Donor Fatigue – Fact or Fiction?

 “Donor fatigue” is when your organization’s donors lose interest in your organization over time, and it is accelerated by asking for donations too often.

 Over time every organization experiences the effect of long-term donors losing interest. This waning interest has more to do with human nature, but how does asking for money come into play? Thing of the work it takes to keep people engaged in a relationship over the longer term, and this is true of any relationship whether it be with a donor, a spouse, an employee or a friend. Relationships need to constantly be refreshed to avoid feeling taken for granted. It’s not necessarily the asking for money that causes donor fatigue, but if the ask is made poorly, it can help accelerate this process.

Monitoring your “asks” and their quality can minimize the donor fatigue effect.  Here are a few ideas with regards to your fundraising process that will improve the quality of your relationships and ultimately the amount of resources raised for your organization.

Don’t Be Desperate

Asking too often, too close together or with no regards for the past donations of an individual can make an organization seem desperate. Yes, you need to raise money to keep the doors open.  However, if your donors think your survival is in question, they may decide to use their resources for endeavors that will be around to bear fruit.  If you have a sudden event calling for immediate help, your base will understand.  However if you are always in immediate need of help, it gives the impression of an organization that is either mismanaged or not one supported by enough people to be successful in its mission.

Year-Round Plan

Plan your donor outreach activities for the year in advance.  Be conscious of how often you’ll be asking, and try to space those asks out logically according to your organization’s calendar.  If you do have asks that fall close together, make sure you have systems in place to either acknowledge that they have recently given or bypass the donor for an ask in that cycle.  Asking your donor for more money shortly after they just gave without acknowledging their recent gift will tell your donor that they are just another email address to be solicited.  You need to have a personal relationship with the donor. Know when they give, how much they give, and factor that into your yearly plan accordingly

Make your Ask Effective

A good ask is more of an art than a science. The ask should clearly show what the funds are going for and what they money will accomplish. An annual operations solicitation is ok, but doing that 4 times per year will get stale.  Instead, have a specific program or need in mind, and let the donor know their money will be accomplishing.  The more they can understand what their money will do, the more likely they will show their support and give donations.

Communicate with Donors When You Don’t need money

Carefully look at your interaction history with your donors.  Do you only reach out to them when you need money or support?  Most organizations do.  Instead, find ways to communicate or engage donors without asking for money.  Some organizations use news letters some use quick email updates.  Here is where you need to be creative.  Have you ever consider sending out a short 1-minute video in an email showing something interesting or heart warming happening at your organization?  Don’t ask for money just let them share in the good that is happening.

Treat your donors with respect and share with them using the avenues that they are most likely to see (snail mail, email, Facebook, etc.). They need to be a complete part of your organization and not just an ATM.

Track your Emails

Get into the details of your email campaigns and look to see who is and isn’t opening your emails.  Its easy to know that someone who has unsubscribed is no longer interested in your communications but what about the larger group that doesn’t unsubscribe but doesn’t even bother to open your emails.  Review these donors and try to determine if you need a better way to communicate with them or if they are possibly growing tired or your organization?  Maybe send them an individualized survey that doesn’t have a mass email look to see if you can solicit feed back on your organization.  You need to re-engage these folks if possible to keep them part of your team.

Donor relations is a never-ending process, and donor fatigue is a real issue that needs to be considered.  Larger organizations have the luxury of dedicating a full-time staff to communicate with, engage, and build up relationships with supporters.  Unfortunately, smaller organizations do not have the same privilege of a dedicated donor relations staff.  It often falls entirely on the Executive Director or key Board Members in small organizations.  Unfortunately, the process is the same for all organizations. Your organization needs to constantly monitor your donor relationship to make sure they are fresh and a benefit to both parties in the relationship.

One Organization’s Fundraising Event Experience and Evolution

Most organizations hold an annual fundraiser to supplement and augment their operating budget.  The nonprofit Malaika Early Learning Center that was started by my wife and I (and the genesis for DonorSnap) is no different.  Malaika started in 2003 and we held our first fundraiser in 2009.  We thought it might be of interest to share some numbers and chronology of our fundraising experience.

