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!