Network for Good is a hybrid organization—a nonprofit-owned for-profit. Network for Good’s nonprofit donor-advised fund uses the Internet and mobile technology to securely and efficiently distribute thousands of donations from donors to their favorite charities each year.
The temperature is rising, the days are longer, and the kids are out of school. Summer is here and your Out-of-Office notifications are on! Sometime over the next few weeks, we will invest five glorious minutes to configure our inbox and voicemail to craft the perfect message to let everyone know we are unplugging for summer break.
Too often, the Out-of-Office notification is a missed opportunity to creatively promote your nonprofit, build relationships, and advance the donation process through meaningful engagement. Let’s face it, nobody really cares that you will be out of the office, why, or for how long. They care even less that you’ll have “limited access to email,” or that your office “will reopen the Tuesday after Labor Day.” The person trying to contact you probably has a question – and the call may even be related to making a gift to your organization. They need, and deserve, an answer – summer break or not.
Although the summer months are typically the smallest giving months, it is an opportunity to get a head-start on fundraising to position your organization for year-end success. We would all be well-served to consider a proactive, donor-centric approach when creating our OOO messages.
Follow these three simple steps to make your OOO notification meaningful, memorable, and possibly even profitable:
1. Connect your greeting directly to your mission and programs
You may be out of the office yet your nonprofit continues to make a major impact even when the office isn’t open. For your email OOO message, graphics and tag lines should instantly showcase the impact and value of your nonprofit. Use positive action verbs in your voicemail OOO notification to confirm that a closed office does not mean your nonprofit is taking time off from its vital mission.
Think about all of the time and energy you invest in trying to thoughtfully engage your donor. When they contact you via phone or email, the opportunity is there even if you’re not. To make it a worthwhile engagement for both the person reaching out to your organization and your nonprofit, use the technology available to share valuable information about your programs and donation process. Convey a similar but abbreviated message as you would in an appeal email or letter.
2. Anticipate why an existing or prospective donor needs to connect
Direct them to the information they need to make or fulfill a gift online or via direct mail. Your email OOO message opportunity provides valuable real estate to brand your organization and demonstrate value without writing volumes of irrelevant details. Use relevant seasonal graphics and links to anticipate the person’s immediate needs while showing the impact and value of your nonprofit. Remember donor-centric puts the focus on the OOO notification reader, not on you. And most definitely not on the wonderful details of where you are spending the summer or with whom or for how long.
For voicemail OOO messages, leverage voice tone and energy to convey attentiveness even in your absence. Yes, smiles do transfer over phone lines. The caller is concerned with a resolution to their question. Provide them with a short list of frequently asked questions, three alternate contacts, and important phone numbers or extensions. Keep it donor-centric, sincere, and high energy while providing actual directions to aid the caller not send them on a wild goose chase. Be sure to provide as many details about your nonprofit’s mission, donation process, and available resources to answer their question without sounding like a directory. After all, your recorded voicemail message is still a dialogue between two people.
3. Recognize everyone over the summer months “will have limited access…”
If your OOO notification or message can make them smile, laugh, or be memorable, you have initiated or enhanced a relationship. If it drags on with meaningless or perfunctory information, you can expect their eyes to roll and should not rely on their last minute end of year donation. Express the good your organization does in your OOO notifications. Guide them through online or direct mail giving process along with access to other vital information they may be calling or emailing you about. Make certain your website and social media anticipate their needs as well as simplify the donation process. And, in the spirit of the summer break, invite them to share their philanthropy with their social networks through engaging and laid back summer campaigns.
By now everyone on the planet knows that if they’ve reached a voicemail, the person they’re calling is unavailable. Don’t waste anyone’s time explaining common knowledge. Use that valuable time to inspire them with humor related to your nonprofit, the summer break, or their summer procrastination while demonstrating with sincerity that they, and not just their potential gift, are important to you and your organization every day of the year.
Summer is here! Though the summer time is typically a slower time for nonprofits, it is the perfect time to dive into fundraising to ensure your nonprofit is ready for year-end. Turn up the heat this summer and create a fundraising plan that will engage and renew donors, attract prospects, build awareness, and plant the seeds that sustain your organization. Use this summer to create a campaign that will:
Raise funds to support a new initiative.
Grow your supporters.
Expand the impact of your annual gala.
Position your nonprofit for year-end success.
Establish Action Plans
To create the most compelling summer campaign that will generate the greatest impact—financial, engagement, awareness—consider your fundraising and nonfundraising objectives, and then answer the following questions:
What are you trying to accomplish?
What would the ideal results look like?
Whom are you trying to target?
What do you most want them to do for your organization?
What call to action would motivate your target audience?