A Little about Malaika

The Malaika Early Learning Center is located on the near north side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Most people who have not lived in or visited Milwaukee do not realize that it is one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States, and has some of the harshest conditions for children. The area of Milwaukee we serve is typically in the top three nationwide for all the wrong reasons, including:

  • Teen birth rate
  • High school graduation (only 58 percent)
  • Incarceration rates (50 percent of males age 30-40)
  • Unemployment rate (57 percent for males)

The children in Milwaukee are confronted with these difficult realities from the time they are born. Our goal with Malaika Early Learning Center was (and is) to provide a safe and nurturing environment that has an academic focus of helping children from the ages of three months to eight years old. We aim to have them as emotionally, socially and academically balanced as possible to help them break free of the cycle of poverty that afflicts Milwaukee’s north side.

Fundraising initiatives with Malaika Early Learning Center

Malaika has a very clear, tangible goal that is quite worthy of support. As is the case with most nonprofit organizations, however, fundraising has always been challenging. With just 150 children who use our facility, we are too small to attract a significant amount of attention. We also deal with children of the youngest ages, which makes it difficult to demonstrate the program’s empirical results. After they leave us, it is hard to track where they go, as most of our children change households once or twice a year. (As you can see – we have all the built in excuses for why it is hard to raise money.  Probably the reality is the organization suffers from founders who are not good at asking for money and hope that people recognize the need and mission without being prodded).

As mentioned earlier we opened in 2003 and did not have our first event until 2009.  Up until that point we relied on foundations, founders and friend’s contributions.  In 2009, we decided we needed to have an event that we felt would be more of a Friend Raiser than a Fund Raiser.  The belief was that if exposed to our mission, people would recognize the need and ultimately become supporters.  Our goal was to expose people to Malaika more than it was to specifically raise money.

The results were, at best, mixed.  We did have a fairly well attended first event (150 people) but really didn’t do a good job of converting attendees to supporters.  This pattern continued for the next several years.  We would raise $30,000 at the event but expended a large amount of energy focusing on the event itself trying to attract people to attend.  We were not converting people into supporters.  Many were attending due to personal relationships with my wife, myself or our businesses.

Over the last several years, the focus has shifted slightly from being a Friend Raiser to a Fund Raiser.  We have focused more on the economics of the event (Sponsorship, Ticket Sales, Auction Items, Costs).  We still hoped the event would raise awareness of the organization and its mission but our focus became one of raising money to augment the budget.

An analysis of our fundraising successes (and failures)

Here is a quick recap of our last three years that you can use as a point of comparision:

2015 2016 2017
# paid attendees 136 146 120
Sponsorship  $13,695  $23,000  $24,500
Ticket Sales  $7,400  $13,775  $10,400
Paddle Raise  $17,650  $18,325  $32,850
Silent Auction  $19,808  $10,975  $-
Raffle  $-  $-  $5,050
Other  $1,950  $2,000  $2,000
 $60,503  $68,075  $74,800
Expenses  $11,780  $10,000  $8,000
Net  $48,723  $58,075  $66,800

As you can see, we have steadily increased the amount of net money raised over the last three years. The ultimate goal for the event is to raise $100,000.  That is the minimum amount of external funding that the organization needs for its basic budget.  Annually we raise $200,000 from all sources and hope to continue to do so.  However, the more we can raise thru the event, the less time and energy is required by our Executive Director to chase Foundation money.

Here is a little of what we have learned over the past couple of years:

  • Broadening attendee and donor base is critical: In the early years of the event, many of the Malaika’s donors were giving money out of friendship or business connection to my wife and I. That wasn’t good for the long-term health of the organization. As you can see by the attendance numbers, my wife and I pushed hard in 2015 & 2016 to get people to attend.  In 2017 we backed off and simply sent emails vs. personal calls.  The attendance dropped but hopefully the Board will pick-up the slack in the future and grow attendance amongst a broader base.
  • Paddle raise: 2015 was the first year we did the paddle raise, and it was a surprising success. This was an idea presented by our new Executive Director and was slightly uncomfortable for me.  Again, I don’t like to openly ask for money.  In hindsight, if our goal is to raise money we should have been doing this since the beginning.  In 2017 we added a different twist.  Even though attendance was lower, I emceed the paddle raise which helped form a more personal connection between the Donor’s, the Founder’s and the Organization.  In both 2016 and 2017 my wife and I offered to match all the paddle raises.  What helped in 2017 was people saw a direct connection with raising their paddle and Kellie and I donating more money.  It became fun for them to see how much they could make us donate.  In the end, Malaika was the winner. (The paddle raise numbers exclude our match).
  • Venue: In the early years we tried to focus on having an impressive venue that might attract more attendance. In 2017 we took a risk and move the event to our local baseball stadium club room (Miller Park).  We made it a casual, sports-themed evening. The feedback was great, as people loved the relaxed atmosphere and socialization opportunities. Logistically, the venue was easy to deal with, there was plenty of parking and we were able to complete setup more quickly.  Additionally, there really was no drop off in attendance due to the less prestigious venue.
  • Raffle: In 2017 we experimented with a raffle method to give away in kind donations as opposed to a silent auction. The setup time and work was probably about a third as much this year as it had been in the past. In 2017 we had 20 items in the raffle versus 70 in the silent auction in 2016. On the plus side:
    • People had more time to socialize, as they weren’t watching their silent auction items.
    • Setup was a breeze compared to prior years
    • We didn’t feel guilty selling a donated silent raffle item for half of its value.
    • Checkout was a breeze

