It's Not Too Early to be a Year-End Fundraising Superhero: Part Two
Posted by Chris McKinley at Aug 28, 2014 07:03 AM CDT

As I stressed in last week’s blog post, year-end fundraising planning begins now. End-of-year fundraising can make or break your fundraising budget. Here are the remaining two critical strategies you need to know now.

#5: It’s December and the superpower strategy is high frequency.

Sending a lot of emails makes many of us very uncomfortable, but try not to let this feeling dictate strategy. Research shows that in the month of December there was an average of seven email deployments per organization (source: M + R 2014 Benchmarks).

At Grizzard, we did some research of our own. We gave online gifts to 70 different organizations in the month of October and monitored how and when organizations campaigned online and offline. We found that the average number of emails sent in the month of December was eight (8.42 to be precise), three of which were sent in the last week of the month. Several organizations sent as many as 15 emails in the month of December and as many as five emails the last week of the year. One organization sent seven emails in the last week of the year. Organizations sending the most emails tended to be larger and very digitally mature.

This year Christmas is on a Thursday and New Year’s Eve is on a Wednesday. At a minimum, try to be in inboxes on a weekend day, Monday morning and Wednesday early morning. Most online giving will happen between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 31, within each time zone.

Based upon timing of the 2014 holidays, Google analytics and email behavior reporting, I am recommending four email deployments between 12/27 and 12/31. That said, expect an up-tick in unsubscribe rates of approximately 1 to 3%.

#6: Finally, pretend to be the real superhero, the donor.

The last week of the year is the most important time for online marketing and fundraising. Given that the last day of the year can bring in as much as 33% of your total December online revenue, making the online giving experience as easy as possible can dramatically increase your results.

Online is a convenient channel for donors giving their last minute gift. The last thing donors want is to have a donation experience that is difficult and frustrating.

Integrated marketing tips for making giving easy for donors:

Make sure it’s easy to find your site:

  • Optimize your PPC campaigns. Pause or lower keyword bids on poor performing AdWord campaigns leading up to mid-December and amp up your spends on best performers. Make it easy for donors to get to your site. Stay ahead of your competition with effectively built out campaigns that contain relevant keywords and be sure to allocate a healthy PPC budget for key dates the last two weeks of December. This will also create opportunity for increase in ad rank.
  • Be sure your landing pages and forms are indexed.
  • Test PPC on Bing in addition to Google. On Bing, there is less competition and it has a growing user base. Depending on your donor profile, you may be surprised with your Bing results.

Ensure that the giving experience is pleasant and easy

  • Become the user. Force yourself to experience what it’s like from the donor’s perspective when giving an online gift. Note the number of clicks it takes from email to site, from site to donation form and the number of fields and amount of time it takes to make a successful donation. Ask yourself how the process could be made simpler.
  • Next, ask someone else from another department or a friend to do the same thing. Get their feedback.
  • Fix any broken links.

Unsung Superhero: Don’t discount your cultivation program from January through November.

Beauty and the Beast would never be a great story if they were separated. Likewise, a successful year-end campaign cannot happen without a robust year-round campaign plan. Year-end campaigning can sometimes be erroneously attributed to December campaigns only – not true. The year-round and year-end campaigns work together to keep your organization top of mind and tell your story. Continual multi-channel communications conveying mission, need and effective use of donors’ funds help to keep your organization relevant. End-of-year campaigns provide the reminding vehicle for convenient giving.

Good luck!

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It's Not Too Early to be a Year-End Fundraising Superhero: Part One
Posted by Chris McKinley at Aug 21, 2014 07:02 AM CDT

Year-end fundraising planning begins now. End-of-year fundraising can make or break your fundraising budget – it is the most critical time of the year.

A Charity Navigator survey revealed that as much as 41% of an organization’s total annual revenue can be realized in the month of December, and as much as 33% of December fundraising can come from donors on the last day of the year.

What drives this desire of our donors to be so charitable? ’Tis the season of giving, a heightened sense of altruism and faith, or tax benefits? Yes, yes and YES! But, tax benefits are the number one motivator for year-end giving according to many sources and surveys. This makes December a superpower month, and the last day of the year a mega-power day!

Following are 6 Winning Strategies for an integrated approach to your year-end fundraising.

#1: Early Thanksgiving messaging or imagery can improve last quarter results.

Savvy organizations have successfully used cognitive strategies to lift year-end giving. For example, using Thanksgiving themes as early as August can yield big response and revenue returns in the last quarter of the year, when compared to non-”Thanks” theme appeals. Test this strategy to see if it’s a winner for you.