Would a one-time donation or recurring gift raise the most funds?
Choose Your Focus or Theme
A good fundraising campaign calls for so much more than simply communicating your organization’s financial needs. Develop a campaign theme and call to action that is compelling, donor-centric, and tells a personal story.
Focus your appeal on an individual and their story to better resonate with donors on an emotional level. Incorporate photos that capture who your donor can help and what they can achieve through your mission and programs. Imagery can create a powerful attachment between your donor and your subject. Use similar imagery on your donation page to continue that connection through the entire donation process.
Create Appeals and Assets
The design of your appeal is the heart and soul of your summer campaign. Its impact and effectiveness will directly determine your fundraising results. Create an appeal that:
Features donor-driven, inspiring content.
Shares a relevant story that climaxes with an emotional hook.
Focuses on the impact a donor’s gift will have.
Specifies a call to action with a sense of urgency.
Include images and materials that demonstrate value and quality.
Use this summer to get creative, step out of your comfort zone, and try something new. If you have some ideas in mind but haven’t had the time to implement them, take charge this summer to experiment and test your fundraising ideas. A creative summer fundraising plan doesn’t need to require a heavy lift! You can:
Host a summer barbecue, pool party, ice cream party, or block party
Coordinate a car wash
Launch an interactive photo contest with a specific hashtag
Everyone wants to leave a mark on the world (or at least within their own communities). The Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy found that mark is often charitable donations. Between 2007 and 2061, there will be a Great Wealth Transfer during which an estimated $59 trillion (yes, with a “t”) will be transferred from 93 million estates of which an estimated $20 trillion will be given as gifts to organizations like yours.
These facts reinforce why it’s important for organizations to start thinking now about how they invite their donors to leave personal legacies through planned giving.
It can seem daunting to integrate the complexities of planned giving into your fundraising activities. It can also feel awkward to have a meaningful (and sensitive) conversation with a donors about the end of their lives. But, if the experts at Boston College are right, organizations will be missing out big time if they don’t figure out how to encourage and accept gifts from their donors’ estates. Here are some things to keep in mind when you want to inspire donors to create a legacy with your organization:
Planned Gifts Don’t Have to Be Complicated
Yes, planned giving can be complicated. Deferred gifts like charitable remainder trusts and charity lead trusts usually involve an attorney, a financial planning specialist, and a fundraiser with specific planned giving experience. That doesn’t mean all planned giving has to be complicated. Here are a couple of simple points you can easily incorporate into your fundraising efforts:
Bequest: What better way for a donor to support you after they pass away than by naming you as a beneficiary in his or her will? Establish “Legacy Society” (or whatever you want to call it) and encourage donors to tell you if your organization’s named in their wills. Because bequests are revocable it’s not a good idea to include them in campaign or other fundraising totals. But in true donor-centered fundraising, you should celebrate the forward thinking of this very special group of donors!
Life Insurance: These enable donors to make a larger financial commitment for a fraction of the cost and name your organization in a paid in full policy (key words being “paid in full”). They can be structured so that you are a beneficiary and will receive payment upon the donor’s death. If the donor wants to make an immediate gift using a life insurance policy, he or she can name the organization as both owner and beneficiary of the policy.
At some point, you may want to add a planned giving specialist to your staff who can manage the more complicated giving vehicles. You can also work with a planned giving consultant who can provide valuable insight on this type of giving.
What do you do with these planned gifts when you do receive them? It depends. I’ve seen many organizations restrict bequests to develop or grow an endowment since you can’t forecast them and in honor of the true spirit of giving in perpetuity. Be sure you communicate this gift designation with your donors. Depending on the size of the potential bequest, that donor may wish to have it used for a different purpose. The point is to keep an open dialogue in understanding the donor’s and your needs.
Planned Giving Donors Can Be Anybody
There is no one type of planned giving donor. Of course, there are those who tell you they put your organization in their will. One of these individuals may be a great person to name a chair of the “Legacy Society.” He or she can set an example and help identify other potential planned giving donors.
Then, you can reach out to your Board and other volunteers to be other founding members of the Legacy Society.
Finally, many organizations assume that their planned giving donors are within their major gift prospect pool. In fact, your best planned giving prospects are often those donors who have been supporting you at lower amounts for a very long time, say over the last eight to 1- years. They understand what it means to be in it for the long haul. While their giving levels may be lower now, their assets may enable them to make a larger financial commitment in the future.