On the minus side:

  • Some people were not happy that they couldn’t get the item that they set their sights on.  Chance determined the ultimate winner (you could increase your odds by stuffing more raffle tickets in that items box).
  • As you can see when combining the raffle and silent auction for the two years that we took in less $5,000 less in 2017 than 2016. People bought a certain amount of raffle tickets and then went back to socializing.  The raffle translated into more money raised per item but less money overall.  Even if we had the same number of items as 2016, I doubt our raffle sales would have been much more.

Where do we go from here:

As we assess this year’s event, we have several takeaways to consider moving forward:

  • We will probably reintroduce 20 to 30 silent auction items, but keep the raffle as well, slightly decreasing the number of raffle items. Combined  we think we will make more money
  • DonorSnap will experiment with an auction app for Malaika’s silent auction to allow folks the time to socialize and not have to hover over bid sheets. Current software offerings are too expensive to warrant being used for a silent auction that will only raise $10,000
  • We plan to go back to the same venue next year. The relaxed atmosphere greatly simplified the setup and cost of the event.
  • There will be a continued push to get Board members more engaged in the process of inviting people to the event. The sponsorship and ticket sales carry the event. The more people we can get into the room, the better.
  • One not so minor item is to move the bar location to be by the items being raffled or silent auctioned. People gravitate to the bar so that needs to be located where you want your people to be.

The event will be a constantly evolving work in progress.  However, now that we are firmly focused on raising money to support the school (sounds obvious now) we have a goal and a direction to help guide the Board’s efforts.

If you should have any questions about the economics of the event, feel free to email me at DMueller at DonorSnap dot com and I’ll share what I can.  As you can tell we are in no way professional fundraisers but are probably like many of you just trying to grind out what is needed to support your organization.


Is Social Media Necessary for Nonprofits?

Nonprofit organizations stand to gain a lot from the smart usage of social media. The key word here is “smart.” Not all nonprofits have a target audience that is going to be active across all social media networks. It is important for organizations to do some analysis of their likely donors. Try to determine how they prefer to interact with an organization, where they are most likely to be active online, and what the right approach is to reach out to them.

The other part of smart social media usage is to have SMART goals. You have probably heard it before, but your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time sensitive. Determine ahead of time what you want to accomplish, and develop your social media strategy specific to those goals.

If you need some help getting started with your goals, try thinking about things like the following:

  • Expanding your reach to new potential supporters such as the friends of your friends.
  • Increase engagement from the people that are already supporting your organization.
  • Increase donations by placing online donation forms in your social media pages
  • Developing a communications platform to increase awareness of your cause

Do not confuse those starting points with smart goals though. Every organization is different, so you will need to make these goals specific to your needs. Define them with numbers that you can track such as 1,000 visitors each month, or 5 new stories posted each week. Well written goals make it easier to come up with a great strategy for success.

