As a nonprofit, your supporters are the foundation of all that you do. Supporters drive your cause forward and enable you to make a positive impact on the world. Donations from those who support your mission make up a considerable percentage of the funding for your work. However, not all supporters have taken a step toward giving financially.
So what do you do when your nonprofit has thousands of supporters, but comparatively few donors?
People are interested in your cause. They’ve signed up for your newsletter and your email updates. Maybe they’re on your mailing list, or they signed a petition. They want to hear more about your cause. Here’s how you can urge them to take the next step.
Use these 5 strategies to engage your supporters and encourage further involvement:
- Use good communication practices.
- Understand your audience.
- Integrate specific calls-to-action.
- Engage with social media.
- Request in-kind donations.
Are you ready to go? Let’s jump in.
1. Use good communication practices.
To engage with your supporters and increase their involvement with your organization, it is vital to follow good communication practices. Make sure your correspondence is clear and specific in what you are asking for. On the other hand, you don’t want to bombard your audience with constant requests for money or offend those who opt not to give.
Effective communication helps your organization to increase awareness, create strong emotional connections, and develop loyalty of constituents. There are four main channels through which organizations communicate with supporters, each offering a unique set of perks.
For example, you may reach supporters via:
- Email: Likely the most popular method for nonprofits, emails are an excellent way to share information with large audiences simultaneously. Customizable templates and email tools allow you to personalize each message with a supporter’s name and relevant history with your nonprofit. The four essential elements for writing a compelling email, although they can be transferred to other communication methods as well, are relevance, urgency, emotion, and call-to-action.
- Text messages: Similar tools allow you to send mass text messages customized for each recipient, although these messages tend to be shorter and less involved than an email. The short and sweet nature of texts forces you to get straight to the point with your message. Especially with younger generations, text messaging is much preferred over other methods and sees a higher open rate and increased response levels.
- Direct mail: In the mostly digitized world of recent years, letters via snail mail often stick out to the recipient. Many individuals report print media as more trustworthy than their digital counterparts. Additionally, this method provides a physical reminder that may stick around longer than an email or text, keeping your organization at the top of mind.
- Phone calls: Of these options, a phone call is the most personal, which can automatically increase the level of emotional connection a supporter may feel towards your organization. Phone calls should be standardized to ensure all the right information is getting across, but adaptable and authentic between yourself and the supporter on the other line as well. A phone call can also be used in conjunction with the previous methods of communication as a follow-up.
When you choose your favorite methods or a combination of a few, make sure to include your organization’s voice in any communication. Try to find the perfect mixture of information and emotion that will get supporters ready to take the next steps. Be sure to use the proper channels to thank your supporters after any donation, too!
2. Understand your audience.
To create a more personal relationship with your supporters and solicit new donations, it is a good idea to get to know your target— find out what makes them tick.
What is essential to this particular audience? What motivates them? How do they want to see the world as a better place? Why did they choose to support your organization in the first place?
Answering these questions is an excellent way to target a more segmented group rather than an overall approach. For instance, engaging Millennials with your nonprofit requires a different strategy than that of Baby Boomers.
The following are some popular motivations for nonprofit involvement:
- Social activism: Funds2Orgs defines social activism as anything that seeks to bring social change, specifically to improve society by making things better and fairer. Individuals become activists when they take action and join the fight for societal improvements, and often choose to do so by financially backing socially active organizations.
- Current events: Local, national, and international happenings can impact an individual’s desire to get involved in charitable organizations. For example, many nonprofits will take advantage of the “election effect” during presidential election years. Also referred to as “rage giving,” social, political, and environmental nonprofits see an influx of donations in response to news stories and policy changes.
- Noticeable impact: Many choose to support organizations that are making big differences in the world because they know their donations will have an impact. These tend to be big-name charities with well-known influence. One way to brand yourself as an impactful organization is by sharing stories of your past successes.
- Community involvement: Others choose to focus their support on nonprofits that are making a difference in their communities, such as an animal shelter, youth program, or food pantry. These tend to be nonprofits on a smaller scale and backed by a more personal desire to help those in close vicinity.
By making a strong effort to know your supporters better, you will discover what motivates them. Once you have that information, it will be much easier to encourage supporters to give to your organization by appealing to that aspect of nonprofit fundraising.
