The Basics of Development Data Hygiene

The Basics of Development Data Hygiene

Hopefully, if you’re reading this post, then we don’t have any more work to do in convincing you that data is important. (If you’re still on the fence, read our blog post on the importance of fundraising data!). But, in order to make sure that your data is doing the work that you need it to do, you have to prioritize keeping it clean.

Here are three core principles to keep in mind as you set your internal processes for data hygiene:

  1. Use a CRM (Customer/Constituent Relationship Management platform) – there are a number of great tools on the market ranging from free web-based platforms, to low-cost options with high levels of customer service, to comprehensive, customizable software packages that require an in-house staff member to manage. If you’re fundraising for a brand new or small organization with just a handful of constituents to manage, you could even use an excel spreadsheet. Regardless, step number one is to get the data out of your head, and out of your inbox, and into an organizing tool that makes sense for you.
     
  2. Create uniform conventions for naming (and tagging, and filing) – This is especially important if there are multiple people entering information into your CRM! Make sure that your entire team is on the same page about how addresses need to be written, where and how honorifics (such as Mr., Ms., Dr., Council Member, etc) need to be added, as well as what tags and campaigns are associated with specific donors and gifts. Making sure the information is clear when it is uploaded in the first place will save you lots of headaches on the back end when you need to start pulling reports.
     
  3. Empower everyone on your team to participate – whether you are a major gifts officer who is hearing first-hand the details surrounding a donor’s life change, or the administrator receiving mail that is returned to sender due to a bad address, you probably have donor information that needs to be updated in your database. Empowering everyone to help keep your data clean and up to date in real time.

    The one caveat to this approach is that there should still be a person on your team who is primarily responsible for the management of the CRM, to ensure that you don’t suffer from a diffusion of responsibility for your data!

Optimizing Your Online Donation Form: 6 Stand-Out Strategies

Optimizing Your Online Donation Form: 6 Stand-Out Strategies

One of the most important tools in your nonprofit’s fundraising arsenal is your online donation form. This is the last step on the giving ladder and an important part of securing a gift from your supporters.

All too often, organizations make the mistake of taking their online donation form for granted.

Many feel that all this page needs to do is process payments without any frills and are reluctant to invest in robust giving software that could elevate their donation form strategy and create better relationships with donors.

However, optimizing your online donation form should be at the top of your nonprofit’s list as you prepare for your next big fundraising campaign. With a streamlined, effective, and inspiring donation form, there’s very little standing in the way between your team and its goals.

In this article, we’ll review some of our favorite donation form optimization strategies. These include:

  1. Truly customizing your donation form.
  2. Streamlining the online giving process.
  3. Adding gamification tools to your donation forms.
  4. Thinking of the smartphone giving experience.
  5. Emphasizing social media fundraising channels.
  6. Capturing meaningful donor data to optimize your donation forms.

Ready to take hold of your online fundraising form and leverage it as a more effective fundraising tool? Let’s dive into our top strategies!

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1. Truly customize your donation form.

When a prospective donor lands on your fundraising form, they need to cross two main hurdles. First, they need to be inspired enough by your cause to make a gift. And second, they need to trust that your donation form will process their payments securely.

For many organizations, giving form abandonment spikes when their forms are poorly formatted, generic, or otherwise unfriendly to supporters.

To boost the success of your online donation forms, your team should choose a software that puts customization first and not simply use a generic payment processing tool like PayPal.

Your nonprofit can customize your giving forms by:

  • Reflecting your “brand” in the form’s design. Include your nonprofit’s branded color scheme, logos, and signature typeface. Ideally, your donation form should look like a seamless element of your organization’s website.
  • Including images of your nonprofit’s community. Find a solution that empowers your team to include compelling images of your nonprofit’s staff, volunteers, and constituents. Only use high-quality photography, preferably taken by a professional photographer.
  • Changing designs from campaign to campaign. A great way to improve the performance of your donation forms is to update their design with each fundraising campaign. Maintain a core style, but swap out visual elements to keep it fresh.
  • Adding a matching gift search tool. Did you know that you can add a matching gift database search tool to online fundraising forms? These allow supporters to find out their matching gifts eligibility while they’re making their donation.

Remember, your giving from is the last place your nonprofit can make the case for supporters to donate! With the right customization, your team can close the gap between supporters who are simply moved by your mission and those inspired enough to make a gift.