Here is a quick overview of some of the most popular social media networks and ways to tell if they are good marketing avenues for your nonprofit:

  • Facebook is far and away the largest social media site on the internet. With nearly two billion active users, Facebook has the benefit of a gigantic range of users you can reach out to. Unlike many other social media sites, Facebook is not just a digital hangout for young people. Working professionals up through senior citizens are regularly active on the site. It also has plenty of options for sponsored content and different forms of media, including videos, images, and stories. Because of Facebook’s versatility and diversity of users, almost every nonprofit organization can benefit from having an active account there.
  • Twitter does not have nearly the diversity of users as Facebook; it skews a bit younger, though there is still a sizable audience of older people and working professionals. It also does not have quite the same versatility in terms of functionality. However, it is an outstanding place to interact with followers or to take part in large-scale conversations about topics related to your organization—perhaps more so than Facebook.
  • Instagram has become the most-used and most-loved social network of the younger generation. Millennials and the so-called Generation Z (born in the late 90s and after) have embraced Instagram for its simplicity and its propensity for self-expression. If you’re primarily using social media to find new donors, Instagram might not be your best bet, because it is a much younger audience. It doesn’t allow for as in-depth of content. However, its large user base and ease of use still make it an attractive outlet for organizations that have missions that align with the interests of a younger demographic.
  • LinkedIn is a professional network that tends to have an older, more business-centric audience than the other social media sites listed above. While it is a great platform to provide more information about your organization and to publish some informative articles, it is not necessarily an ideal platform for attracting new donors.

In general, nonprofits should always keep their target audience in mind. Social media can be a great tool depending on the kind of organization you are running, but ultimately you need to meet your audience where they are already likely to be. Learn to communicate with them in the method they most prefer.

Checking for Duplicate Contacts On the Fly

How to keep your database free from duplicates without slowing down.

The demise of all donor and contact management systems (or CRMs) is the creeping addition of duplicate contacts.  There are many sources for duplicate entries, but every organization is bound to have a few that stand out.

Does your organization ever have:

  • Volunteers who do not check if a contact already exists in your database?
  • Multiple connection points with a supporter (e.g. volunteer, donor, events, etc.)?
  • Individuals from one household interacting with your organization separately?
  • Limited time causing you to rush through data entry?
  • Perfect keyboard skills (a.k.a. have you ever made a typo)?

However they get into your system, they erode and undermine the value of your donor data.  Aside from being just plain embarrassing, duplicate contacts cause more work, create unnecessary costs, and negatively affect your donors’ perception of how valuable they are to your organization.

The costs are simple and often small on the surface, but don’t forget about the lasting consequences. First is the extra printing, mailing, and labor costs when you are sending identical communications to donors. The more devastating cost is the impression you leave with the Donor.

How many of your supporters have ever thought:

  • “If they really valued me – why wouldn’t they see that they are sending me the same letter twice?”
  • “Are they really a good steward of my donation?”
  • “Why not just address the appeal to To Whom it May Concern?”

In the past, best practices revolved around reviewing your database at least annually, but those timelines always seem to be a little too flexible. When it happens, this process merges duplicates, verifies email and mailing addresses, and removes bouncing email addresses. Those are still valid steps and should continue to be done, but what are you doing before those audits?

Preemptive action should be your main focus. The best way to avoid the introduction of duplicates is to use a system that automatically alerts you at the time of entry of a possible duplicate. We like to call that “dynamic duplicate checking.” As you enter the last name of the contact you are adding, a strong database system will be scanning all your existing contacts and suggesting possible duplicates.  This does not slow down the entry of new contacts but can alert you quickly if a duplicate exists and allow you to take action.

Below is a screen shot showing the Dynamic Duplicate Checking in process.  As the user types in the first few letters of Smith, the system displays all the possible duplicates for that contact in the system.  This scan is checking both the main contact name and in the case of two name households, the second contact name.  Paying attention to these potential duplicates should greatly reduce the errors in your system.

live duplicate checker

It is important to periodically ask yourself… do you value each of your supporters? Are you a good steward of their donations?

If your organization is not using dynamic duplicate checking today, you should contact your DonorSnap representative to learn more about this feature.  If you are not currently using DonorSnap, you can learn more information by emailing or by participating in a live demo: Register for a live DonorSnap demo.

Common Problems that Could Damage Your Email Communications

(and How to Resolve Them)

Nonprofits across the nation continue to expand their use of email in communications with their donors and followers. However, many of these organizations are not aware of how many of their contacts never actually receive their messages, for a variety of reasons.

Below we outline a few of the most common problems that prevent your contacts from getting your messages, and how you can correct those issues.

Emails never getting opened

This is the equivalent of your letter or call to a contact going unanswered or unread.  If you consistently send information to an important donor and they do not open your messages, your communication with them is ineffective.  If they consistently don’t open your emails you may need to change your method of communication.  Maybe this particular contact prefers a phone call or a personal visit.  If they are critical to your mission, you need to reach out to them in a method they will respond to.

