. Statistics even show that 54% of donors prefer to give online. Not only will requesting donations online accommodate the remote format of our everyday interactions, it will also appeal to the evidently expressed preferences of donors.

Whenever you’re soliciting online donations for your capital campaign, keep it simple. Consider ditching a brochure—Zoom meetings don’t bode too well with large blocks of text for your donors to read. Instead, work on strengthening information more structured like an outline, such as a donor discussion guide

3. Send direct mail appeals

For years, direct mail fundraising has supported much of nonprofit fundraising and communication efforts. With direct mail appeals, it’s important to consider how you come across to your audience—the donor. Make sure to tell an engaging story, using visuals and personalization to connect with the reader. 

Direct mail appeals can even connect with your online donation solicitations. For example, you can include information in your appeal on how individuals may donate online. Include a URL or QR code, for instance, to your online donation site. Giving your donors many ways to give will increase the likelihood of their donating. 

4. Thank donors for their support

Thanking donors is so important. It builds good donor stewardship, which can make the difference between successful and poor fundraising. Your authentic gratitude will lead to happier donors, more positive feelings about your organization, and increased future giving. 

You can pursue creative ways to thank your donors, such as video thank-you’s, small gifts related to your mission, or handwritten notes using memorable language. No matter the format, the most important aspect of your “thank you” is that it is genuine and heartfelt.

Stewardship isn’t just about simply thanking your donors. Make sure they feel appreciated and valued—that’s what makes your gratitude memorable. With time and effort put into your stewardship practices, you’ll build trust with your donors and keep them giving to your cause year after year.

Your capital campaign will be unique in its needs and structure, but hopefully, this guide gave you some useful tips and essential fundraising practices. With careful attention throughout the entire process—from the fundraising plan to the “thank you”—you’ll be able to maximize your fundraising for your capital campaign. 

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Importance of Career Goal-Setting in the Nonprofit Sector

Those who work for nonprofits rarely hold the same motivations as employees in the for-profit sector. Generally, the greatest driver for nonprofit professionals like yourself is the desire to do good work in the world. However, this admirable ambition is often accompanied by discomfort when it comes to searching for self-advancement opportunities.

Nevertheless, career goal-setting in the nonprofit sector is just as important as it is in the for-profit world. Nonprofit professionals have the chance to achieve higher personal satisfaction and to increase their impact on the community by advancing their own skills. 

Even if it might seem uncomfortable or unnatural to put yourself first (nonprofit professionals are characteristically selfless people), setting your own professional goals is incredibly important to give a boost to yourself and your mission. By pursuing opportunities for self-improvement, you acquire an enhanced skill set to become a more effective contributor to your cause. 

In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into the impact that career goal-setting has on professionals in the nonprofit world. Goal-setting contributes positive benefits such as:

Stay tuned at the end for some actionable steps you can take to set your own goals. Let’s dive in!

Job Satisfaction

Career goal-setting is a vital aspect of job satisfaction, no matter the industry. Setting goals, identifying the necessary steps to reach those goals, and ultimately checking items off the list is therapeutic and leads to happier professionals. This is because it shows how you are advancing

You’ve heard the term “dead-end job” before. This term refers to jobs with no opportunities for advancement or improvement. These jobs are generally discussed in a downtrodden tone by unhappy individuals who will eventually leave their work for something more satisfying. 

On the other hand, professionals happy in their careers often have an idea of where they want to go and have identified the steps it will take to get there. 

Opportunity for advancement is by no means the only measure of job satisfaction. Other common elements include compensation, stress levels, work-life balance, job security, workplace relationships, and access to professional development opportunities. With this extensive list of potential job satisfaction elements, keeping advancement opportunities in mind can be challenging, especially in a sector where your mission dominates your main focus. 

Let’s consider Knox, a professional fundraiser working with an organization to help homeless veterans get back on their feet with well-paying jobs, housing, and more. He has worked at the mid-sized organization for a couple of years, helping raise millions of dollars in total. He’s by no means a newcomer to the industry, but he’s not entirely sure where his career is going. He’s performing well in his regular routine of making calls and building relationships with supporters, but he’s looking for opportunities for variation in his daily tasks

Instead of looking for a new job opportunity, Knox decides to talk to the HR department about additional opportunities and responsibilities within the organization. He learns that the next natural step in his career path is to become a major gifts officer, but he still has several skills to develop before reaching that level. He starts making a list of steps to take in order to achieve that goal, including seeking educational opportunities for professional development, specifically focused on enhancing communication strategies. Having something to work toward has greatly changed Knox’s outlook on his job, revitalizing his dedication to his position and the mission. 

One element of this story that we’d like for you to keep in mind is the phrase, “instead of looking for a new job opportunity.” Knox was in danger of leaving the organization if nothing changed in his current position, but finding a new opportunity to advance his career helped keep him on board. This retention is key to helping nonprofits avoid spending the funds and effort required by the hiring process and to retain a skilled workforce for the long run.

Organizational Efficiency

Efficient organizations are by definition those that are able to accomplish more in a shorter time period and usually with fewer resources. This means that the organization gets the most out of staff members, funds, and time. 

When nonprofit professionals such as yourself start taking steps toward reaching career goals, you’ll end up learning and advancing your skills in the sector. Nonprofit leaders often (and should) reward individuals who learn new skills that will help them succeed.

Your organization may provide opportunities through internally designed programs presented in a learning management system or pre-built courses from another provider. Some organizations, especially smaller ones with fewer resources, may even leave it up to the individual to find these growing opportunities on their own, but this isn’t the recommended approach. 

As individuals learn more about the sector and start improving their own skills, they’ll discover they’re able to complete their jobs more efficiently. This creates a ripple effect throughout the organization. As more and more people learn to become more efficient, the entire organization will be better equipped to accomplish its mission. 

