9 Tips for Making a Multichannel Fundraising Ask

Abby Jarvis is a gust contributor for Nonprofit Hub. She 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.

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If you’ve been in the nonprofit world for any time at all, you know the importance of a multichannel approach to fundraising.

You can no longer rely on just one or two strategies to bring in revenue. As it has been said before:

Your audience is in more than one place—you need to be, too.”

But it can be intimidating and daunting to look at all of the different ways you can get in touch with donors and determine which combination of methods will work best for your organization.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet or special sauce when it comes to fundraising. Each nonprofit has different fundraising goals and a different pool of donors and prospects.

However, the tips that we’re going to discuss in this very article are general enough for any nonprofit that is looking to move toward a more multichannel fundraising approach.

Here are the strategies we’ll be going over:

  1. Determine where you are.
  2. Discover your donors’ preferences.
  3. Train your staff.
  4. Have different strategies for various giving levels.
  5. Write great emails.
  6. Create a stellar online donation page.
  7. Up your social media game.
  8. Implement a great acknowledgement strategy.
  9. Track, track, track.

If you’re looking for help making a multichannel fundraising ask, look no further.
1

It’s going to be difficult to implement any sort of plan if you aren’t sure of your starting point.

To determine where you stand, take a look at your past successes and shortcomings with certain fundraising strategies.

Did your last email campaign blow your expectations out of the water (in a good way)?

Was your winter gala perfectly executed?

Did your phonathon fall a little flat last spring?

Ask yourself these questions as they relate to your overall fundraising strategy. Determine weak areas and highlight your organization’s strengths.

You’ll be much more prepared if you have a good idea of where you stand with your existing fundraising strategies.

Key takeaway: Be realistic and take stock of your previous fundraising methods. Use that info to propel your fundraising approach forward.

2

While you may have great ideas about getting in touch with your donors, it is they who, in the long run, will determine which communication strategies they like the best.

Therefore, it’s crucial that you:

  1. Research your donor base.
  2. Determine the kinds of messages to which they most often respond.
  3. Use this information to segment and target your donors.

For instance, if you regularly send out direct mail appeals to most of your donors, but you have only a 10% response rate, it might be time to scale back that method.

Conversely, if your donors overwhelmingly appreciate emailed newsletters with “Donate Now” buttons that lead to your donation page, keep crafting great emails that will grab donors’ attentions.

Researching your donor base isn’t exactly a perfect science, however. Donor preferences change, and you won’t always know how each and every supporter likes to be communicated with.

To supplement these efforts, you can directly ask donors how they’d like to be reached.

You can do so by:

  • Including a “Preferred Communications” option on your donation form.
  • Asking donors in person during fundraising events or in-person meetings.
  • Having a section on your direct mail letters that lets donors specify their preferences.
  • Sending out a link to a survey via email.

By researching your existing donor base, looking at your past successes, and combining them with your donors’ stated communication preferences, you’ll be able to better target the various appeals you make through different channels.

Key takeaway: Multichannel fundraising requires precision and planning. Make sure you’re sending the right messages to the right supporters.

3

You’ve looked at your past success, and you’ve determined how you should be getting in touch with your donors.

It’s time to start fundraising, right?

Wrong!

Before you ride off into the fundraising sunset, you have to make sure that everyone on your organization’s staff is on the same page with regard to fundraising strategies and communications.

Make sure that fundraisers in particular know proper etiquette and methods for approaching major gift donors and planned giving contributors.

Since these supporters make some of the largest donations that nonprofits receive, it’s crucial that the staff members approaching these donors know the right way to ask for donations and maintain good relationships with them.

There will be other training that your staff will need to undergo. If you bring on a new type of software or start planning a new type of fundraising event, your team members will all need to be on the same page.

Key takeaway: Multichannel fundraising isn’t a one-man undertaking. Make sure that your staff members all know what their jobs are with respect to your fundraising approach.

4

No two donors are the same. The beauty of multichannel fundraising is that it accounts for the differences between donors and helps your organization tailor asks according to preferred communication style and giving level.

Let’s not mince words here:

You can’t feasibly have in-person meetings with every single donor.

You also shouldn’t email a major gift donor asking for a massive donation.

Instead, implement different strategies for the various giving levels that your organization has laid out.

If you have a pool of major gift donors that you need to solicit, craft a general strategy for those appeals that you can then individually tailor for each person.

For your smaller gift donors, send out mass communications that are segmented according to their relationship with your organization (first-time donor, monthly giver, volunteer, etc.).

Depending on your donor pool and their preferences, you’ll need to formulate your own plan for segmentation according to giving level.

Key takeaway: Switch up your communications to donors of different giving levels to effectively reach each demographic.

5

After you’ve developed your multichannel fundraising strategy and gone through all of the preparatory steps, it’s time to implement your plan!

When sending out emails to donors, there are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Write a great subject line

    This is what donors will see first. Don’t ruin an emailed appeal with an unimaginative subject line.
  2. Incorporate images

    A massive block of text is going to be off-putting to email recipients. Make sure that you break things up by including images of the people, animals, or communities that you help.
  3. Optimize for mobile devices

    Many of your donors are checking their emails on their smartphones and tablets. Do your emailed appeals look just as great on a small screen, or are donors having to pinch, zoom, and swipe to find out what your email is about?
  4. Give donors ways to contribute

    Your emails can be perfectly crafted and explain your mission exactly, but that won’t do much good if you don’t tell your donors how to give to your organization. Give them a link to your online donation page and include your address and phone number.

You shouldn’t always be sending out donation appeals via email, though. Remember that email is a cost-effective and efficient way to get in touch with a lot of people–it doesn’t always have to be about donating.

Use emails to:

  • Update donors on projects.
  • Invite them to fundraising events.
  • Inform them of organizational changes.
  • Let supporters know about volunteering opportunities.