Getting caught in spam filters

 It is not unusual for newsletters or mass email messages to get caught in email spam filters. These filters are designed with the goal of reducing the amount of “junk” mail a person receives in their inbox. To get around a spam filter, you must first understand exactly how these filters identify what is and is not spam.

Typically, spam filters consider the following factors:

  • The recipient’s relationship with the person sending the message
  • The reputation of a particular IP address or sender domain
  • The quality and/or safety of the links included in the message
  • The quality of the subject line and content
  • The ratio of images to text and links to text

While there are many more factors that go into deciding what is considered spam, these are among the most common.

You will have a much easier time getting your messages around spam filters if you create high-quality content that doesn’t pack in too many links or images. This content should be professionally formatted (turn off your caps lock and avoid using too many exclamation points!), and should avoid spammy-sounding words and phrases. It also helps to only send messages to people who actively subscribed to your content. Using services such as Constant Contact or MailChimp can aide you in producing higher quality emails. They will review your email format and suggest ways to improve your chances of being delivered.

Bounced emails

There are several common reasons why emails bounce back, including non-existent email addresses, unavailable or overloaded servers, full mailboxes, and auto-responders or vacation responders.  This would be the equivalent of a return to sender in the days of regular mail. The intended recipient never even knew you tried to reach out to them.

Each of these problems has resolution strategies you should consider. For example, if the bounce was marked as a non-existent address, you should double check for typos. An “undeliverable” message might just mean you need to try again later when the server is back up or the inbox has cleared. An auto response or vacation response will likely provide you with instructions as to when you can reach the targeted person.

Email blocked by ISP

Internet service providers (ISPs) might decide to block emails from certain addresses if they look like spam, if they are sending messages to too many invalid email addresses or if there are technical problems with delivering the message.  This is the worst case scenario for an organization. Not only didn’t your message get delivered, you don’t even know that it wasn’t delivered. Similar to a letter sent to an old address that doesn’t have forwarding in place and you didn’t pay for return postage.  Fortunately, these problems are relatively easy to fix, as seen above.

There are tools that allow you to track the ultimate delivery of your email and whether that email was opened. When doing mass emails using systems such as Constant Contact, you can review the mailing and see which emails were bounced, blocked, never opened or opened multiple times. For specific emails such as Donation Acknowledgments, Pledge reminders and Annual Statements, having a tracking program linked to your emails will help you understand which emails are getting thru and which ones aren’t.

DonorSnap utilizes the latest software, SendGrid, with all of its outbound emails to give you the ability to track where the email is in the delivery process, if and how often it’s been opened and also provides the ability to resend a misplaced email. This will provide you with full control over the email process and, most importantly, let you know who is getting and who is reading your emails.

Remember – in the new age of electronic communication, you can’t assume that your message is getting through and read by your target audience.

Cleaning Up Your Database

Whether you are looking to transfer your data into a new database or tidy up the one you already have, here are a few quick fixes that will make a world of difference in your reports and mailings.

1. Standardize your fields. Limit the number of free form Text fields in your database. Use Single or Multi-Select and Date fields when possible to help maintain a clean database. Before transferring data from a Text field to a select style field, be sure to standardize your look-up options by eliminating all but the correct version. For example, when using a text field to track your Accounting Codes, it is possible to end up with numerous variations and even misspellings for the same fund (i.e. GEN, General, Gnrl, Generl). Running an accurate report with so many variations of the same fund is next to impossible.

2. Use proper capitalization and spacing…particularly in your name fields. When you send out mailings, you do not want your current donors or potential donors to feel like you are yelling at them (Dear DICK) or simply do not give a rip (Dear      jane   mae). If your data is in Excel, utilize the Trim and Proper functions to quickly eliminate extra spacing and adequately capitalize your names.

3. Merge Duplicates. Check for duplicate contact records based on Name, Address, Email and even Phone. Once you are confident you have a match on your hands, combine the duplicate records, including any attached donations, notes, etc. into one. This can often be a laborious process but it will yield more accurate reporting results and can often cut mailing costs.

Help! I Inherited the Database From…

Image from Jon Watson

Can you relate to this scenario?