But don’t be a Super-Grinch by messing with Christmas. Christmas themes introduced much earlier than mid-November can negatively impact results.

#2: Append and retain.

Many organizations receive as much as 30% of their total online giving in the last three months of the year. Appending your offline donor file now with email addresses can boost retention and donor value. Having both a mail and an email address will afford you extra touch points in addition to appeals for donations. The mix adds depth to your donor relationships and enhances your online credibility/trust to give online.

Establishing online trust with your offline donors is essential for year-end giving success. Many donors give online because it’s usually a last minute gift and online provides a convenient and instant way to give prior to the new year.

#3: Be multi-channel, even when you think your donors are not.

Digital marketing communications prior to year-end can covertly increase donations at the end of year. Digital campaigns specifically aimed to inform and engage, can mix up your messaging across channels. Digital is a great channel to thank donors, demonstrate respect and to share stories. Personal communications will set your organization apart from competition. A healthy mix of offline appeals and online education and engagement communications will provide added depth to your donor relationships, helping your organization to be top of mind at year-end.

#4: Be social, but know what you know.

Social media and ads have a place in supporting your year-end fundraising strategies, but do not force it to be a fundraising appeal. Less than 1% of nonprofit organizations have raised a significant amount of revenue using social media and only 35% that have raised funds, have raised less than $1,000, according to a 2012 study by Blackbaud, NTEN and Common Knowledge. This trend may be changing, but don’t let the excitement of social media falsely guide you where your investment and priorities ought to be.

Your social media should support the offline and online fundraising strategies by driving traffic to your site and spreading awareness. Social links should direct traffic to rich content areas on your site. Choosing where to send donors on your site can be informed by understanding your site’s analytics and where visitors tend to convert at the highest rates.

Come back next week for the remaining two critical strategies you need to know now.

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Making it Personal: Notes from the DMA Nonprofit Federation NY Nonprofit Conference
Posted by Katy Jordan at Aug 14, 2014 07:00 AM CDT

“We couldn’t do this work without people like you.”

Chelsea Clinton’s opening keynote speech at the DMA Nonprofit Federation NY Nonprofit Conference last week addressed the nonprofit staff and partners making this industry thrive. The theme of this year’s conference was “make it personal”. Ms. Clinton’s talk, and much of what we do as fundraisers, is all about personalization – how do we use the best mix of technology, creativity, strategies and marketing channels to positively impact this world? 

Data on Our Minds

“We need to be relevant to what people care about and connect something ephemeral to something personal,” said Clinton. Data-driven marketing is a buzz phrase throughout the nonprofit industry, and was also an area of focus at the two-day event. Not only are the collection and capture of data important, but also methodical analysis, and the ability to act on the story the data tells. 

As the fundraising landscape has evolved to incorporate four generations of givers, we must shift our approaches to be relevant and personal to all eras of donors. What is more personal than understanding exactly how each supporter of your organization wants to hear from and interact with you? Today, the donor experience is valued more than ever, and it’s imperative to provide consistent messaging across mediums. The industry has experienced a game-changing shift to one-to-one marketing, necessitating the leveraging of endless points of data including transactions, engagements, actions and social conversations.

The number of nonprofits testing modeling and leveraging co-operatives has also been on the rise for direct fundraising campaigns. Since the market offerings have increased competition, pricing for modeling and other data overlays has decreased significantly in recent years. Leveraging this type of data has proven fruitful for many nonprofits, and many more are testing the waters.

Are the Systems in Place?

Not only do we want to understand who are most likely to give to a cause, but we also must have the systems in place to capitalize on this information and take action. It can be easy to get distracted or overwhelmed by the technological opportunities or the plethora of data available. How does your organization prioritize and test the most effective and actionable initiatives?

For example, a nonprofit could identify high dollar donor prospects through modeling and wealth indexing, but does the internal staff or resources exist to reach out to and cultivate these potential major donors?

Or, some groups have had success finding “social influencers” using social media listening tools, but are they prepared to personalize and tailor subsequent messaging and campaigns to those individuals? And, what is the potential payoff for those efforts when balancing the cost and staff resources?

Collaboration is Crucial

As our world becomes more connected, our organizations must strive to work together more effectively. Especially with digital technology and data infrastructure, it’s more important than ever to coordinate efforts and assess program success from a 360 degree view.

