Athena Software Blog
Top 4 Game-Changing Year-End Fundraising Strategies
Posted by Ryan Woroniecki on Dec. 5, 2016

As the end of the year approaches, it’s important that nonprofits implement the most data-driven and effective strategies to earn more from their donors.

After all, year-end giving is particularly profitable. If your nonprofit can capitalize on the giving flux, then you can start off the new year ahead of the game.

This year, technological advancements and cloud-based management have enhanced nonprofits’ abilities to reach their donors. At the same time, certain time-tested strategies have consistently proven themselves valuable.

That’s why we’re bringing you the most innovative, game-changing techniques, based on foundational strategies and new advancements.

Let’s break down our curated list:

  • Strategize with donor segmentation.
  • Gain insights with prospect research.
  • Double your donors’ gifts.
  • Grab your donors’ attention.

Are you ready to get started?

1. Strategize with donor segmentation.

Strategize with Donor Segmentation

One of the advantages of your nonprofit donor database or CRM software is the ability to segment your donors.

Donor segmentation involves grouping your donors based upon certain data. Once they’re grouped, you can send targeted communications that are relevant and engaging to the donors in each group.

That way, your donors are being treated like individuals, which can help you build stronger relationships founded on their abilities and needs. Since year-end giving usually involves a series of appeals over a long period of time, personalizing each communication is especially important to retaining your donors’ interests.

This comprehensive break-down can show you the multitude of ways that you can (and should!) segment your donors for year-end giving:

  • Giving levels. Grouping your donors according to their giving levels can help you dedicate your resources to the donors who are most likely to give significantly. Giving levels include, but aren’t limited to: major donors, planned donors, mid-level donors, and new or small-gift donors. Though all of your donors are valuable, it’s vital that your high-level donors receive personal communications based on their giving history.

  • Giving recency. You don’t want to start sending year-end asks to donors who’ve recently given to your organization. Doing so could make your donors feel unappreciated! For these donors, begin your year-end communications on a note of gratitude, thanking them for their previous contributions to your organization.

  • Preferred communication channel. A donor’s preferred communication channel tells you how they want to interact with your organization. If you don’t pay attention to this valuable information, you risk sending your donors communications that they may not even open.

Segmenting your donors by these characteristics can help you reach them more effectively. Most CRMs offer email integration functions and other scheduling features so that you can easily send your donors relevant communications via their preferred channels.

Managing your donors has never been easier; segment them based on key data so that you can use the resources you have to their full advantage.

2. Gain insights with prospect research.

Gain Insights with Prospect Research

Prospect research is one of the most fundamental tools for developing your donor base. After all, prospect research is the process of gaining information about your donors so that you can better understand them.

It’s important that you perform prospect research before you start your year-end campaign so that you can identify your donors’ giving potential. Potential major donors are likely hidden in your database. A proper cultivation strategy can help you move them into a higher giving level, but first, you have to be aware of their presence.

Let’s take a look at an example.

A donor with major giving potential may have given an average-sized gift to a crowdfunding campaign (say, $50). This donor may be willing to give a lot more to your nonprofit, but hasn’t so far because crowdfunding campaigns generally ask for smaller donations.

If you base your appeal on their current giving, rather than their potential, you may ask for a gift in the same range ($50-$70). A donor isn’t likely to give a gift that’s significantly larger than what you ask for. As such, you’d be leaving hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on the table simply because you didn’t ask for more.

That’s why it’s vital that you take the time to identify which donors can give more. Prospect research can help you do just that, but first you need to know what kind of information will be most valuable.

Here are some of the most prominent indicators of major gift potential:

  • Past giving history. One of the strongest characteristics of a major donor is loyalty in the form of recurring and/or increasing gifts. However, past giving history should also take into account gifts that are given to other, similar organizations. Some donors may be giving mid-sized gifts to your organization but major gifts to others. Knowing which organizations motivate this donor can help you cultivate them more effectively.

  • Wealth data. Wealth data can consist of many factors, including a donor’s political giving or real estate holdings. It’s important to understand your donor’s giving abilities, so that you don’t accidentally offend them by asking for too much, or leave money on the table by asking for too little.