Consider the various aspects of your nonprofit’s strategy you might impact by becoming a more efficient employee. Organizations with effective strategic plans provide measurable elements for their planning processes. You can use these measurable elements to show how much you’ve accomplished for the organization and prove your own efficiency as an individual contributor. For example, consider the following nonprofit department goals and how individual efficiency can achieve these organization-wide goals: 

  • The development team has a goal to recruit 100 new supporters by the end of the quarter. Sally, a member of the development team, takes a course about communication with supporters in order to learn how to communicate more purposefully and persuasively. She tests out a few variations of emails to new prospects, then creates a template to use and customize based on the most effective ones. She shares this template with the team, saving everyone time that would have been spent endlessly crafting emails and ensuring the effectiveness of messages. By the end of the quarter, the organization has recruited 150 new supporters, surpassing the team’s goal. 
  • The programming team has a goal to build ten new homes for disadvantaged families in the next six months. It takes 20 hardworking volunteers to build a home in the timeframe of three weeks. Jessie, one of the programming team members, figures out that if they had 25 volunteers and can get volunteers up-to-speed faster on the building procedures, they could build a home in two weeks instead of three. Therefore, he works with volunteer recruiters to spread the word about the opportunity and develops a standardized course to teach them about the build process and safety procedures. By the end of six months, the team built twelve homes! 

A willingness to learn and share with the team is at the heart of efficiency improvements. Consider how becoming more efficient in your own position will help drive the entire team forward at your nonprofit. 

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many nonprofit organizations started working remotely and many professionals used newfound time to advance their own skill sets and take advantage of learning opportunities. As you return to in-person work either now or in the near future, keep professional development in the forefront of your mind. You don’t need a national pandemic to find the time to learn. 

Continue seeking opportunities to learn how to become a more effective and efficient staff member. This helps you and your organization increase your impact on the community and your mission. 

Community Impact

As you and your organization as a whole become more efficient, you’ll increase the impact you have on the community. We saw this in the examples listed in the last section, and the same principle is true for your nonprofit’s projects and processes.

Therefore, when you start considering how you’ll set goals in your own professional career, be sure to keep in mind how your continuous development and leadership at the organization will create the impact you want to see on the community. 

This focus on the larger impact will help you keep your eye on the prize and maintain motivation for achieving these goals. 

Let’s consider one more example to further explain the idea of community impact through the eyes of professional development: 

Phil is a major gift officer at the same organization as Knox, focusing on providing for homeless veterans. While he’s an effective major gift officer, he understands there are always opportunities for improvement and does some research on the different skills that he could develop to become even better at his job. He realizes one area he can improve is his written communications. Phil takes a writing course and dives deeper into best practices for email messages. He immediately sees his open rates among major prospects increase. 

As more major prospects read Phil’s messages, they become more and more acquainted with the organization’s mission. Then, when Phil calls and invites them to give, more of the prospects are on board with the idea. In the end, Phil raises 10% more than he had in the past simply by improving his email skills. This money goes toward helping 100 additional veterans during the year, all thanks to Phil’s desire to learn and improve his skills. 

Getting Started

By now you understand the importance of setting career goals and taking steps toward achieving these goals. The next question is, how can you get started? 

First, consider where you want to be in the next two to five years. This will become your overarching goal for your career. If you’re not sure what it is you want, consider talking to your HR department or your manager to discuss the options. 

Then, consider the skills that someone in that position needs to succeed. Do they need awesome written and verbal skills? Persuasion? Organization? Planning? Write out a list of all of the skills someone in that position needs to be successful. 

Next, analyze your own experience and development of those same skills. Where are you already strong and how can you exemplify these strengths within your current position? What are your opportunities for improvement? 

Finally, seek out development opportunities that will help you improve.

When you actively show that you’re willing to put in the time, effort, and work necessary to reach the ultimate goal, you’ll be much more likely to get there. Openly communicate your goals to your manager, then explain the steps you’re taking to get there. Good luck!

One hand clicks an online donate button and another hand drops a coin in a physical donate box.

Using Both Online and Offline Fundraising Strategies: 5 Tips

In this post-COVID era, it can be easy to feel unsure about what route to take with your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts. On the one hand, you’ve likely become more comfortable with digital fundraising, virtual or hybrid events, and online outreach strategies. After all, these are the tactics you’ve had to employ over 2020, 2021, and into 2022 to help your nonprofit stay afloat. But on the other hand, life is finally starting to go back to normal. You and your team might be itching to embrace the “real” world again and plan in-person events, volunteer opportunities, and other programming.

It can be difficult to decide between an online or offline approach, especially when it comes to fundraising. But we have some good news for you—you can have the best of both worlds by using strategies from both online and offline fundraisers. 

You don’t have to abandon your online fundraising work in favor of in-person campaigns, or vice versa. You just need to harness the strategies you’ve learned from each in order to supercharge your next fundraising campaign. 

In this post, we’ll give you five tips for successful fundraising that incorporates both online and offline strategies: 

  1. Keep your branding consistent across all marketing channels.
  2. Personalize your marketing materials.
  3. Direct donors to your online donation form. 
  4. Send personalized thank yous to your donors. 
  5. Gather and analyze fundraising data. 

1. Keep your branding consistent across all marketing channels. 

Whether you’re planning an in-person dance-a-thon or a virtual auction, you’re going to need a solid marketing plan that uses both print and online marketing materials if you want to reach as many of your supporters as you can. 

Effective and consistent branding will be critical no matter what kind of marketing material you’re designing. This helps your supporters (and potential supporters) identify and recognize your organization. Branding includes any colors, fonts, images, designs, and logos you use to distinguish your organization from others in the nonprofit sector. There are two things to keep in mind when branding your marketing materials: 

  • Keep your branding simple. Don’t overdo it with loud colors, crazy fonts, and cluttered designs. A good rule of thumb is to stick to just a few appealing colors and keep it simple. 
  • Stay consistent across mediums and match your branding across your organization’s operations. If your branding on your social media ads doesn’t match the branding on your fundraising letters or volunteer websites, your supporters can be easily confused and will likely view your nonprofit as unprofessional and unorganized. Coordinate with your entire team to make sure your brand is represented consistently across all of your operations and promotional materials. 