Bonus! Want to learn more about matching gift databases and how they can enhance your fundraising strategy? Visit Double the Donation to see how their matching gifts database helps nonprofits raise more money.

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2. Streamline the online giving process.

Another optimization strategy for your nonprofit’s donation forms is streamlining the giving process from beginning to end. Very often, motivated individuals fail to complete their gift because donation forms are unnecessarily lengthy or confusing.

Even worse, when your giving form makes it difficult to set donors up for future support of your cause, your team will miss out on one of your best opportunities for upgrading donors and securing long-term fundraising revenue.

To ensure a streamlined giving process, your team should:

  • Only ask for the information you need. While customizing data fields in your donation form is a great way to learn more about your supporters, don’t go overboard. You want your supporters to be able to complete the form in just a few minutes, if not less.
  • Share direct links to your form with your community. Inexperienced nonprofits frequently make this mistake! When you simply link to a Ways to Give page or tell supporters to give without a link, it’s more likely they’ll get lost along the way to donating.
  • Offer donor account setup as part of making a gift. When donors have giving accounts set up with your nonprofit, they’re more likely to make future gifts since they don’t have to re-enter their information.

The bottom line? By making giving as convenient as possible for your supporters, they’ll be more inspired to make future gifts and to share your giving form with their personal networks

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3. Add gamification tools to your donation forms.

One great way to boost the power of your online donation forms is to equip them with gamification tools.

Gamification tools are a type of donation form feature that help to encourage supporters to make a gift, increase their giving amount, or give more frequently. Typically, these are used in peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns as a way to motivate volunteer fundraisers.

There are three core kinds of gamifications tools your nonprofit can add to its giving forms:

  • Fundraising thermometers. These can be used in all kinds of fundraising campaigns and help show supporters how close your nonprofit is to reaching its fundraising goal.
  • Fundraising badges. Often used in peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, fundraising badges help differentiate between your top-performing volunteer fundraisers.
  • Leaderboards. Also used as a motivator in peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, leaderboards show off the performance of different fundraisers.

Adding gamification tools into the mix has a couple of benefits. First, it makes giving fun for your supporters; when giving is enjoyable, they’re more likely to give again in the future.

Second, gamification tools offer a seamless way into your community for newcomers. When they see who is ranking highest on your leaderboard or how quickly you’re reaching your fundraising goal, they have an immediate point of access to your latest campaign.

Bonus! Want to learn more about gamification tools? Visit Qgiv and find out how to make gamification tools like fundraising thermometers, leaderboards, and badges work for your cause.

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4. Think of the smartphone giving experience.

Did you know that a growing proportion of online donations are made exclusively through mobile devices like smartphones and tablets? Quickly outpacing desktop-giving, smartphone fundraising is becoming the preferred giving channel for donors worldwide.

This probably isn’t a surprise to your team. After all, most people have their smartphones on them 24/7, and it’s no secret that smartphones are often the primary device individuals use to access the web and interact with your cause.

Before your next campaign, your nonprofit should optimize its online donation forms for smartphone users. You can start this process by choosing a fundraising software that allows your team to create a mobile-responsive version of your form during the form building process.

Another way to improve how smartphone users give back to your nonprofit is to adopt text giving technology. With these tools, your donors can make a gift right from their phone. This method works especially well for donors on the go and those at fundraising events.

Finally, consider promoting mobile giving methods to your supporters. They may be under the assumption that they can only give on a desktop, which limits your opportunities to secure a gift from them. Be sure your community knows they can easily give using their phone, either through traditional donations or via text-to-give.

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5. Emphasize social media fundraising channels.

On a similar note, since so many of your supporters use their smartphones to access the internet each day, your nonprofit should focus on sharing your online donation form through social media channels in addition to more traditional fundraising channels.

Most nonprofits are on social media sites these days, but less often do they effectively leverage this platform as a fundraising channel. Rather, social media is seen as more of an engagement tool than anything else.

Yet, sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all offer great fundraising opportunities. Take advantage of social media’s fundraising potential by:

  • Embedding your donation form on your Facebook page. Did your team know that some online fundraising software enables your nonprofit to embed its donation form directly onto your organization’s Facebook page? Supporters never have to leave the site to make their gift, another convenience-booster for givers.
  • Sharing your donation form’s link on Twitter and Instagram. On websites like Twitter and Instagram that don’t offer embedded giving forms, your team can still share direct links to your form. Include them in your profile’s bio section as well as in regular posts from your account to give supporters ample opportunity to come across your form.