You just inherited a database(s) that is meant for you to track down donations, board members, visitors and everything else. Perhaps there are several files with repeated information or better yet, incomplete information. Sitting in the storage room are files of handwritten notes and check copies, none of which have been entered into a computer. Emails are going back and forth between you and other staff collecting bits and pieces of information making it a tracking nightmare.

So what do you do about when you are tasked with organizing your organizations database in a maze of information?

First, define a plan of attack.

Is the focus to improve on the database moving forward? Or is it necessary to change historical information.  A lot of organizations can just say “forget the past, I’m starting fresh tomorrow.” However, most cannot and they have a lot of cleanup to do.

Historical Data
Photo by Miri

How to Fix Historical Data.

First, don’t panic, move slowly through making manual changes. For fixing historical information, find the immediate priorities. Change only those that are needed right now.

Then when immediate needs are finished, start fixing historical information.

  • Edit anything in ALL CAPS.
  • Merge duplicates; researching duplicates that may be spouses. (DonorSnap provides many different duplicates reports as well as a Merge tool). Develop a standard of how to track spousal records moving forward.
  • Edit historical donations so comparative reports will be beneficial.
  • Inactivate deceased/inactive contacts.
  • Most nonprofits inactivate data entries after 3 years of no activity. Delete from the database after 7 years of no activity.

What is the purpose of the database?

Become familiar with the purpose(s) of the database; get acquainted with current donation programs — what mailings have gone out recently, what campaigns are running, talk to Accounting about their needs with running reports between the donor management system and their books.

Try this: Run a Donations Received report of the past checks, go back and change just those to the current and correct drop-downs, so the report is clear and concise.

Remove Duplicates
Photo by Ian Barbour

Get familiar with current database software.

Look at all the existing drop-downs for targeting contacts (how do you label a Contact as a volunteer or Board Member); how are donations categorized. If using a program like DonorSnap you can inactivate any non-relevant codes for appeals/campaigns/accounting codes (never deleting, you can always bring back if you have a question!). DonorSnap also allows you to HIDE (again, never deleting) entire fields that are no longer relevant.

Tip: Simplify the database to what codes you’re using now (and change historical information later, if needed).

Need to send an appeal mailing to the top donors?

Run a DonationStrata report (or other report that can give you Lifetime donations over a certain amount). Edit those contacts; Merge any duplicates ; make sure the mailing label for the contact is your current standard, and do a mailing.

Make a Cheat-Sheet.

Create a standard and cheat-sheet for all data-entry staff of what Codes to use for Contacts/Donations and a process for entering new contacts and adding donations. Create a mailing standard, how the names should be entered in the system and also how the mailing label should be addressed (in DonorSnap would be the Acknowledgement field).

Tip: Arrange a training with staff to go over the database procedures (they need to know this in case your out of the office)


The Power of an Authentic Thank You Letter

Growing up I would take yearly vacations to visit my grandmother in Texas. During these visits she would arrange visits with her friends and their grandchildren for play-dates. These arranged visits resulted in lunches, opportunities to swim in their pools and even excursions to amusement parks.  At the end of the day after each visit my grandmother would have me write a thank you letter for my experience. I started the task reluctantly as I didn’t see the point in writing thank you notes for play-dates. Once I took out the construction paper, crayons and markers I was able to remember the fun experience of the day and let that person know how they made an impact on me.

Today I take the task of writing a thank you letter to a different level. As someone who has worked with nonprofits for years I have donated my time, recruited volunteers, worked with underpaid staff who have given their all and have solicited donations. In each of these scenarios it all comes down to giving and the act of acknowledging the gifts.

How to Write an Authentic Thank You Letter:

1. Speak from the heart
Aside from thanking them for contributing to your organization, let them know how you feel personally about their contribution.

2. Include an image or photo of the impact of their gift.
If it is a donated object such as a toy or car, show them who or what is using it. Photographs and keepsakes are mementos that remind people why they give and will likely result in giving back more.

3. Have more than one person write the letter.
The best thank you notes I’ve ever gotten have been from classrooms of students whom each had a unique perspective on how I had impacted their lives. Create a group activity at the beginning of a board meeting, in a classroom or other gathering for participants to say thank you from their own point of view.

4. Send letters from the road.
If you are going on vacation or to a conference in an interesting city, take a list of your top donors and board members and send them postcards from the road. The art of sending postcards reminds people that you are thinking of them on your journey.