When you brand your marketing materials to be consistent with the rest of your organization’s operations, you can be better prepared to meet every supporter where they are, whether they interact with your organization through direct mail or Instagram posts. And the more people you can reach through your marketing strategies, the higher your fundraising potential is. 

2. Personalize your marketing materials.

Another way of meeting donors where they are is to personalize your marketing materials. Though direct mail often helps you communicate a more “personal touch” from your organization, you should also take the opportunity to personalize your online fundraising appeals, too. Try some of these strategies:  

  • Segment your audience and target different groups accordingly. Sort your donors into groups based on shared characteristics like average gift size, preferred communication method, gender, and age. For example, you might notice that one of your segmented audiences is younger people who respond well to tweets. You then know how best to reach that portion of your audience and can personalize your approach when it comes to marketing your fundraiser to them. 
  • Use supporters’ names. An effective fundraising appeal reads like it’s written just for you. One of the best ways to make your donors feel seen as individuals is to address them by name in your marketing materials. “Dear Marie,” or “Hello, Bill” will make emails or other communications feel much more personal than something plain and generalized like “Dear Donor.” 
  • Thank your donor specifically for past contributions. A donor will be much more likely to get involved in your new fundraiser if you thank them for past monetary donations or volunteer work. Specific thank yous make a donor feel like their contribution wasn’t lost on your organization and like they actually helped you make a difference. This in turn increases their loyalty to your nonprofit and your cause. 
  • Position the donor as the hero. Let your donors know what is possible because of them, not because of your organization. Use phrases like, “Donors like you gave over $15,000 last year to fight hunger in our state,” instead of “We spent $15,000 last year fighting hunger in our state.” To get your donors reading your online fundraising letters or emails, you have to put the focus on them and let them know how important they are to your organization’s ability to accomplish its mission. 

Use these personalization strategies to reach each individual supporter, whether you’re communicating with them through an email or a tweet. Once a supporter feels like they really matter to your nonprofit and your mission, they’ll be more inclined to participate in your newest fundraising push. 

3. Direct donors to your online donation form.

Your donation form is where the actual act of giving happens the majority of the time, so you have to find creative ways to direct your donors to it. While having consistent branding and personalizing your fundraising appeals will certainly help your donors get there, there are a few other things you can do, both online and offline, to guide them to your donation form. These include: 

  • Putting a QR code to your donation form on your fundraising letter or postcard. Incorporating a QR code on a printed letter is a great way to merge online and offline fundraising approaches. The recipient of your fundraising letter can simply scan the QR code and go directly to your donation form to complete their transaction. Make sure your donation page and form are optimized for mobile devices, and, just to be safe, include the web address and donate-by-mail options so that donors feel that they can give in the way that works best for them. 
  • Informing donors about how they can check their matching gift eligibility on your donation page. According to 360MatchPro’s matching gift statistics, 65 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer donation matching to their employees. Sometimes, however, people aren’t aware of the opportunity to have their gift matched. You can solve that problem by partnering with a software provider that allows you to include a searchable database tool directly on your donation form and by providing resources that educate people about matching gifts. Mail a brochure or write a blog post on your website about matching gifts and how donors can find out if their employer participates. 
  • Using CTAs on your print materials. We usually talk about calls to action, or CTAs, in terms of websites. Many nonprofits use CTA buttons on their sites that say things like “Join the fight to end cancer!” or “Donate now!” which  take supporters to a donation form. Why not apply the same idea to your print materials? You can always use a CTA phrase in a fundraising letter or postcard, or even replicate a CTA button in print by writing out a CTA and then including a QR code with it. 
  • Including links to your donation form on your social media posts. It’s obvious that having a healthy flow of traffic between your website and your social media pages is beneficial to your nonprofit. But are you linking to your donation form on a regular basis? Make sure to provide links to your donation form in your Facebook statuses, Instagram bio, and tweets as you see fit. However, avoid linking to the form too much—you don’t want to seem overly pushy about getting donations. 

Take these ideas for driving supporters to your donation form and modify them to meet both your organization’s and your donors’ needs. Using fundraising data can help you determine the most effective way to do this. 

4. Send personalized thank yous to your donors.

It’s easy to feel like a fundraiser is over once the last donation has been counted. But you can’t let your nonprofit miss out on the opportunity to thank your donors, which helps with donor retention.

Placing an emphasis on retention is critical because stewarding existing donors is more cost-effective than constantly acquiring new givers. That means you need to work hard to thank your donors for their contributions.   

Many nonprofits ensure that a donor is thanked right after donating online and then send a more personalized email or thank-you letter. You can also get more creative in how you thank your supporters. For example, you might send a personalized thank-you postcard, create a short thank-you video to email out, mail out free swag, or even message individual supporters on Facebook. 

However you decide to thank your donors, be sure to be specific. Thank them by name, identify what they’ve contributed, and tell them how their donation will be used to further your cause. 

You’re probably noticing a trend—this is yet another way you can meet your supporters where they’re at! Some of your donors will respond better to a thank-you video than free swag, so pay attention to your audience’s needs and work with your team to meet them. 

5. Gather and analyze fundraising data.

After your fundraiser is over, you’ll need to get an idea of how effective it actually was. You can do that by gathering and then analyzing the data about your fundraiser. You might decide to track the following throughout your campaign: 

  • Traffic generated through your QR code
  • The way traffic is driven to your donation page 
  • Average donation amount 
  • Donor demographics such as age, area of residence, and gender 

You and your team can use data like this not only to determine whether you should opt for an in-person fundraiser or virtual fundraiser next. You can also see what kinds of donors you’re reaching with your multichannel approach to marketing and fundraising, and determine how you can better connect with them and retain their support far into the future.

Even though the pandemic is hopefully coming to an end, you don’t have to throw virtual fundraising out the window. Instead, take the things you’ve learned from online fundraising and apply them to your in-person efforts, and vice versa. This will help you not only increase your fundraising potential, but will also increase your ability to connect with your supporters in new and more meaningful ways, ensuring that they’ll remain loyal to your nonprofit and your cause. 

A smartphone with three text bubble popping out. Profile images for the text bubbles include 2 robots and a human.