  • Philanthropic involvement. No matter how wealthy a donor is, they won’t give substantially to your organization unless they’re philanthropically inclined. Donors who volunteer or who’ve served on nonprofit boards are much more likely to invest significant funds in your organization than those who don’t.

Prospect research is a comprehensive strategy that allows you to consider your donors from a multitude of angles. All of these factors should be considered in tandem to gain a holistic picture of a donor.

By learning more about who they are and what they can contribute to your organization, you’ll be more equipped to ask for donations within their ballpark.

You can learn more about the odds-and-ends of prospect research with this comprehensive DonorSearch guide.

3. Double your donors’ gifts.

Double Your Donors' Gifts

One of the simplest, but often overlooked, strategies involves corporate philanthropy. Specifically, matching gifts.

Once a donor gives to your organization, they can apply for a matching gift from their employer. If your nonprofit and the donation are eligible, the employer will match the employee’s donation, essentially doubling the amount of funds that your organization receives.

Matching gifts are virtually free funding for your nonprofit. With so much donation activity occurring during the year-end season, matching gifts can make a huge impact on your cause.

Of course, there’s one problem that many nonprofits face. This article explains this common complication:

“Many donors simply don’t know that their employers offer [matching gift] programs! And even if they do, the guidelines, forms, and instructions are buried in a handbook somewhere or are hidden on the company’s website.”

To alleviate this problem, matching gift tools can be integrated into your year-end campaign. Matching gift tools are embeddable search engines that analyze databases for matching gift information across thousands of companies.

Here’s an example from Mercy Corps.

Mercy Corps Example

Donors simply have to type in the name of their company to learn more about the corporate philanthropy programs that are offered.

If your organization doesn’t want to use a matching gift tool, you can also send information about matching gifts to your donors. Spreading awareness can encourage them to seek out these matching gift opportunities for themselves.

After all, donors want to support your cause. If they know that they can double the impact of their contributions, then they’ll likely try to do so.

4. Grab your donors’ attention.

Grab Your Donors' Attention

Before you can convince donors to give to your campaign, you need to provide a compelling argument. After all, the end of the year is saturated with marketing, and donors are busy with holidays, the end-of-school season, and a million family gatherings.

Your nonprofit’s campaign needs to stand out during this hectic time.

To do so, you need to tell your nonprofit’s story. Don’t just ask donors to give; compel them to give.

Telling your nonprofit’s story can be challenging, but with modern, open-source tools for online engagement, you have several options.

Here are some of the most prominent:

  • Video. Videos can bring your nonprofit’s story to life. Show donors how their gifts will be used to further your nonprofit’s mission by focusing on a recipient of your nonprofit’s aid. Allow them to speak for themselves, so that donors can connect more deeply to your cause.

  • Social media. Social media is a great storytelling device, because donors can share your nonprofit’s posts with their personal networks. When donors share your posts, they validate the importance of your message. As such, your story can reach a wider audience of potential supporters. It’s important to include visuals like photos or infographics in each post so that they stand out to your followers.

  • Donation pages. Your donation form needs to be optimized so that donors stay on the page when they land there and follow through with a donation. A simple donation form is vital for keeping supporters invested when they give. Plus, a stylized, branded, organized page with a powerful image can orient donors to your cause and persuade them make a contribution in the first place.

With these necessary tools, your nonprofit can keep your campaign focused on your cause. To help you get started, you can draw inspiration from Neon’s top nonprofit web designs.

No matter how you decide to display your nonprofit’s mission, storytelling can draw on donors’ emotions and convince them to give.

By following these year-end fundraising strategies, your nonprofit can better reach and engage with your donors.

Bonus tip: Learn more about how case management software can help you achieve your year-end goals through better donor management.

About the author: Ryan Woroniecki is the Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at DonorSearch, a prospect research, screening, and analytics company that focuses on proven philanthropy. He has worked with hundreds of nonprofits and is a member of APRA-MD. When he isn’t working, he is an avid kickball player.

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