Social media fundraising channels are a great place to make connections with new donors, too. Since most individuals will look your organization up on social sites before giving, they’re likely to encounter your giving forms on your profiles before even making it to your main website.

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6. Capture meaningful donor data to optimize your donation forms.

Finally, the other sure-fire way to optimize your online donation forms for your community of supporters is to design them with donor data in mind.

The fact of the matter is that your fundraising strategy is always more effective when it’s based off of data, and this is especially true when it comes to your giving form. Be sure to track informative metrics related to your giving form and analyze trends from campaign to campaign.

For example, if one version of your giving form is underperforming, that may be a sign you should redesign it. Alternatively, you may find that sharing your form on a particular channel yields better fundraising results, indicating it would be smart to emphasize that channel to givers.

Further, when your nonprofit develops a robust donor database, you can search your records to make connections between givers, hone your fundraising strategy to specific prospects, or even find new opportunities for fundraising.

Your nonprofit’s online donation form is one of your most important fundraising resources, so it’s important you take the time to optimize your strategy. With these best practices in mind, your team is ready to start improving how you make use of this important tool!

Author Bio

  Abby Jarvis is a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for  Qgiv , an online fundraising service provider. Qgiv offers industry-leading  online giving  and  peer to peer fundraising tools  for nonprofit, faith-based, and political organizations of all sizes. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.

Abby Jarvis is a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. Qgiv offers industry-leading online giving and peer to peer fundraising tools for nonprofit, faith-based, and political organizations of all sizes. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.

Tips for Rethinking Your Donor Approach

Tips for Rethinking Your Donor Approach

Some of our favorite advice on fundraising is this: Don’t ask your donor to give you their money, instead, offer them an opportunity to be a part of something important.

For many people who aren’t used to it, fundraising can feel uncomfortable. It can feel like asking for a big favor, like asking someone to give up a valuable resource that they might otherwise use for putting a roof over their head, or sending their kids to college.  However, if you convey neediness or desperation when you’re making an ask, then you run the risk of convincing your prospect that they actually are being put upon. Unfortunately, this could result in a lower gift than you might have otherwise secured or making the donor feel awkward around your organization.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, being philanthropic makes people feel good—it activates pleasure center of the brain.

Don’t believe us? Check out this New York Times article published just last year about a study in Nature Communications revealing that generosity actually changed the activity in the human brain in ways that makes people feel happier.

If your job is to motivate board members, leadership, or other stakeholders who get stuck feeling like they’re burdening a donor by asking for a gift, there are some tools you can use to help them rethink their approach.

First, empower your stakeholder with knowledge about the donor. Even if your they have had a personal relationship with the donor for years, there may still be pertinent information that they are not aware of, such as the donor’s history of charitable giving. Armed with this information, your stakeholder can feel more prepared to navigate a conversation about making a financial contribution to the organization. Even if there are no details in the research that are new to them, it can be validating to learn that they already have all the background they need to make an ask.

Second, give your stakeholder talking points and language to fall back on. Remind them that instead of making a request for a financial transaction, they are offering someone the chance to be a part of the great work of your organization. Phrases like “join us,” for instance, can help put the stakeholder and the donor in this mindset. Consider that instead of asking the donor to “give” something, the stakeholder might be asking them to “be” something: be a member of the patron program, be a co-chair of an event, be a leader in a campaign, be an advocate for important work.

Third, focus your stakeholder with specific tasks. Depending on where you are in the process of cultivation, you may have instructions to help guide your stakeholder in setting up and engaging in a conversation with the donor. Think about the type and level of ask you’d like them to make. Are they soliciting a patron membership? A campaign gift? Or gala participation? Is there a range that they should be asking for, or do you want them to leave it entirely open? Having a set of guidelines to keep in mind will help steady them if they get nervous to initiate a conversation about money.

Finally, motivate your stakeholder with the reminder that having the conversation is the win.  No matter what happens, an authentic and meaningful relationship with the donor is the best possible outcome.

Getting Beyond Your Network: The Importance of Connections Research

Getting Beyond Your Network: The Importance of Connections Research

Finding a connection to a prospective donor, be it an individual, foundation, or corporation can be the first great step toward a fruitful cultivation process. All too often as fundraisers we identify a potential donor whose interests clearly align with the work that we do, who are publicly philanthropic, who believe would make a charitable gift to our organization, if only they knew that we existed and had the opportunity to get to know our mission.