The Future of Fundraising: AI and Capital Campaigns

Capital campaigns already have game-changing possibilities for nonprofits. With a successful campaign, your organization can secure the large-scale support it needs to make new investments that will push your mission forward for years to come.

But it’s the digital age—how can you use technology to drive your capital campaign’s results even further? We recommend artificial intelligence.

With solid capital campaign strategies coupled with AI technology, the sky’s the limit. AI can help any nonprofit fundraise and engage donors in smarter, more targeted, and more proactive ways. If you’re already investing time and resources into planning a capital campaign, it’s worthwhile to explore all of your options. Many nonprofits hire consultants or extra development staff during their campaigns, so it may also be the right time to expand your tech stack with AI.

Let’s walk through how AI works and, more importantly, its potential benefits for the different stages of your capital campaign.

How It Works

Artificial intelligence is a relatively new trend in the nonprofit landscape, so there are a lot of misconceptions about it floating around. The key point to remember is that AI technology allows you to use your data to make proactive predictions about future donor behavior. 

AI for nonprofits works by studying your nonprofit’s data on past donor interactions and finding complex patterns and relationships over time. From there, AI software trains predictive algorithmic models that can chart out likely future behaviors. These models generate individualized predictive scores and ranks that tell you how likely each donor will be to take a target action.

In practice, you can use AI to predict any number of specific donor actions. For example, nonprofits use AI tools to predict the likelihood that donors will:

  • Give to a direct mail appeal right now
  • Join a regular giving program if asked
  • Lapse out of a regular giving program
  • Be interested in upgrading their recurring donation amount
  • Give a mid-level gift
  • Give a major gift or leave a gift in their will

Making these kinds of predictions accurately with traditional data analysis and segmentation is practically impossible, not to mention incredibly time-consuming. AI tools give you easy-to-use predictive metrics. Simply sort your donors by their likelihood to take your target action and go from there. 

How to Use AI in a Capital Campaign

AI can be extremely useful in day-to-day fundraising contexts, but it can also give your capital campaign strategies the boosts they need to succeed. More targeted outreach and appeals will increase your team’s effectiveness and your campaign’s all-around ROI.

Here are a few examples of how you can put AI to use during different stages of your campaign:

During the Quiet Phase

AI-driven predictions can change how your organization approaches prospecting before and during a capital campaign’s quiet phase.

The ability to predict which of your existing donors would be likely to give the equivalent of a major or mid-level gift can give your team a significant head start. Easily sorted likelihood scores mean you can build initial prospect lists in just minutes—no need to spend hours combing through your CRM to find prospects ready to make a new or larger gift.

Of course, you’ll still want to conduct more extensive prospect research to guide your conversations and to identify others outside of your existing donor base, but the time saved is a major benefit in and of itself. This lets your development team focus more on building relationships and preparing for asks rather than on studying your data to find their first prospects. 

By cross-referencing the donors identified using AI with your existing prospect list, you can also identify the ‘top’ priorities for outreach, as well as any donors who are already connected with your cause who you should look into further.

During the Public Phase

When you take your campaign public with broader announcements, events, and fundraising appeals, AI can help you raise more, better target your outreach, and save more time for your team. It’s especially helpful in two key ways:

  • Building mailing lists for appeals. Predictive scores can tell you exactly who’d be receptive to a direct mail appeal at any given time. This will help you save time creating segmented mailing lists and money that would’ve otherwise been spent on printing and sending campaign materials. Plus, you can determine who’d be likely to make the largest gifts in response to a direct mail appeal, meaning you can send your more expensive campaign brochures, custom messages, or other “high-value packs” just to them to maximize returns. 
  • Supporting additional public phase goals. If you’ll be building additional goals into your campaign’s public phase (for instance, boosting enrollment in your recurring giving program), AI can help there, too. As you lay out your public phase outreach strategies, AI-generated predictions about who’s likely to churn, join your program, or increase their giving level can directly shape the messages you send. This means you can easily accomplish two goals at once—securing public phase donations while also reducing churn or boosting enrollment in your giving program—without needing to build a complicated new strategy from scratch.

The overarching idea is that broad messages and appeals are tricky (cast too wide a net and you’ll waste time and money; cast too small of one and you’ll miss out on donations). Targeted lists built with AI predictions can bring your public phase a new level of focus and efficiency.

Broader Long-Term Benefits

Once your capital campaign wraps up, AI can generate even more value for your mission. Consider these long-term benefits:

  • Well-timed follow-up communication. With AI showing you exactly who’s ready for an appeal or other message, you can drastically simplify both post-campaign follow-up and ongoing appeals over the long run.
  • Stronger relationships over time. Perfectly-timed appeals and messages can lead to stronger relationships. The right re-engagement messages can help you stay on donors’ minds without bombarding them with blanket appeals.
  • Reduced technical silos and complexities. Silos can seriously slow down your nonprofit’s campaigns. AI eliminates the need for complicated data analysis and segmentation so anyone on your fundraising or development teams can quickly find the right donors they need to contact. 
  • Reliable stewardship streams. As mentioned above, AI can show you the donors who’ll be likely to make major or mid-level donations. With this advance notice, you can proactively engage those individuals to start growing your relationships. 
  • Clearer real-time insights into your performance. A clear idea of how many donors would be receptive to appeals and of your giving program’s churn risks give you deep insights into your performance. This added visibility makes it easier to make the case to your board for new campaigns, marketing strategies, and tech investments.

AI predictions are constantly updated as your organization generates new engagement data, meaning they become increasingly accurate and useful over time. Compounded over several years, this value is immense. 

The bottom line is that AI helps nonprofits be proactive with their fundraising and donor engagement strategies. Without data-driven predictions, you have to rely on vague assumptions to react to opportunities and challenges as they arise. 

In the digital age, there’s no need to stick with what’s kind of worked in the past. New technology can help you raise more support more efficiently.

This is particularly valuable in the context of time- and resource-intensive undertakings like capital campaigns. When the stakes are high and every dollar matters, tools like artificial intelligence can play a major role in ensuring you reach and exceed your goals.