You can always include a call to action or a link to your donation page within these other communications.

Just remember to vary the types of communications that you send out to donors via email.

Key takeaway: Craft amazing donation appeals (in addition to other types of emails) to effectively get in touch with your donors.  

6

Even if you craft the most amazing email ever, your donors might not be willing to give unless they can do so easily.

Here’s where having a great online donation page comes in.

According to this article, “Lifetime revenue per donor increases when donors come from an online source.”

There are an overwhelming number of donation form best practices, so we’re just going to hit some of the high points here.

  1. The simpler, the better

    If you want to give your donor conversion rate a boost, make sure that your donation form is as simple as possible.

    This doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be bare and boring, but it does mean that you should eliminate all extraneous links and menu navigation. You should also keep text to a minimum and include no more than one image somewhere on the form.

    The reason for keeping a donation form simple is, well, simple: you don’t want to distract your donors while they’re trying to make a contribution to your organization.If they get led away by a link on the sidebar menu before they can press the “Donate Now” button, you’ve missed out on a contribution!Keep your donation form simple to increase your donor conversion rate and create a positive giving experience for your supporters.
  2. Offer recurring donations

    Are your donor retention rates lower than you’d like them to be? Try offering recurring donation options on your form to encourage donors to set up monthly, quarterly, or yearly giving.

    Instead of giving once (and only once) online, your donors will be able to continually support your organization without having to visit your donation page each time.
  3. Keep donor data secure

    This should be a good practice for your fundraising strategies across the board, but it’s crucial to keep your online donors’ information safe and secure.

    Maintain compliance with the payment card industry data security standards (PCI DSS) to make sure that your donors can give with confidence.

    Not only does staying in line with PCI DSS compliance give your donors peace of mind, it also protects your organization from any liability. Your organization can face fines if you don’t have a secure donation form.
  4. Limit the number of required fields

    Research has shown that the more information donors have to provide, the less likely they are to complete the donation process.

    For instance, if you require donors to give out their name, address, phone number, email address, and make them create an account just to give $30 to your organization, they’re probably going to get frustrated and drop the process altogether.

    Only collect the information you need. Make everything else an optional feature or remove it completely.

Your online donation page is an extension of your organization’s digital outreach. Make sure that it’s on par with the rest of your website and online communications.

Key takeaway: Your donation page is a crucial component of a multichannel fundraising strategy. Don’t forget to make it amazing.

7

Many of your donors are using social media sites and apps to connect with their friends, to stay up to date on current events, and to stay in touch with the causes and organizations they support.

You should post quality social media content regularly and interact with donors who reach out on your social media accounts.

One of the first steps in creating a stronger social media presence (and subsequently asking for and receiving donations via social networks) is to post content regularly.

This means that you should post status updates, pictures, and videos of the work that your nonprofit is doing. You can also post social media shout-outs to your biggest supporters!

While you can post appeals on your social channels, you shouldn’t always bombard your followers with pleas for money.

Instead, vary your content to appeal to a wide variety of supporters:

  • Share success stories that show donors what their contributions are going toward;
  • Post information about an upcoming fundraising event;
  • Invite followers to learn more about volunteering opportunities;
  • Provide info about employee and corporate giving programs;
  • And more!

Social media is a powerful tool and can be used to grow your reach and find new donors. Use it to your advantage by posting great content as well as donation appeals.

Key takeaway: Social media isn’t just a platform to ask for contributions. Use it as a way to stay in touch with people who care about your cause.

8

A donor who has made a gift between $5k – $10k to a nonprofit organization is 5 times as likely to donate charitably as an average person is. Therefore, it makes sense to have a great acknowledgement plan in place to encourage donors to give again and again!

The best way to gauge how you should thank donors is hidden in their giving method.

Did they give online?

→ Send an email acknowledgement and follow up with a social media shoutout.

Did they mail in a check?

→ Send out a thank you letter or card.

Did they give a substantial amount of money?

→ Have a board member give them a call or meet them in person to thank them.

Whichever route you take for donor acknowledgement should be genuine and sincere. You should also use your emailed and direct mail acknowledgements as donation receipts so that donors can easily claim their donations during tax season.

You should always immediately thank a donor who has made a contribution, but the acknowledgements shouldn’t stop there.

Instead, continually express your appreciation to donors and use previous donations as a starting point for future donation appeals

Key takeaway: Send out stellar acknowledgements to cultivate and steward the great relationships you built with donors during the donation process.

9

It’s going to be difficult to know which fundraising methods are the most effective if you aren’t tracking your progress.

And it’s been said on this blog before: the first step for recording the ROI across all your selected channels of communication is establishing your donation goal.

Setting a goal will help keep your team accountable and give you something to work toward.

You should also set benchmark measurements to track your progress over time (as opposed to, say, setting a goal for the next year and only checking in once the year has passed).

Some key performance indicators to keep in mind include:

 

  • Donor retention: How many donors stay in your donor pool over time?
  • Donor acquisition: How many first-time contributors did you bring in?
  • Return on investment (ROI): Did the donations you brought in outweigh the cost it took to acquire them?
  • Average gift size: How much are people giving to your organization, on average?
  • Average gift growth: Are donors giving more and more each time or remaining fairly consistent?

These five are just a starting point. Check out these other metrics and see what works for your organization.

Key takeaway: Set an appropriate fundraising goal and measure your success against a variety of metrics. Adjust course as necessary.

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As stated at the beginning of this article, each organization will require a different approach to multichannel fundraising. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every single organization.

However, these nine strategies are a good starting point for any organization that wants to ramp up its multichannel fundraising approach.

What about your nonprofit? What success have you had with multichannel fundraising? What would you suggest to other organizations who want to get started?

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