Showing these names to your board members and senior leadership is always a great first step, and can sometimes prove to be highly productive, especially in terms of getting them to think about who else they might be able to introduce to the organization. Sometimes, however, that step is not enough. In those cases what you really need is research.

If you’ve read the Donorly blog before, then you’re likely familiar with how we feel about donor research. We’ve advocated using research to make the most of your gala, using research to design your charity auction, and getting creative with free research tools (such as The Wayback Machine). In short: we love it. In the case that you have a prospective donor that you’d like to find a way to engage, what we recommend for you is time and resources spent on connections research.

Connections research creates a series of narratives that connect Subject A (you or your organization) to Subject B (your prospective individual, foundation, or corporate donor) through first and second-degree connections.

For example:

Let’s say April is a member of your board, and she is also on the corporate board for The Now Corporation.

Then let’s say May is also on the corporate board for The Now Corporation with April, as well as a Trustee for The Later Foundation.

If The Later Foundation is a prospect, then your research stops there and you can start strategizing with April about how to engage May.

But, connections research could even take it a step further. Perhaps The Later Foundation’s funding priorities aren’t a match for your organization, but there is another Trustee on The Later Foundation’s board, let’s call her June, whose personal philanthropy indicates that she’d take an interest in your work. Then your conversation with April might be about leveraging her relationship with May to get an introduction to June.

In other words:

April  (The Now Corporation) leads to May (The Now Corporation, The Later Foundation) leads to June (The Later Foundation).

Taking the time, or spending the resources, to put connections research to work can help you open doors to new contacts that may have otherwise been out of reach—a worthwhile, and relatively easy, way to take your donor prospecting to the next level.

Using Research to Make the Most of Your Gala

Using Research to Make the Most of Your Gala

Anyone who has ever organized, worked, or volunteered for a gala knows what an immense amount of work goes in behind the scenes to execute the spectacular celebration that your donors have come to know and love. Luckily, the payoff has the potential to be big—in addition to being a fundraising event, with the right research, you can also use your gala as a moment for donor cultivation and stewardship.

3 Weeks Out: Begin your research! Once you have amassed a substantial list of gala attendees, be they people in your network and the guests of your board or committee, submit those names for research. You will likely need to provide an address or email address to help the person doing the research verify the subject of their search—whether it is outsourced to a company like Donorly or taken care of in house. With enough lead time, this process can be ongoing right up to the days before the event when your lists are being finalized.

Keep it simple—figure out what two or three pieces of information will be most useful for you. Here are some examples:

Where do they work?
Where do they serve on boards?
Where did they go to school?
What are their pronouns?
How many children do they have?
What city do they live in?

Once you have a gala bio written for someone, you will be able to save time by giving it a quick refresh the next time that donor attends an event at your organization, rather than needing to write it from scratch.

1 Week Out: Review your gala bios with your leadership team. Who at your organization needs to be doing the work on the floor of making your donors feel acknowledged and appreciated? Whether you recruit your board members to do this, or utilize your senior management, make sure they have a chance before the day of the event to review the results of your research and consider what, if any, specific conversations need to happen at the event. These conversations may be informed by anything you have learned in the bio-writing process. Do they need to be congratulated on a promotion or retirement? Do their other interests suggest they should be invited for a site visit? Do they need to be approached by a particular board or staff member because of a shared connection? This is the time to make those decisions.

The Day of the Event: Provide your leadership team with discrete lists of bios and/or a list that quickly reminds them who they have been assigned to talk to, and why. This can be formatted digitally to scroll easily on their smart phone, it can be sized to fit on a single index card, or it can be put in the hands of a staff member or trusted volunteer who is in charge of directing your leadership team members’ movements throughout the room for the night.

Having this kind of information at hand when talking to donors at your gala not only makes them feel valued and acknowledged, it makes the donor relationship personal and authentic, paving the way for future fruitful conversations with someone who will hopefully become a strong advocate for your organization.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Asking a Donor for an Increase

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Asking a Donor for an Increase

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Asking a Donor for an Increase

 

Over the life of your hopefully ongoing relationship with each of your individual donors, there may come a moment (or moments) when it is time to ask them to increase their annual gift to your organization. There are plenty of tools-of-the-trade that you can put to use in this process – for instance, you might adjust the minimum giving levels on the pledge cards you send with annual mailings, or alter the donation levels for your patron program. Ever the proponent of donor research, however, we’d like to suggest a thoughtful and personal approach to securing an increased gift from an annual donor.