Just hosted a nonprofit event but don't know how you should thank attendees? Find out our favorite strategies for post-event donor recognition in this guide.

Post-Event Donor Recognition: 7 Ways to Thank Attendees

Hosting events is one of the most time-tested ways to hit your fundraising goals, bring your community together, and spread awareness for your projects and initiatives. But are you doing everything you can to secure ongoing support from those who attend?
If you’re not appropriately thanking your attendees for their time and support, the answer is no. Showing appreciation for your supporters’ attendance through thoughtful thank-yous is essential to keeping them engaged with your organization.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 5 ways you can thank attendees to your events. Here’s what we’ll suggest:

  1. Prompt email, text, or call 
  2. Recognition displays for your highest-impact donors 
  3. Thoughtful gifts
  4. Another invitation 
  5. Handwritten notes 
  6. eCards
  7. Video

Making sure your supporters feel noticed for their participation—no matter how big or small—will leave the best possible impression and encourage them to keep coming back. That means more engagement, more awareness for your mission, and ultimately, more donations! Let’s dive in. 

1. Prompt email, text, or call

This is the “no-brainer” of event thank-you strategies. Regardless of the exact approach you choose to take to thank your attendees, it should always involve this basic step. 

If one of your supporters won an item at your hybrid auction, donated during your fundraising livestream, or otherwise contributed to your cause while attending your event, they should receive an immediate communication in the form of text or an email confirming their donation. 

Even if they didn’t contribute monetarily to your cause, you should still thank them for attending using this method. Choose one or more of the following: 

  • Emails are easy to automate, customizable, and have plenty of room for additional materials, like links to your website and social media accounts. 
  • Texts are personal, informal, and most likely to be read quickly. Automated texts are easy to implement and feel more intimate than mass emails. 
  • Phone calls are the most personal of the three. If calling every attendee is unrealistic, consider reserving calls for those who made higher-impact donations.  

No matter which method(s) from this list that you choose, make sure the thank-you goes out quickly, preferably the day after your event or, for automated emails, immediately after their donation. This way, you can reinforce their connection to your organization while you’re likely still on their minds. 

A best practice for email, text, or phone call thank-yous is to always include a prompt for further engagement, whether it’s an option to subscribe to your newsletter, a link to your volunteer opportunities page, or a flyer for your next event. (Or, in the case of phone calls, information on how to access these materials online.) For the best results, make sure all of these resources are user-friendly.

Something else to consider including in this type of thank-you is a survey or interview about your event. After all, your attendees may be sitting on valuable feedback about your event that could help you improve your programming going forward. 

2. Recognition displays for your highest-impact donors 

When you’re reviewing how your event performed, keep an eye out for those attendees who had a large impact on the event—specifically, look for supporters who may have contributed significantly to your fundraising goal. 

Identifying the attendees who bought a big-ticket item at your virtual auction or made a large donation is an important first step to thanking them appropriately and securing their support into the future. 

One way to make sure they feel noticed and appreciated is to honor them by including their names on a donor recognition display. 

Donor recognition displays are permanent installations commonly found on walls or in lobbies of buildings that are designed to recognize an organization’s major donors for their contributions.

While recognition displays are commonly associated with large-scale fundraisers and capital campaigns, there are smaller-scale options, too—for example, digital recognition displays are becoming increasingly popular. 

3. Thoughtful gifts

Who doesn’t love receiving gifts in the mail? A surefire way to make your event attendees feel appreciated is with a small token of your gratitude. Here are some fun ideas for possible goodies to help you say “thanks” to your attendees: 

  • T-shirts
  • Keychains
  • Mugs
  • Water bottles
  • Calendars 
  • Tote bags
  • Hats
  • Umbrellas
  • Blankets 

It shouldn’t be too difficult to get some of these items customized with your organization’s name and logo. That way, not only would your gifts make great thank-yous, but also effective marketing tools! 

Consider combining several gifts to make goody bags or gift baskets for your more engaged supporters, or select more luxury items to appropriately recognize higher levels of participation or donation. Some examples of higher-tier gifts could be silk scarves, leather goods, or food baskets. 

It may seem counterintuitive to spend valuable dollars on saying thank you for event attendance, but rest assured: it’s an investment for your organization’s future. You want your supporters to keep participating and spreading awareness about your mission. They’re more likely to stay engaged if they feel appreciated! 

4. Another invitation

An invitation to another of your organization’s events allows you to kill two birds with one stone. 

Your supporters feel appreciated and special, and you get to continue promoting awareness of your cause at another event! 

Whether you’re planning a silent auction, livestream fundraiser, or in-person gala (sometime in the future!), your previous event attendees are a precious group to market to. Plus, while you’re still on their minds right after your last event is an ideal time to tell them about your next plans! 

You could also consider offering exclusive appreciation events for your attendees, like luncheons, dinners, or unique experiences. For example:

  • An animal rescue shelter might offer an invitation to a “puppy play day” to thank its supporters. 
  • An aquarium might give a behind-the-scenes tour.
  • A nonprofit in the education sector might host a Q&A session with a well-known scholar. 

One-of-a-kind perks like these add value to your supporters’ lives and provide them with a tangible return on their investment—even if they just invested their time. Even casual virtual happy hours and community discussions with organization leaders can be meaningful ways to show attendees that you value their engagement. Get creative to come up with the perfect appreciation event for your unique audience and mission.

5. Handwritten notes

Writing thank-you notes by hand shows your supporters you value them enough to sit down with pen and paper and thank them the old-fashioned way. Because this option is more personal and intimate than other methods of communication, it will feel more meaningful to your attendees. If they perceive that you’re investing time and effort in honor of them, they’ll feel more inclined to help your cause in the future. 

Still, this level of personalization comes with a cost. Handwritten notes can be extremely time-consuming, even more so than phone calls. If you’re committed to using this option, start early and consider soliciting help from volunteers. You could even bring your volunteers together for a note-writing session with food and music (or a virtual-friendly alternative) to make the task more appealing. And then be sure to thank your volunteers in turn! 