Market, Market, Market
Make planned giving promotion an integral part of donor communications activities. Put a simple note at the bottom of your appeal letters, as an insert in your next mailing, and in the signature of your staff’s emails that asks people to consider your organization in their estate plans. Develop a Legacy Society page for your website that offers standard language to use in a will that names your organization as a beneficiary and includes a form the donors can send to notify you of their bequest intentions. Include an article in your newsletter that profiles a donor who made a bequest or other type of planned gift to your organization. With this consistent communication, you never know who will surprise you with a six or seven figure bequest.
While we’re all focused on the here and now, remember that focusing on planned gifts is a wonderful opportunity for your organization’s to plan for its long-term sustainability.
Whether you are an Executive Director who is serving as your organization’s Chief Everything Officer, or a Development Director specifically tasked with creating a fundraising strategy, the first step to raising the money you need to power your cause is creating a plan.
How do you do that?
First things first, identify your potential sources of support.
This is particularly important if you’re facing budget cuts at the start of the fiscal year. When revenue sources change or disappear, it’s time to find new ones and amplify your existing resources.
Focus on these four primary groups:
Begin by creating the individual profile of someone who may donate to your organization. Who is that person? What are their passions and interests? What is their capacity for giving? Why would they be motivated to donate to your organization?
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that they will donate just because your cause is a worthy one. Contributing money, while altruistic, is still a transactional exchange. Understanding the intrinsic reward your individual donors get from supporting your program is essential to getting that support. When you understand what makes your donors give, you’ll be able to create more effective messages to inspire their support.
The conversation about foundations often begins with the phrase, “We need a grant.” Then the search commences, and the organization looks for a foundation to provide that grant.
It’s an approach that can work, but it’s not very efficient. Before you get to the point where you say, “We need a grant”, you should develop some knowledge of the foundations that support your cause, and research the projects and initiatives they’ve funded. Additionally, network and build genuine, reciprocal connections with decision makers at foundations before you need to apply for funding.
Corporate support is something every nonprofit seeks, and businesses are not just a great source of money, but they can also be an integral partner in raising your organization’s profile.
Just like foundations, get to know the market for potential corporate support. Find out which companies donate to causes like yours. Understand how your cause can be an asset to a company’s brand.
Don’t forget to include the people who help you achieve your goals. Whether they are board members providing strategic oversight and raising money, or people who contribute their time and labor to making your day-to-day activities happen, don’t neglect volunteers in your 12-month plan. They are your organization’s evangelists, and you need them.
Once you understand your target market, you can start formulating a strategy to raise more money and better allocate your funds to align with your critical mission points.
Every year, Giving USA releases a report on philanthropy and giving in the United States. The annual report, released on June 18, 2019, gives comprehensive highlights on charitable giving trends in the United States. Due in part to the tax law change or volatile December 2018 market, overall giving is down 1.7%. On the individual giving side, it has also dropped by 3.4%. So what does this mean for your nonprofit? Now is the time to re-evaluate your strategy to better engage your donors so you are more stable for the future. Follow these three steps to stay ahead of the decreasing giving trends.
1) Know Where You Have Been
The number one thing to do is to dig in and analyze past performance. Understanding how you have fared will help you understand where you want to go and set goals to get you there.
How was this past fiscal year?
Did you reach your goals?
Did you see increases in average gift?
Did you see increases in retention rate?
Did you see increases in the number of donors?
Once you’ve answered these questions – it’s time to act! Perhaps try A/B testing to experiment with new strategies to increase giving for your organization.
2) Know What You Are Good At
When fundraising, what is your BEST practice or trait?
What is the BEST fundraising activity that your organization does each year?
Is it thanking your donors? Is it organizing events? Is it staying mission-focused?
Think about which fundraising practices you feel is your, and your organization’s, best skill. Do an internal audit to evaluate what your most successful fundraising practice is. The things that you are most skilled in and have the most knowledge in are the best and most important practices to lean into and expand upon. Once you have optimized your best skills, you can try new things to expand your skill set.
3) Know Where You Want To Go
What can our organization do that it hasn’t done already?
How can we increase average gifts, donors, and donor retention?
Once you’ve established how your organization has performed and what you are good it, it’s time to determine next steps. Use the strong skill-sets you’ve determined as a person and as an organization to set your goals. Start small, test your new initiatives, and build on that. For example, let’s say that you want a healthier lifestyle. At the end of the day, what is the good of driving past the gym if you’re never going to step foot in it? When it comes to fundraising (and professional growth) you have to be disciplined and strategic, Step out of your comfort zone, try new things, and build some “muscle” so you can get the most out of everything you do.
There is no better time than to start today!
Want more information about Personal Fundraising Coaching with Network for Good? Click here to learn how a coach can elevate your fundraising!
Passionate about mission-driven organizations, Courtney Jamokha enjoys helping our customers develop successful initiatives. In her role at Network for Good, she makes sure our clients are set up for success from the moment they meet our team members.
