When we say that we talk to a lot of nonprofits here at Qgiv, that’s a huge understatement. We work with thousands of nonprofit organizations all over the US and Canada, and we get to hear a ton of wonderful stories about their triumphs, their setbacks, and what they do to succeed. After working so closely with so many organizations, we started noticing a trend with nonprofits who are consistently successful: they regularly evaluate themselves and their fundraising practices.
Sounds pretty straight-forward, right? It’s actually a challenge, sometimes, to consistently reevaluate ourselves… especially when we’re in the throes of a fundraising campaign or tax season or a new program. Here’s what our most successful friends are doing and how you can do it, too:
1. They Evaluate What They Do to Get New Donors
What do you do to attract new donors? Do you put on events in your home town? Do you use social media? Do you place ads in your local paper? Do you use Internet advertising? Do you maintain relationships with other nonprofits?
Once you know what you’re actually doing to attract new donors, you can take a look at how effective your efforts are. Are you still faithfully running an annual event that costs you money but attracts fewer donors every year? Maybe it’s time to rethink your dedication to throwing that event. Are you still paying for print ads when Internet advertising is attracting more supporters? Maybe it’s time to send less money to your local paper and put more into AdWords.
What new leads are out there that you’re not exploring? Is there a new magazine in town that’s getting a lot of hype? Is there a blog relevant to your organization’s mission that’s attracting a bunch of readers? It’s always good to be aware of up-and-coming outlets that can help you attract new supporters.
2. They Evaluate Their Donation Process
If you want people to donate to you, you need to make it easy for them to make a gift. Put yourself in your donors’ shoes. Is your website easy to use? Does it need a facelift? Most Internet users only look for the information they want on a webpage for a few seconds — being user-friendly is key if you want people to stick around long enough to make a donation.
Is your donation form short and sweet? We know that donors are more likely to give on a donation page that is brief and streamlined; asking too many additional questions will scare away people who might otherwise give a gift. If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at your organization’s page and donation form, it’s time to see what needs to be updated.
3. They Evaluate How They Keep Their Donors
Attracting new donors is great, but keeping the ones you already have is even better. Penny for penny, donor retention is a much more efficient fundraising method than recruiting new supporters.
First, figure out what your donor retention rate is. How many of your first-time donors go on to donate again in the future? How many faithful donors do you have? Have any of your long-time supporters stopped giving to you?
Understanding your donor retention rate will help you determine the overall happiness of your donor base, and you can start figuring out what you need to do to make (or keep) your donors happy with you. How do you treat your donors now? Do you send them an automated thank-you email when they donate and then never speak to them again? It’s time to start reaching out to them personally, not with a scripted email. Do you communicate with them regularly about more than your needs, or do you only approach them when you need money? It might be time to start building relationships in earnest. Do you invite them to get involved in other ways, like volunteering or touring your facility? If not, it’s time to talk about making your donors feel like they’re really making a difference.
Technology, fundraising practices, and donor preferences are always changing, and that’s true now more than ever. Nonprofits who don’t regularly evaluate their fundraising strategies risk being forgotten or overlooked. Successful nonprofits work hard to stay relevant, but it works! Use them as an example and set aside some time in 2015 to take a hard look at your nonprofit’s efforts and make improvements. It’ll pay off in the long run!