If a handwritten note for every attendee is unrealistic even with help from volunteers, consider reserving this option for more engaged supporters, i.e. those who purchased or donated during your event. If that still represents too large a group, limit it to a manageable number of top-tier givers. 

6. eCards

Get creative with your donor appreciation efforts by sending custom eCards. As opposed to regular emails, eCards are more interactive, customizable, and eye-catching to donors.

The possibilities for creating a donor thank-you eCard are endless. Start by designing different templates that match your organization’s purpose. For example, animal shelters may add cats and dogs to their eCards for an emotional touch. Be sure to include your nonprofit’s logo and branding as well.

You can also get even more specific by creating event-specific eCards. That way, if you have a recurring event, you can always go back to that template for next year’s donors.

Once you create your designs, assemble your attendee list and start sending! Work with an eCard software provider to make the process easier.

7. Video

Videos are a great way to bring your post-event donor recognition to life. When you take the time to create a video dedicated to thanking your donors, you show how much you truly care.

Assure donors of how amazing the event turned out and how their presence brought your team’s vision to life. Include any pictures or videos you have from the event itself to remind donors of the great time they had and encourage them to attend your future events.

Then, point to the specific impact that donors made. For example, if your fundraising event was aimed at supporting pet adoptions, reveal exactly how many pet adoptions were made possible thanks to donors.

Feature staff thanking donors for their support. Go the extra mile by including beneficiary testimonials with their permission. Continuing with our animal shelter example, you could include pictures of recently adopted animals with a short statement from their new families.

With these options, you can more strategically thank your supporters for attending one of your events, virtual and in-person alike. While it may be tempting to reserve recognition for those who contribute monetarily to your cause, showing appreciation for all of your supporters whenever possible is a wise investment. Event attendees who feel appreciated for their time are more likely to have a positive impression of your organization, which means they’re more likely to continue participating. 

Regardless of which strategies you end up using, don’t forget to continue to follow up, even after your official thank-you. Although it can be difficult to figure out what type of messaging to send your supporters and when, establishing an effective rhythm for supporter communications is essential to holding their interest, solidifying their support, and growing their engagement over time. 

Thanking your event attendees for their time and commitment to your cause shows your appreciation, strengthens your relationship with them, and makes it more likely they’ll continue contributing to your mission. Be sure not to neglect this important area of supporter retention! 

Two people stand by a larger-than-life smart phone that displays a donation box. One person holds a giant credit card and the other holds a large coin.

4 Fundraising Best Practices for Raising Money Effectively

Fundraising is the backbone of any successful nonprofit. It’s what allows your organization to continue to help people and make a difference in the world. If your fundraising efforts are lacking in any area, you won’t be able to efficiently complete your goals on schedule. 

That’s why effective fundraising practices are so critical—by giving your organization a greater fundraising boost, you can keep your nonprofit afloat and continue working toward your mission. Whether you’re looking to refresh your fundraising ideas or reinforce ongoing campaigns, it’s never a bad idea to assess your progress and check if you’re adhering to current fundraising best practices.

At NXUnite, we stay up-to-date on the latest trends and ideas in the fundraising field to help nonprofits maximize their fundraising capacity. We’ve compiled a list of four top tips for raising money more effectively:

  1. Choose high-ROI fundraising campaigns
  2. Promote upcoming fundraisers with direct mail
  3. Advertise matching gift opportunities
  4. Keep donors updated with campaign progress

Fundraising is more than just earning donations—it’s about meeting supporters where they are and developing relationships to secure ongoing support. These tips will help you make the most of your campaigns this year while fostering relationships in the process. Let’s jump in!

1. Choose high-ROI fundraising campaigns

Nonprofits usually operate with tight budgets and don’t want to spend too much funding on soliciting donations. Plus, as a nonprofit professional, you want to prove to your board that the funds you put into carrying out fundraising activities are justified because of the value they create for your nonprofit. Therefore, search for fundraising campaigns that have the highest return on investment (ROI). Some fundraising ideas with a high ROI include: 

Product fundraisers

Product fundraisers such as popcorn, face-mask, and discount card fundraisers are all fun and unique ideas to help your organization raise more. With these fundraisers, you offer supporters something valuable (or delicious!) in exchange for their donations. 

Direct mail

Although digital marketing and fundraising channels are gaining traction, direct mail continues to be the greatest source of individual donations in the U.S. Individual donations account for about 70% of total giving, representing roughly $309.66 billion in 2019. 

In the fast-paced, frenzied virtual realm, it’s easy for your nonprofit to get lost in the fray and for supporters to miss your message amid all the other online interactions. However, with direct mail appeals, you can speak directly to supporters without the interference of other notifications. You can share compelling stories that appeal to their emotions and influence them to give to your mission. 

Additional ideas

In addition to product fundraisers and direct mail appeals, there are also a number of other ways to garner critical support for your campaigns. Other tried-and-true fundraising ideas include virtual a-thon-style events where people are challenged to walk, bike, or run a certain distance and raise donations throughout the challenge. 

Further, virtual events and experiences such as classes, concerts, or trivia nights can be productive fundraisers as well. These are higher-ROI events because they take place virtually which lowers event overhead costs but engage supporters in an activity or challenge that generates greater fundraising support all the same. 

With these high-ROI options, you can revamp your fundraising practices this year and raise more for your organization.

2. Promote upcoming fundraisers online

While traditional marketing methods like fundraising events and direct mail can be highly effective, a well-rounded approach that merges traditional and digital media will garner the best results.