Those who support your organization do so because they believe in you and your work. In turn, it’s important for you to retain their support by acknowledging their gifts and time. Be sure to keep track of your correspondence in your donor management database.

Do you have a tip on a writing authentic thank you notes? Leave a comment and share it with us.


Is Your Nonprofit Prepared for Web 3.0?

Web 3.0? Give me a break! We just got a Facebook page up, what’s next?

First you needed a website. Did it take a while to get one up and running? Then you needed social media, that changes so rapidly it’s hard to keep up! You integrated a blog, that now you need to find people to write for it.

Do you really need to do more? 
Yes you do.

I’m writing this in the summer so you can start to put it into your budget for the next fiscal year. Let’s talk about what you need to do to be Web 3.0.

1. Get your website ready for mobile.

It’s not just that people are looking at your website from a smart phone, but they are starting on a laptop, moving to a tablet, onto a smart phone and back again. This means you have to design your site so it fits on all these devices. 

In order to do it on the Cheap-and-Easy, design your site in a WordPress or Drupal template that is mobile ready. The template description should tell you if it can be applied to smart phones and tablets. This way you only have to design once and it can be on the go.

For a few more bucks you can ask your web developer to make your site mobile ready. What this means is they write code that is wrapped around your site so that it looks good on any device. It’s like wrapping your site in plastic wrap. You see this often when you are looking at a site that starts with The “m” stands for mobile.

2. Make an App for your cause

This is an optional feature. Not everyone needs an app and if they don’t work well people will delete them.  If your organization is doing something that can invite people to take action, participate in an activity or is involved in an event that has a lot of information that you need on the fly, then an app would be good for you. Apps can be expensive, minimum $5000 up to $75,000 depending on the capability. You can also go with pro bono groups such as Code for America who make apps for good causes. You need a technical advisor to think about the type of App you want.

App options:

iOS – Anything Apple. Needs to be approved by Apple, takes 1 – 2 months to be completely approved and ready. Many people around the world have Apple products, broad market. Good thing is you design it once and it fits on all iPhones. Negative, it can be rejected, which puts you back in line to be approved.

Android – Most other smart phones (except Microsoft) are run on Android. The nice thing about designing for Android is you can put it in the App store immediately. Negative, since there re so many different types of Android phones, it doesn’t always look good on every phone.

Microsoft – Only runs on Microsoft smart phones.

Portable App – This basically is a website designed to function as an App. This is a great option if you want to design something cheaply that goes on every phone. Negative, you need to be connected to WiFi.

3. Preparing for .NGO

Your website most likely ends with a .ORG. Theoretically this means you are a “nonprofit organization.” Did you know that anyone who wants a .org can sign up for one even if they are not a 501c3. In 2014,, the agency that owns .ORG will be introducing .NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) and .ONG (Same as NGO but for latin languages.) The difference is you have to prove you are a .NGO before you can get the domain. This will be simple for US Based organizations that can prove 501c3 but more difficult for those around the globe that don’t have such a system set in place.

Why .NGO? The term “nonprofit” has a lot of klout in the US Market but not so much internationally. On a global level international governments and organizations understand the term NGO more than nonprofit. Adopting .NGO will be good especially if you plan to work internationally.

The other great things about .NGO is if you have an organization without a website they will give you to the tools to make it easy and cheap. To sign up for more information on .NGO click here for the Expression of Interest Form.

Alright, now you have some of the key elements you will need for Web 3.0. You can take these pointers back to your board or team to look at planning for 2014. Good luck!

Nonprofit Editorial Calendar: How to Make Your Content Strategy Easy and Engaging

To begin with, let’s define a few buzzwords.

Content: It is what you write in your blog, post Facebook page, tweet out, or send in an email.

Content Calendar: a plan for when and what you publish. It might contain other details like the SEO keywords you plan to use, ways you’ll publicize it, or even budget (if you pay for stock photos or advertising).

Screenshot of content calendar

At the 2013 Nonprofit Technology Conference (put on by NTEN), a bunch of us here at DonorSnap sat in on a few sessions on content marketing strategy, and learned how to leverage it effectively – to your nonprofit’s benefit.

On Friday afternoon, a few of us checked out the session “Air Traffic Control: How to Guide Your Content from Ideation, to Creation, to Publication.”