Here are a few factors we urge you to consider when you’re making an ask for an increase:

1. When? In fundraising, as in life, timing is everything. The question of when to make the ask is about the timing of a number of factors: When did the donor last make a gift to your organization? When does the donor typically make their decisions around charitable giving for the year? When is the donor planning to spend most of their disposable income? For example, if you have a donor who is paying for their child’s wedding, the months leading up to that event are not likely to be productive times to ask for an increased gift. On the other hand, if you know that the donor makes all their giving decisions in December when they sit down to write checks before the end of the tax year, November is probably a great time to get in front of them.

This is likely not information that you’ll be able to find in a database or doing a google search. Rather, this kind of information is one of the benefits that comes with personal donor stewardship. If you are taking the time to make phone calls, send personal notes, and talk to your donors in person when the opportunities arise, you’ll learn information like this, and you will be able to form more of a partnership with your donors around their support of your organization. Your donors will feel heard and cared for when you take these things into account.

2. How Much? This can be a tricky question. If you don’t know enough about a donor’s personal finances, it can be difficult to tell what your increased ask should be. Asking too much may create some tension in the relationship with the donor, but asking too little means that you are leaving valuable dollars on the table that might be put to use enriching the lives of the people you serve. This is where databases of publicly available information come into play. By looking through an individual’s giving history, you can start to assess what their capacity may be to give, and what the likelihood is that they would give a larger gift to an organization like yours. Keep in mind that a donor’s capacity may change over time, so even if you’ve done this research before, it is worth refreshing your knowledge and updating your records.

Just as with the question of “When?,” you may also get your answers to the question of “How Much?” from conversations with your donor. A donor who feels appreciated is much more likely to have an open conversation with you about how much they are able or willing to give to your organization. They may even outright tell you that they are interested in getting more deeply involved.

3. How? When planning to ask for an increase, make sure to consider how you’re going to do it. Who is going to be making the ask? Will it be in person, on the phone, or in writing? Use the information that you’ve been collecting through your personal interactions with your donor in order to determine how to answer these questions. Does the donor have a greater affinity for one member of your leadership team over another? Is there a programmatic interest area that they would prefer to fund?

A face-to-face meeting is the gold standard, but that’s not always possible or practical. If that’s not an option, use the mode of communication that they most prefer. Do they prefer to consider something in writing, or to talk through their gift over the phone? If they prefer texting or emails, start the conversation there. Using their preferred mode of communication signals that you know them and want to do what’s most comfortable for them.

There is no guarantee of success with every ask, of course, but over time your investment in getting answers to these questions will pay off. Just remember to be thoughtful, be personal, and keep thorough records!

 

Cultivating Institutional Donors; Or, It's Not About You

CULTIVATING INSTITUTIONAL DONORS; OR, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.

Working to develop a relationship with an institutional donor can take hard work and time—sometimes years! — and because of the reporting requirements that many of them have, the hard work doesn’t end when the grant is awarded. So, what can you and your team do to keep your corporate, foundation, and government funders happy—and keep your organization on their roster of grantees? You’ve got to figure out how they tell their story.

Institutions tend to take one of two approaches to grant-making. Most government agencies, although certainly some foundations and corporations, place greater value on data. How many people did you serve? How many events did you host? How many email inboxes did you reach? At what times of day and in which locations? How are you quantitatively measuring the impact of your work? These are the institutions whose stakeholders are taking tallies, making sure that they are meeting certain metrics with their grant-making strategies. For these funders, you’ll need to brush up your bullets, graphs, and tables – make it as easy as possible for them to quickly pull exactly the information they are looking for.

Conversely, many foundations want you to tell them a good story. They may be more moved to continue giving by an anecdote about a single program participant who underwent a massive transformation, than by knowing that your event attendance increased by 15% this year. These are the institutions whose stakeholders are intrigued by why your work is important, not just what you do. To them, photos and videos are more than just proof that you’ve done the work you said you would do, they are evidence that you’re touching real lives. For these funders, put the handy tools in Microsoft Office to work: pull quotes, sidebars, and even the right photo formatting can make clear on the page what you already know to be true about why you do what you do.