Billions of people use social media and the internet each day, and it’s critical that your nonprofit build a presence online to capture both current and potential supporters’ attention. Some of the most effective digital marketing platforms and methods to use include:

  • Email. Email is a personalized, flexible way to market your fundraiser to supporters. For example, you can enable automated features within your email marketing tools that add the recipient’s first name to the subject line or greeting in your emails. If you’re in need of an email list clean-up, consider working with an email appending service to verify and update the addresses in your file.
  • Social media. Remain active on a variety of social media platforms to appeal to your audience’s differing communication preferences. Some popular options include Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. To build strong followings across your social media platforms, make sure to cross-promote your accounts and include links to each profile page on your website.
  • Influencer marketing. Partner with individuals who have a significant following in your community or niche and ask them to promote your cause to their audience. This is a great way to reach new, untapped audiences. Because the influencer’s followers have already established trust in them and their opinions, they’re more likely to listen to their recommendations and support your organization.
  • Search engines. To market your website on search engines like Google, your nonprofit should create high-quality, educational content designed to rank for relevant keywords. To position your site even higher in search results, you can apply for the Google Ad Grants program to receive a monthly allowance of Google Ad credits. Before applying, be sure to check that your website meets the Google Grant’s requirements.

An increased digital presence can boost brand awareness, making your nonprofit more memorable to supporters. Additionally, you can educate a broader audience about the ways to support your cause (including matching gifts!).

3. Advertise matching gift opportunities

In corporate matching gift programs, companies match donations made by their employees to eligible nonprofits. An estimated $4-$7 billion goes unclaimed in matching gifts every year, making this a largely untapped fundraising source for many nonprofits and other fundraising organizations. 

To take advantage of matching gift opportunities, promote these programs to your supporters. Ensure your donors are aware of the opportunities and empowered to check if their own companies offer these programs by sharing information across your direct mail messages, website, social media, and email newsletters. To get started, Double the Donation offers a matching gift database you can embed on your website that allows supporters to search if their companies offer matching gifts. 

This type of fundraising revenue not only brings in a large number of funds for your organization, but it improves your donors’ experience as well. Supporters will be amazed that their initial donations can have an even greater impact on your mission than they realized. 

4. Keep donors updated with campaign progress

Donors want and deserve to know how your fundraising campaign is coming along. They’re not only interested in learning about your organization and your activities, but also want to ensure their investment in your organization was worth it. Donors use this assessment to decide if they should continue to give their support in the future, so you should keep donors updated on your fundraising progress in a few different ways:

  • A fundraising thermometer: A fundraising thermometer is an easy and free way to keep supporters informed on how close your nonprofit is to reaching its fundraising goal. You can type in your target amount and the amount you’ve raised so far to create an updated thermometer. Frequently share your thermometer across your website and social media pages to remind supporters to give and celebrate your progress so far.
  • Your nonprofit database: Your nonprofit database system contains supporter information like donor names, contact information, and giving history. You can use this information to reach out to donors and share progress about the specific campaign they gave to. 
  • Your marketing platforms: Keep supporters informed about your progress across all your marketing channels—including your direct mail letters, website, social media pages, and email lists. Taking a multi-channel approach ensures you can speak to all supporters and properly inform them about your nonprofit’s activities. 

Keeping donors updated on your fundraising progress shows supporters that they’re more than just a number to your organization. They’ve donated some of their hard-earned money to you, and you’ll show your respect and appreciation for their gift by keeping them in the loop.

Your nonprofit’s approach to fundraising doesn’t have to be complicated. By reaffirming your commitment to donor relationships and choosing campaigns with the greatest returns, you can maintain and even boost your fundraising efforts for long-lasting, continuous success. Happy fundraising!

Three people stand beside a larger-than-life document holding a huge pencil, magnifiying glass, and sheets of paper.

The Top 4 Governance Mistakes that Nonprofit Boards Make

An effective board of directors plays a critical role in helping your nonprofit strive toward its mission. They provide much-needed guidance and insight for strategic planning and fundraising that helps to keep your team on the right track. But all too often, nonprofit boards underperform—even those that are strong-willed and have a passion for your mission. While mistakes are only human nature, there are some situations that can be detrimental to your mission.

Nonprofits commonly experience several governance mistakes made by their boards but aren’t quite sure how to avoid them. From failing to understand basic responsibilities to poor documentation that opens the organization up to legal issues, there are major missteps to avoid. Otherwise, you’ll spend time rectifying these problems that could be spent on making progress with your mission.

On the other hand, when governance is done right from the beginning, your board’s performance can be drastically enhanced by ensuring they’re efficient and well-informed. Making sure they’re backed by sufficient resources and knowledge can convey that you value their experience and this consideration can motivate them to make informed decisions, putting them (and your organization) on the path to success.

To help you identify these challenges within your own organization, we’ll review four leading governance issues and uncover suggestions for resolving them:

  1. Selecting board members without sufficient care
  2. Neglecting to educate and inform directors
  3. Failing to embrace board diversity
  4. Poor documentation of decisions and actions

Understanding these challenges upfront can help you create a plan for avoiding them in the first place, rather than rectifying them after they’ve occurred. Let’s dive in.

Mistake #1: Selecting Board Members without Sufficient Care

Good governance starts with selecting board members who are passionate about your mission and possess admirable qualities, such as knowledge about your community backed by a strong desire for service. Often, we select friends, relatives, and business associates, because we believe they’ll share our same vision, support our views, and make meetings bearable (maybe even enjoyable). And sometimes it’s just because we can’t find anyone else to fill the position.

Other times, we select board members who are wealthy and influential, because we believe they’ll contribute substantial amounts to our mission and connect us to other influential and wealthy people. While this may seem like a good idea, you’ll want to be certain that your board of directors is composed of individuals who are going to attend meetings, provide real oversight, and govern using their own independent and well-informed judgment.

The board recruitment process is a heavy but necessary process. After all, these individuals are responsible for putting your nonprofit on the right path, so taking care in selecting the right board members is crucial. You’ll want to look for individuals who possess the following qualities:

  • Proactivity: The greatest board members readily react to challenges and aren’t afraid to ask the hard questions. They proactively strive toward positive change and stay on task to see it through.
  • Passion: Board members must possess a passion for your cause in order to be true change agents and to fuel your work. 
  • Knowledge: Board members must be well-acquainted with your organization and mission. Look for those who have previously served on a similar board or who have been employed at a similar organization.
  • Time-Oriented: Board members should have sufficient time to fulfill the role’s duties. Ambitious individuals have the tendency to overcommit, and the best intentions won’t go very far if they simply don’t have the time to contribute.