“Network for Good is a great place to work because the teams are really collaborative.”
Q&A with Courney Jamokha, Customer Success Specialist
What do you do at Network for Good?
I am a loyal member of the welcome team. In short, we work with customers that have just signed up with Network for Good as their fundraising platform. Our main initiative is to make sure our clients are set up for success from the moment they meet our team members. Understanding that our clients are focused on raising funds, we set them up with an integrated yet easy to use donation portal that we routinely help them monitor as they continue working with us. We pride ourselves on making sure our client’s first experience with NFG is a positive one, instilling confidence from start to finish.
What is your experience with nonprofit organizations?
My first role was at a private company and position consisted of primarily working in education-driven initiatives. Coincidentally, that’s what drew me to Network for Good’s mission. My desire to maintain this skill set was a driving force behind pursuing a role here. I’ve worked with students from underrepresented backgrounds, providing them lifelong opportunities in STEM and other technology-focused fields. While not necessarily nonprofits, my extracurriculars from college also contributed to my passion for service.
What attracts you to nonprofits?
In short, nonprofits are more mission-driven. Corporations that are fixated on nourishing their pocketbooks don’t motivate me quite as hard as organizations who keep the focus on driving their initiatives forward. Think of it from a motivational aspect. You can tell a story to understand your impact. Even utilizing graphs and numbers are fascinating to me, because they further enhance the story.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I particularly enjoy helping our customers develop successful initiatives from merely an idea to a fully functioning campaign. Everyone we work with might not have the most experience, but everyone has the same idea of wanting to do work and remain committed to bringing awareness to their mission. With that being said, my team and I start at our client’s own pace and see how their action items can further succeed under our guidance. As long as they feel good about their ability to be successful fundraisers and using our technology, then we feel even better about our roles. NFG is a great place to do this work because the teams are really collaborative, so working with customers in a way that feels most comfortable for them is at the forefront of our calling.
What do you enjoy doing outside work?
All family, all the time. I have an 8-month-old and he goes to bed early. My husband and I are the kinds of parents who take out baby everywhere. Games, bars, errands, he comes with us. We just bought a house are making subtle changes to turn it into a home. From picking new paint colors to matching our furniture, we are slowly adding our signature touch.
Dream vacation? Eurotrip. Specifically to Italy and Greece. Want to see the classic tourist spots, museums, etc. We also want to take our child to Disneyworld. I’ve been to Disneyland, but not Disneyworld.
Most recent book read? “Good Morning, Son!” A children’s book. Like I said, family is everything.
Last movie seen in movie theater? Pitch Perfect 3. Never been a big movie person.
Theme song? “Bring it All Back” by S Club 7
Favorite color? Pink, but red when I’m feeling bold.
“If you have a staff, work to understand their perspective and provide the support they need to do their jobs. If you don’t have staff and the board is doing the work, everyone needs to get involved with fundraising and make sure they’re doing all they can to ensure the organization is fulfilling its mission.” – Michael Egly, Community Outreach Coordinator
The FOOD Pantry Serving Waukesha County is a nonprofit community organization, in Wisconsin, dedicated to providing food, hope, and dignity to the many Waukesha County residents in need of assistance. The FOOD Pantry strives to contribute towards a thriving and healthy community free from hunger.
Through governance and fiduciary oversight, The FOOD Pantry’s board of 16 helps the staff serve approximately 9,000 individuals annually. Board committees provide guidance, in collaboration with staff, to ensure the agency is operating, excelling, and aligning with its mission. To keep them informed, The FOOD Pantry staff uses Network for Good’s communication system to distribute board packets prior to meetings; complete with the agenda, minutes, committee updates, and financial reports.
After their 2018 year-end campaign, The FOOD Pantry staff was looking to engage their board in fundraising and wanted to try the peer-to-peer campaign feature in Network for Good’s system. At the first board meeting of 2019, staff presented to the board on what is involved in a peer-to-peer campaign and the impact it could have. The board was excited to take on this new opportunity, and the campaign was launched in March 2019. It was so successful that the board decided to relaunch it in May so newer board members could participate.
The campaign focused on the organization’s infrastructure needs; such as improvements to the building’s lay-out, safety, and atmosphere. A challenging theme for any fundraiser, the board framed it as a good investment in the agency. Using Network for Good’s P2P system, board members added their own personal messages and began contacting their networks. To ease any concerns of over-asking, The FOOD Pantry staff checked board member’s lists to see if anyone had already given. As of early May, they are 60% towards goal.
Campaign Dates: March and May 2019
Goal: $12,500 (originally $10,000, increased due to success and board interest)