The presenters, Lauren Girargin, Marketing & Communications Consultant at LightBox Collaborative (@girardinl) and Betty Ray, Senior Blog Editor and Community Manager at The George Lucas Educational Foundation (@EdutopiaBetty) gave all of us gathered there a huge leg up in the content marketing game.

Betty called Edutopia’s content calendar a “Daily Flight Log” because they think of content curators as air traffic controllers, guiding the content. Pretty neat, right?

Here are some of their easy-actionable tips for being your own air traffic controller:

Consistency is key.

  • It’s fine to post to a blog every day or every week, or send a newsletter every month or every quarter.
  • Any schedule can work, as long as your readers expect it.
  • People don’t like to be surprised by more content than they expected, and if they don’t hear from you regularly, they might forget who you are.
  • Or, even worse, they might mark you as “Spam” in their email, which can get your email address blocked by Internet Service Providers.
  • Going off your schedule can even erode gains you’ve already made:
  • Neil Patel (of QuickSprout and KISSmetrics) said that when he skipped a month of his 4-5 posts/month schedule, he lost 21% of his site traffic. And it took 3 months of consistent blogging to get that traffic back. (Source)
  • Using an editorial calendar to think of topics before it’s time to share will make consistency second-nature – not stressful.

Be PROactive, not just reactive.

  • It’s great when you can capitalize on recent news or events for a timely blog post or email!
  • But, you can’t rely on that to happen frequently enough for consistent content.
  • (And remember, consistency is key).
  • So brainstorm content ideas (that aren’t tied to the news) in advance so you’ve got something ready…
  • ..and those reactive posts will get even more traffic (or emails will get more opens) when you do share them.
  • Plan content ahead on an editorial calendar, and take the time to create content you know your fans and supporters will love, no matter what’s going on in the news.

Track deadlines, and stick to ’em.

  • So you’ve figured out the schedule that works for you, and you’ve got great ideas on your content calendar.
  • You’re on your way to success!
  • But, that genius editorial calendar doesn’t do anything if you don’t use it.
  • Give yourself and other contributors deadlines, and put them on the calendar.
  • And, if you’re in charge, give other people fake deadlines that are before the real deadline.
  • Make sure staff know who to tell, and by when if they can’t get something done.
  • Keep track of everyone’s deadlines on your editorial calendar, and if someone falls behind, use the calendar to figure out what can be moved up to replace it.

You can even expand this to Facebook and Twitter – to an extent. Plan contests and questions to pump up audience interaction in advance, and make sure you know what you’re posting to all your social media outlets whenever you make a big announcement.

Editorial Calendar Resources:

At the end of the session, Lauren and Betty suggested a few resources to help you with your content strategy.

Every year, LightBox releases a free Google Drive editorial calendar template:

It has columns for a newsletter, social media, website, earned media, direct outreach, and “other”, any of which can be matched up with a “hook” – an idea you think your supporters will want to read about.

Trello and Asana are more robust systems – cloud-based project management software where you can assign tasks to different people, making it easy to keep track of how a piece of content is coming together.

Finally, if you use DonorSnap, you can integrate an editorial calendar right into your account using Keep&Share. Stay tuned for updates on additional capabilities for this integration.

Keep&Share Screen Shot
There are even to-do lists in Keep&Share, which you can link to inside your calendar.

You know, the new tool that schedules your ticker reminders? You’ve actually already got access to 6 more apps, including database tables, where it’s easy to create your own, unique version of LightBox’s calendar. (And you don’t have to sign up for anything new!)

Just share the table with anyone who’s contributing content, and they can get notified automatically by email whenever changes are made. You choose whether they can edit the table, or just view it.

Don’t hesitate to use the calendar for your content, too – try keeping track of those deadlines in the calendar, and set email or text reminders to stay on-schedule. And, if you’re collaborating with other people, you can overlay their calendars onto yours to see the big picture of how content is being developed.

You can do all this in your free Basic Keep&Share account that comes with DonorSnap. If you’d like to supervise other people’s calendars, create more than one calendar, or have access to other advanced features, consider upgrading to a business account – you and your team members can also have tightly-linked accounts with central control this way.

If you’d like these extra features, all nonprofits get a 30% discount on every transaction, and Keep&Share always gives you a 30-day, no-questions-asked money-back guarantee.

To learn more about your Keep&Share account (already part of your account), check out the website: