Think about your donor development strategies from the beginning of 2020. Do you see any major issues compared to what you know now?
Let’s be real: A lot of nonprofit folks have had to completely throw out all their plans and fly by the seat of their pants. No one knows exactly what to do, how to plan or what’s coming next in 2020.
That being the case, how do you make a plan for donor stewardship for the rest of the year?
There are no hard and fast rules right now, but there are approaches that work better than others. Responsive fundraising allows you to turn on a dime and adapt to change faster because you’re not handcuffed to a plan, you’re listening to your donors. A questioning and curious mindset helps you make better decisions and try and analyze new things quickly.
As you plan for the rest of the year, when things can change minute by minute, your approach and mindset may end up mattering just as much as the individual decisions you make about donor stewardship. Here are our top questions to guide you as you navigate donor development for the remainder of 2020.
In a normal year, there are some donor trends you can extrapolate from the past. Your donors may follow a predictable pattern of engagement around year-end, for example. This year, patterns are changing. You need to be able to see how your donors are engaging right now, and meet them where they are.
To get the most out of your data, ask yourself the following.
A responsive CRM, along with multi-channel marketing automation, enables you to listen to your donors’ signals and provide real-time engagement. Listening means you’ll be connecting with your donors in the best possible ways for this moment, not last year.
Many of your donors may be spending more time online than ever before. That means they’re getting a lot of messages, from ads to social media posts, to emails. Make your messages stand out by using marketing automation and donor tags to give your donors the most relevant and engaging information on all channels, including off-line options like direct mail and phone calls.
A responsive CRM and marketing automation software capture every signal donors send, whether it’s replying to a direct mail piece or clicking a link. This gives you the broadest and most accurate picture of how your donors are interacting with you.
During a time of flux, you need up-to-the-minute donor data. Ideally, your nonprofit CRM will do a lot of the tracking and updating for you, so you’re always getting the freshest information.
When things are changing quickly, it’s easy for people within an organization to cross signals and end up working against each other’s goals. Prevent these problems by establishing a process at the beginning that you can adapt to your changing priorities. Deciding on the “who/what/when/where/how” ahead of time will keep you working together even as the details of your donor stewardship plan shift.
Defeat silos by asking yourself these questions.
Look into who surveys donors who are also volunteers, development or volunteer services. Who pulls social media numbers, the marketing manager or the marketing associate? If multiple people are collecting and acting separately on the same data, it’s time to streamline your process by spelling out who is responsible for which piece.
How many people need this data? Do they need the raw numbers, or will they get more out of it if there’s some interpretation? Does it need to be in a formal report, or will a monthly email do the job?
Data means more when accompanied by insight about what it means, and how that informs what you should next. Decide who will be involved in pulling data and informing the rest of the team about the insights to be drawn from it. A responsive CRM puts you way ahead of the game by analyzing data and drawing insights automatically, saving you hours of data sifting and making sure you don’t miss a thing.
During a time of information overload, it’s more important than ever to make sure your communication to donors is relevant and targeted. How do you make that happen for every donor? Segmentation.
When 90% of US consumers find marketing personalization appealing, you can’t afford to use out-of-date “spray-and-pray” mass messaging. Segmenting donors by their interests, passions and personas allows you to create personal one-to-one messages for each donor, at scale.
There are many ways to segment donors for more effective communication, including by their interests, group affiliation, giving habits, communication preferences and interactions with your nonprofit.
The best segmentation is based on donor signals and behavior, which is difficult for humans to track for a donor base of any size. A responsive CRM can assign donor tags automatically, and utilize information from social scraping, appended wealth data and existing networks to create the most detailed picture possible, without staff spending time on it.
As you learn new things, you will need new tags and segments. Watch your data for emerging trends in what donors are interested in and responsive to, and update your segments so you can optimize your communication.
If you’re a frontline healthcare organization, you might find some donors are very interested in your COVID-19-related messages, while others find them upsetting and tune them out. Donor segmentation allows the people who want every detail to receive all the information they crave, while helping you keep in touch with the others in a more meaningful way.
Creating a segment for donors who’ve informed you they’ve lost their jobs helps you demonstrate that you value people beyond their financial contributions. That segment could receive a communication flow that included thank yous for their past support, information about their impact and volunteer opportunities, but not direct financial appeals. This keeps them engaging with the organization, rather than alienating them with inappropriate asks.
During a year like this, you simply cannot afford to waste your time on things that don’t work. You need to be able to try something, see how it goes, and then discard it or keep it as needed. 2020 is not the year to lock yourself into one solid plan–things are changing too quickly.
Approach your donor development plan scientifically–hypothesize, experiment, analyze the result and come to a conclusion. Some of the things you try won’t work, and that’s fine. As long as you apply the data from your failure to whatever you try next, you didn’t waste the effort, you learned something important.
Put everything on the table, and ask yourself these questions.
Where are you seeing results and engagement? What gets the most positive feedback? Which stories resonate the most with donors?
If your donors consistently don’t respond to something, you probably don’t have to keep doing it.
Your donor development plan should be all about your donors and providing them with the most meaningful experience possible. This means that you should spend your time and effort on the things that serve them.
Ask yourself what your donors truly want from you. Listen to their signals, and you’ll start to get a clearer idea of what motivates them, delights them or completely bores them. As you get more personal and relevant, you may find some of your development activities don’t really serve your donors at all.
It is very difficult, if not impossible, to create a flexible, responsive donor development plan while you’re fighting with your software or trying to make sixteen Excel sheets function as a CRM. How is your software helping or hindering your efforts? What could you do with a better, more responsive system?
How should you cultivate donors for the rest of 2020? There is no one, universal next action for every nonprofit to take, but there is one approach we recommend over any other: responsive fundraising. Listen to your donors, connect with them and make suggestions based on what you learn. Instead of sticking to a plan, you stick with your donors, wherever they may lead you.
“What do I do next?” is a big question. After you’ve analyzed your data, set up solid internal systems, segmented your donor and made your plan more efficient, you’ll be in a much better position to answer it.
To learn more about how to proceed for the rest of 2020 and beyond, save your spot for Part Two of The Responsive Fundraising Summit: What Now?
Traditional fundraising strategies no longer work. This blueprint explains why today's donor expects more, and how nonprofits are shifting to responsive fundraising.