3. Integrate specific calls-to-action.
A fundraising call-to-action is the part of your campaign that tells the donor exactly what you want from them— in most cases, a donation. This call-to-action can include phrases like “donate now,” “make a difference,” or “take action.” When clicked, the button sends users directly to your donation page for a simple, convenient experience.
However, some calls-to-action don’t directly lead to a donation: such as “learn more here,” “volunteer now,” or “subscribe to monthly updates.” These are often the first steps in building a relationship with an organization. Your supporters may have already taken these steps with your nonprofit, so now you are trying to solicit donations.
Here are 3 top tips to keep in mind while crafting your fundraising call-to-action:
- Offer a suggested donation: Blank donation boxes can be intimidating. Providing a recommended amount can relieve some of the pressure of trying to decipher what a standard donation is. Additionally, requesting in-kind contributions or gifts of non-monetary goods is an effective way to encourage those who lack the means to make a financial impact.
- Keep it simple: A good call-to-action is attention-grabbing and quick to read; about five to seven words is optimal. Flowery language is not necessary, you just state the desired action and provide a link, hoping that the supporter will choose to take this next step.
- Link to an optimized donation page: Make sure your call-to-action is sending users to an optimized donation page. Even if an individual follows your call-to-action with the intent to donate, if they arrive at a poorly-designed, difficult-to-use webpage, you run the risk of form abandonment. Key features include simple payment options, concise language, and customization to fit your brand.
If your call-to-action is successful, you will begin to see new donations pouring in. Your CTA is the most direct path for a supporter to take to become a donor, and as such, a solid call-to-action has been known to see a significant increase in conversion rates.
For most effective results, include your call-to-action everywhere. Popular locations include embedded in your website’s header or home page, integrated as a popup message, and included in email or social media marketing efforts.
4. Engage with social media.
One of the best ways to reach hundreds or thousands of supporters at a time is through social media. Although these tactics are much less relational than traditional interpersonal communication, social media has substantial advantages when used effectively.
Here are 3 reasons to improve your nonprofit’s social media presence:
- Interact with your audience: One of the greatest benefits that social networking provides to organizations is the ability to interact with their audiences casually. You can gather insights into your audiences through polls, respond to comments, and answer private messages and other questions.
- Inform your network: Social media is a great way to educate your followers and make it exciting at the same time with photos and graphics. You can share the mission behind your organization, updates on current projects, and how individuals can get involved. Use your platform to tell compelling stories that use emotion and personalization to deepen connections.
- Improve social image: By becoming more involved with your followers, you create a persona that represents your organization—and demonstrates the way you care about people. You can use this persona as a way to improve your nonprofit’s image and how others think and feel about you.
When you integrate best practices, like these, into your organization’s social media strategy, you pave the way for supporters to become more involved through a combination of education and encouragement.
5. Request in-kind donations.
Some supporters still won’t be ready to write you a check just yet. Make sure these supporters know about the various ways to get involved with your organization without making a monetary gift— such as in-kind donations.
In-kind donations are any gift given to an organization outside of a monetary donation. It includes donations of goods, services, and/or time, which can work as an excellent stepping stone between a supporter and a donor.
Here are two ways you can take advantage of these gifts:
- Recruit volunteers: Let your supporters know you are looking for volunteers, and you would appreciate their time, whether for a particular event or regularly. As a bonus, many companies offer volunteer grants when an employee volunteers at a nonprofit! According to Double the Donation, 80% of employers with volunteer grant programs provide between $8 and $15 per hour volunteered. Because the majority of eligible individuals are unaware, be sure to encourage your volunteers to check.
- Accept donated goods: Finally, consider asking for physical products in place of monetary donations. A great way to take advantage of this type of fundraising is by hosting a shoe drive. Ask your supporters and other community members to donate gently worn, new, and used shoes to support your cause. Partner with a shoe drive coordinator, who will then collect the donated shoes in exchange for a check for your organization!
When you request these kinds of non-monetary donations you can attract a new set of donors who may be less trusting of nonprofits, and less willing to cut a check. Additionally, it’s a great way for supporters to become further involved if they are unable to give financially at the time being.
By integrating these 5 key strategies for your nonprofit fundraising, you will ease the transition from supporter to donor. This will increase not only your fundraising revenue, but your engagement with your supporters, and overall best nonprofit practices. Meanwhile, the new donor gets to feel the increasing impact they are making by improving the world around them. Best of luck!