Here are two ways to go about figuring out which kind of institution you’re dealing with:

ONE: Develop a relationship with your grant or program officer.
This person’s job is to make sure that grantees like you are helping their institutions meet their funding goals. The fact that it’s not their money doesn’t make your grant or program officer any less important to the process. If they’ve already awarded you the grant, they only succeed if you succeed—they’re on your side! Pick up the phone once in a while when you have good news to share, invite them to events your organization is hosting, and most importantly, DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS. Sometimes, finding out what the funder wants in a report—or a future proposal for that matter—is as simple as that.

TWO: If all else fails, read between the lines.

Sometimes there is no grant officer. Sometimes, there’s nothing standing between you and the President of the Board, and picking up the phone doesn’t always feel right. Sometimes, literally all you have to go on is a PO Box and calling isn’t even an option (okay, maybe that’s a little extreme, but you get the point). That’s when you have to look hard at what the organization is asking for. Do they severely limit the number of characters, words, or pages you can submit? If so, they’re not looking for long anecdotes or quotes, they want just the facts. Do they encourage you to submit photos, videos, and links to social media pages? They’re probably looking for a more fleshed out story—a bigger picture.

The key to your success in this process is to resist the urge to send your best statistical data to the institutions that want to be moved emotionally, and to stop yourself from sharing inspiring anecdotes with those that only care for numbers and facts.

In navigating how to report to different institutional funders, it helps to keep in mind that, unlike individuals, these organizations are not choosing between writing you that $5,000 check and using it to go on vacation. Foundations and certain Government Agencies are required by law to make contributions to charitable organizations and, as such, have to turn around and prove that they’ve upheld their own set of obligations. Your reporting doesn’t only help you stay on their good list, it helps them remain in good standing. So yes, your strategy for cultivating and reporting to institutional funders is technically about you, but it’s also very much about them.

 

 

 

 

The Case for Fundraising Data, and How to Keep It Clean

The Case for Fundraising Data, and How to Keep It Clean

Keeping your data clean can be like flossing. You know you should do it, but the benefits are not always short term and it can too easily fall to the bottom of your priority list. However, keeping your data clean can be so important to your fundraising process over the course of the year that we’re here to make the case that it should be the one New Year’s Resolution that you don’t let go by the wayside.

Need some motivation? Think of it this way:

  1. Keeping your data clean will help you prevent embarrassing snafus such as contacting a divorced donor using their former married name, reaching out to a deceased person, or inviting an incorrect foundation staff member or trustee to an event.
  2. Keeping your data clean will help you more quickly identify donors who are ready for an ask, for renewal or an increase.
  3. Keeping your data clean will save you the headache of transferring information from your outgoing development staffer’s brain to your new hire’s notes in the little or no overlap time between the two employees.

Keeping up with information changes and additions can be time consuming, but we have a few ideas for keeping the process streamlined and your data up to date!

Make it somebody’s responsibility. Choose one person on your team who will manage updating donor profiles and direct everyone else to funnel the changes through that person. If that doesn’t work for the rest of your workflow, you can split it up by area – one person manages foundation profiles, one person manages members or patrons, one person manages smaller donors, etc.

Make it a regular task and stick to it. If it isn’t feasible to put one person primarily in charge of your database all day long, then make sure you’re keeping track of changes to donor profiles (names, email addresses, mailing addresses, etc) and setting aside time daily or weekly to make the updates. Putting even a half-hour on the calendar that you’re not allowing yourself to get pulled into other work may be all the focused time you need!

Don’t Forget Your Communications and Sales Data. Although it may not be stored automatically in your donor database, your communications and sales data can play a very important role in assessing someone’s readiness to be asked for a gift. For instance, are they opening your emails? Are they buying tickets to your events or other services? If you’re operating out of two databases, make sure the information is getting shared between them (even if it’s manually). Find out that a donor has a new email address? Update it on your marketing list. Likewise, when a donor purchases a ticket to a performance or event through a marketing email, you’ll need that information for your donor records as well.

As with most of the recommendations that we make, we appreciate that there is some extra work involved in this process. But, if you put in the time deliberately and consistently, the payoff could be huge.

Micro-Donations: Getting Creative to Target New Donors

Micro-Donations: Getting Creative to Target New Donors

Micro-Donations: Getting Creative to Target New Donors

It is undeniable that the development of new technology has revolutionized the way that people donate to charitable organizations. Now, the rising trend of apps and tools for micro-donations makes it possible for people who might not have otherwise considered themselves philanthropists to give money to your cause.