For some nonprofits, that may mean the development team coordinates with the communications team for a social media campaign. For others, it may mean consolidating your databases to understand any and all touch points your supporters, members, volunteers or donors receive to properly attribute revenue and marketing dollars. 

As Chelsea Clinton stated as she closed out her address, “Not only can we come up with new and creative ways to solve a problem, but we can do so through teamwork and conversation.”

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Nonprofit Hits a Holiday High With New Online Gift Catalogue
Posted by Meg Mader at Aug 06, 2014 07:03 AM CDT

A Toronto-based emergency shelter for women and children fleeing violence, with its agency partner hjc, successfully transformed its traditional year-end giving campaign into an innovative online giving experience – and won a 2014 IMAB Integrated Marketing Award as a result!

The Redwood provides a safe haven for women and children who have fled abusive situations. Through community support, the shelter has cultivated many loyal and passionate donors since opening its doors in 1993. With the holiday fundraising season approaching in 2013, the shelter made the decision to shift its traditional holiday gift program to online – and they hit a holiday high in doing so.

Difficult Decisions

The decision to focus on a different channel did not come easily. The Redwood’s long-standing holiday giving program accepted physical gifts from donors. While the growing number of gifts allowed The Redwood to provide holiday hope to more and more participants each year, the staff time required to sort and wrap all the gifts also increased. Furthermore, the vast quantity of gifts had to be stored somewhere. The shelter had no choice but to pile up the gifts in the limited “free” space they had – this included the children’s library, the computer room, the piano and tutoring spaces, and the women’s exercise room. So, unfortunately, these rooms, which serve important purposes to women and children, were used as storage and closed off during the busiest time of the year. 

Anxious to find a solution to the program’s related difficulties, after much deliberation, The Redwood decided to replace the traditional holiday gift program with an online holiday gift catalog: the Safe Haven Store. With the help of fundraising agency hjc, The Redwood launched an e-commerce portion of their website, with a fresh, unique design to imitate the holiday shopping experience in their new virtual store.

With gift amounts ranging from $25 to $100+, donors first select a donation amount and then select one item from the list of gifts associated with the chosen price point. For example, a $25 donation would cover a new bedtime story for children or a basket of toiletries for women. A $75 donation could buy new clothes for a woman in need or fund a pizza party for all the participants at the shelter.

The Store + More

The virtual holiday catalog was a big first step, but the organization knew they must integrate a variety of digital elements to ensure its success. The Redwood promoted the Safe Haven Store across channels, carrying the same creative over in a multifaceted online campaign, through coordinated email design, website banners on the shelter’s home page, online advertising through Google, as well as posts on social media. The email series was comprised of four appeals, all with one main call to action: asking supporters to purchase a gift from the Safe Haven Store.

In direct mail, The Redwood developed a reply card insert for their year-end package, which showed images of five gift options donors could choose from. This allowed the offline audience to purchase a few of the same gifts through the mail that were otherwise only found in the online store.

Donors Embrace New Way of Giving

The Redwood believed its donors would welcome this new way of giving, and they were right.

The new online holiday campaign generated a 64% increase over the previous year in combined online and offline revenue. Not only did the organization profit financially overall, but this online store allowed the shelter to better allocate the funds by purchasing essential items quickly and efficiently for families in need. As a result of the initial success, the Safe Haven Store is now available year-round.

This award-winning campaign not only allowed The Redwood to optimize its fundraising, but most importantly, the staff was able to spend more time providing a true safe haven for women and children. Staff members were no longer forced to spend hours organizing and wrapping gifts during the holiday season, and they could focus their attention to the women and children looking for support, helping them to heal and enjoy lives free of domestic violence.

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Tools for Integrating Your Marketing and Fundraising Efforts
Posted by Guest Blogger at Jul 31, 2014 07:01 AM CDT

This article was written by guest authors Kyle Andrei, Research Analyst, and Ethan Drigotas, Research and Fundraising Intern -- both from Idealware.

Marketing is about getting people to know and think positively about your organization. Fundraising is about getting people to donate. You probably spend a lot of time trying to move people from the first group up the ladder of engagement to the latter group. Integrating these two functions can make them both easier and more effective. 

You don’t need technology to integrate your nonprofit’s marketing and fundraising, but it can help. At Idealware, we work with a lot of different types of technology you can use to ease your efforts in this area, and in this post we’ll go over them one at a time.