Just as understanding your potential donors and ambassadors helps to strengthen your fundraising strategies, defining your ideal board member will help locate and appeal to the right individuals for the job. 

Keeping the pipeline full of exceptional candidates is a never-ending job. So long as you remain persistent and specific with your preferred qualifications, you’ll locate passionate leaders who possess sufficient qualities for putting your nonprofit on the path to success.

Mistake #2: Neglecting to Educate and Inform Directors

Nonprofits often run into the issue of board members not fully understanding their responsibilities. Directors who regularly fail to meet their legal duties of care and responsibility can hinder progress and prevent the organization from reaching its goals.

It’s up to the president, chair, executive director, and really each individual board member to hold one another accountable and correct this lack of understanding. While education and accountability are ongoing commitments, there are a few practices you can implement in your existing processes:

  • Set up an orientation process. When bringing aboard new directors, consider hosting an orientation meeting where you walk through each role’s responsibilities and open the floor for questions. You might also choose to disperse a binder full of information they need like board agreements, organization bylaws, contact information, past budgets, previous meeting minutes, and a list of committees. This will allow new members to get acclimated quickly.
  • Delegate tasks in a clear manner. Have a system in place for assigning tasks as soon as they’re delegated. That way, everyone knows who should be doing what and by when. Ensure your board software allows you to create, assign, and manage action items during and between meetings. Individual board members and administrators should be able to track the status of various tasks and projects to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks.
  • Keep in regular contact with the board. Productivity should occur outside of the boardroom to make steady progress as an organization. Your board portal will aid greatly in the communication process, keeping you in direct contact with board members and helping to steward strong, collaborative relationships. This way, you can keep them fully informed and quickly solicit feedback and direction to resolve any issues that arise.

Ineffective directors can pose major problems for nonprofits. Rectifying the situation as quickly as possible allows the board to fill knowledge gaps and make more informed decisions. If you’re unsure of where your board currently stands, have the board conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. This will help identify those gaps and create an action plan for moving forward.

Mistake #3: Failing to Embrace Board Diversity

Typically, an organization’s initial board is made up of friends and trusted advisors of the nonprofit’s founder. Over time, these individuals may reach out to their networks to fill vacancies as they arise. While this is certainly a smart move for brand new nonprofits, it becomes a problem when your board consists solely of people who went to the same schools, belong to the same clubs, and live in the same neighborhoods.

Think of it this way: if your board is chock-full of CFO-level executives, your finances may be in order, but other operational areas may fall by the wayside, like marketing and volunteer management. Instead, you need a group of individuals who possess varying skills to cover each area of your organization.

Boards greatly benefit from a diverse mix of leadership. A variety of valuable perspectives and experiences in the boardroom can help your team think outside the box and arrive at conclusions they might not otherwise reach.

Here are a few facets of board diversity to consider:

  • Race, ethnicity, and religion
  • Gender and sexual orientation
  • Geographic location
  • Professional skills and experience
  • Education level
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Physical and cognitive abilities

A diverse board is a thriving board! If all board members come from similar backgrounds, it’s time to diversify your pool of participants. Keep your eyes peeled for varying skills, experiences, and backgrounds that would add valuable perspectives to the board.

While law, accounting, and fundraising skills are obvious necessities, mission-related skills are also important. For instance, a domestic violence shelter may recruit a social worker or a policy expert, whereas an educational organization might recruit a retired school administrator or teacher.

Mistake #4: Poor Documentation of Decisions and Actions

In its meetings, your board has highly-focused conversations where it makes decisions that impact the health and vitality of your organization. Accurately documenting these discussions and actions in your meeting minutes is crucial—especially since your board has legal liability.

Some organizations adopt minutes that are complete and lengthy virtual transcriptions of their meetings. Conversely, some organizations only document actions without any mention of the process or deliberations, or worse, they don’t document anything. Instead of going with one of these extremes, work to find a more appropriate balance.

Documenting every discussion verbatim could create even greater exposure for liability and can make it very unlikely that anyone on your team will take the time to review the minutes for inaccuracies. On the other hand, only documenting actions (or nothing at all) can leave individuals confused later as to why certain decisions were made. 

When developing your approach to minute-taking, we suggest the following best practices:

  • Use a template. By creating an outline in advance, taking minutes becomes incredibly straightforward and ensures notes are taken on every discussion item. The easiest strategy is to use your board meeting agenda as a template.
  • Designate a minute-taker. Usually part of the secretary’s duties, the same person should take minutes at every meeting. This allows them to familiarize themselves with the process and produce stronger, clearer minutes over time.
  • Write objectively. Especially with controversial issues or contentious votes, your minutes-taker should summarize debates and stick to the facts. To reinforce this, ask a third-party who isn’t privy to any confidential information (like a staff member) to read the minutes.
  • Include pertinent information. Your minutes should be detailed enough that someone can decipher key decisions a few months down the line. When recording these decisions, be sure to include who attended and when the meeting took place. Plus, make note of any important discussions regarding the decision and a record of motions, seconds, and whether or not the motion passed.
  • Proofread and share. Once you’ve wrapped up your meeting and put the final touches on your minutes, take one last pass at it and review for any errors. Once ready, use your board software to disperse them so that board members can quickly reference them and follow up appropriately.

Remember, your minutes serve as an official record of your meetings. Both overly-detailed and scant board minutes can open up the board to liability issues. 

According to this resource, you should “aim to create board meeting minutes that are specific enough to capture the board’s focus and decisions, but not so sparse that you can’t decipher what actually occurred during the meeting a few months down the line.” In turn, you’ll develop engaging minutes with the right amount of detail.

Quality governance can truly accelerate your team’s impact on the community. Keep your eyes peeled for these common mistakes and pitfalls within your own organization. Otherwise, failing to address these governance issues early on can prevent major issues later. 

It all starts with selecting the right board members and continues through effective communication and documentation. By setting the groundwork early, every task your board takes on will be more efficient and well-informed. Your nonprofit and community will see and experience the benefits of your healthy nonprofit board governance practices. Good luck!