Spotfund, a tool that launched in June 2016, is a great example. The app functions like a social platform, allowing organizations to set up an appealing and easily shareable profile. When clicking to donate, the user is prompted with the options $1, $5, or $10 and then asked to share on social media that they’ve made a gift. If you’ve used crowdfunding platforms, such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, you’re probably already familiar with this model.

Of course, this tool requires the donor to be proactive. Interestingly, in recent months we’ve started seeing some prime examples of nonprofits getting creative in order to attract more regular micro-donations without needing to rely on consistent reminders to their donors.

Bail Bloc, for instance, is a project developed by The New Inquiry in partnership with the Bronx Freedom Fund. The website explains: “When you download the app, a small part of your computer's unused processing power is redirected toward mining a popular cryptocurrency called Monero, which is secure, private, and untraceable. At the end of every month, we exchange the Monero for US dollars and donate the earnings to the Bronx Freedom Fund.

100% of the currency your computer generates is used by the Bronx Freedom Fund to post bail for low-income people detained in New York effective immediately.” Most users, they explain, can expect to generate $3 to $5 per month. What’s really interesting about this tool, is that the user doesn’t need to know anything about cryptocurrency in order to use it to fund this cause.

Taking a more tech-lite approach, Planned Parenthood of New York City has developed a partnership with Amalgamated Bank to start a what they are calling a “Give-Back Savings Account.” All a donor has to do is set up a give-back account with Amalgamated Bank, and every month, the bank will donate an amount equivalent to half of the interest they earn on their savings to Planned Parenthood of New York City.

If you’re looking to start taking advantage of the growing culture of micro-giving, your options are plentiful – whether you encourage your audience to use a pre-existing tool, or come up with a new option that’s right for your organization. As with the case of Planned Parenthood of New York City, getting creative around micro-donations may even be an opportunity for a new partnership. So, don’t be afraid to think outside the box!

The Unsung Heroes of Gala Season: Putting Your Volunteers To Work

The Unsung Heroes of Gala Season: Putting Your Volunteers To Work

The Unsung Heroes of Gala Season: Putting Your Volunteers To Work

If you manage your organization’s gala or major special events, you’re probably all too familiar with the joys and challenges of working with a small army of volunteers. Volunteers can be a great asset to your organization, they are your advocates and the people who care enough about what you do that they are willing to work for free. While volunteers are filled with a depth of enthusiasm for your organization, other things may take priority in their lives (even at the last minute) over a commitment to your cause, they don’t always show up with the skill set you might need, and you may not have the time or resources to provide in-depth training.

Does this sound familiar? If so, we’ve got three key pieces of advice for recruiting and managing volunteers for your special events that will keep you from pulling your hair out.

  1. Identify their unique skills and put those skills to work. With volunteers who are new to your organization, this may require an onboarding phone call or coffee meeting, but the time you put into it will be worth it. Figure out what they have to bring to the table beyond simply being an extra set of hands. You may uncover some wonderful things – if the person has a legal background, for instance, perhaps they can help review your vendor contracts. Do they practice calligraphy? Have them write your place cards. Do they have expertise in digital media? Put them to work on your day-of social media strategy. Each volunteer is unique and the ways that you can put them to work are endless.
  2. Think about both ends of the volunteer transaction. Once you’ve figured out what you and your organization can get out of the relationship with this volunteer, think about what the volunteer hopes to get out of the experience. Some people volunteer simply because it makes them feel good to do so, but others may have additional motives. They might be hoping to one day work for your organization, or they may be interested in being in the same room with your honoree or special guest presenters, or they may just be performing community service hours to meet a school requirement. Having a clear understanding of both ends of the volunteer transaction can help you better manage and motivate each of your volunteers, and ensure you get the best work you can out of each of them.
  3. Be clear and communicative. Set expectations in the process of recruiting your volunteers so that you are on the same page from the get go. It is important that they understand what they are signing up for, so that they don’t feel misguided and regret it later (a remorseful volunteer is worse than no volunteer at all). Make sure that your volunteer communications strategy involves multiple channels (emails, phone calls, and/or in person meetings), keeping in mind that it often requires communicating the same set of details multiple times. And if there’s anything we’ve learned first-hand, it’s that people rarely actually read their emails from top to bottom, so don’t rely on one long email to get your volunteers on-boarded and up to speed!