The first—and maybe the most obvious—is your website. Often the primary means that people learn about your organization online, it should also be the first tool you evaluate. Can site visitors easily learn about your organization’s mission and services? Can they sign up to receive email, or to donate? If content is out-of-date—like pictures and bios of former staff members, references to old programs, or calendar events that have already happened—you’ll need to fix it. 

A good Content Management System for nonprofits will let you create and maintain customized websites, update graphic design and navigation, and automate routine updates—for instance, removing events from your homepage after they’ve come and gone—all without technical skills. It will also help you adapt your site for mobile visitors to make it easy for everyone to reach you and learn more.

Finally, a website analytics tool like Google Analytics can help you monitor your visitors at no charge. What pages do they visit most often, how did they find those pages, and where did they go next? Answering these questions will help you prioritize for future updates and evaluate what pages or donation forms were more or less successful than others.

Broadcast Email

If you email more than a few dozen people at a time, you should be using a broadcast email tool. Tools like Outlook or Gmail aren’t designed to support large-scale mailings and won’t help with the formatting and list-management tasks critical for large lists. What’s more, using them to email hundreds of people means you may reach more spam filters than inboxes—or worse, you might get your mail server blacklisted as spam, blocking future emails from anyone in your organization. 

Broadcast email software will let you email a group of people at once, and can help you create attractive emails and manage email address lists—including letting constituents subscribe and unsubscribe themselves. More advanced tools help you collect email addresses on your website, mail-merge information from your database into emails, work with segments of your list, and see detailed statistics.

Social Media 

If your organization isn’t already on social media, these channels might help you tap into a new audience, reinforce your relationship with existing supporters, and expand your online presence. These days, so many people are on Facebook that most organizations are expected to have a presence on the site, but before picking the other channel or channels to which you’ll devote resources, think about who your target constituents are. LinkedIn is likely to be of particular interest to groups whose mission is to support people in their jobs or that focus on careers. Twitter and Google Plus tend to have a more tech-savvy audience. Tumblr is more popular with teens and young people. 

Each social media channel has its own uses and expectations, as well. Some, like Twitter, are geared toward short bits of information or links to resources, and some are more visual, like Tumblr, a highly social blogging platform. It’s worth at least exploring two or more to find out what style and audience works best for your organization.

Donor- and Constituent Relationship Management Systems

As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, marketing is about getting people to know and think positively about your organization, and fundraising is about getting people to donate. Constituent management is about keeping track of all those people. Since the idea is to move people in the first group to the second, you have a couple of options for tracking everyone. Do you track current and potential donors in one database and the people on your email list in another? Or should you keep everyone in the same database? Picking one method over the other isn’t a cut-and-dried decision for every organization. The answer depends more on who your highest priority constituents are.

A Donor Management System lets you track donors, gifts, and prospects. You can access a donor’s contact information and giving history, and many provide options to mail-merge letters, and email lists of of donors. Sophisticated systems might track events and/or provide online giving functionality to replace other systems your organizations might use. 

Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) systems, on the other hand, are designed to track comprehensive data about each constituent—not just their donations and membership dues, but event attendance, volunteer work, and other information you might care to track about a particular individual. These systems are typically flexible from a technical standpoint, so you (or a consultant) can tailor them to the processes you need to support. CRM platforms are also meant to be tightly integrated with your website and e-marketing systems. Some people use “CRM” as a catchall term for any constituent database, but at Idealware, we use it to describe this specific kind of flexible system that has substantial integration with your organization’s online presence.

Integrated Online Systems 

If multiple systems or costly configuration doesn’t seem appropriate for your organization, but you are looking to implement an integrated approach to marketing and fundraising, an integrated online system may be right for you. This type of system lets nonprofits manage their web presence and other organizational information in a single online package. Many systems can provide the ability to manage member, donor, and other constituent data, accept online payments, send broadcast emails, manage event registrations, update websites, and more. While these systems have great functionality, they can also require more of an investment to buy and set up than some of the other options listed here. 

While your website, email, and database working together will cover most of your needs, there will always be something that doesn’t quite fit, or a function that one of the three doesn’t handle well. In those cases, it might make sense to look into a more-targeted solution, like Event Registration Software, Online Donation Tools, and Dashboards.  

Integration may seem overwhelming at first, but the benefits of having a cohesive marketing and fundraising plan can go a long way. While there are lots of different organizations and integration needs, there are also lots of ways to fuse your marketing and fundraising approach, and plenty of technology out there to help get you started. 

Looking for a little more information or help? Check out Idealware’s Practical Guide to Integrated Communications: A Workbook for Nonprofits.

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