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Why Your Fundraising Plan is Critical in 2016

As the development director at a “small but mighty” nonprofit, Heather Yandow was interested in data to back up her fundraising plan.But while she was looking at reports and surveys to compare her organization to, she realized that the data from many reports like GivingUSA just surveyed the big guys… where the smallest organization they surveyed had a budget of $5 million.Now, if your budget is only 10% of that and you’ve got just one part-timer working on multiple fundraising projects at once, how can you compare your success?Realizing that research and information directed toward smaller nonprofits just didn’t exist, her studio later initiated a survey that would become the Individual Donor Benchmark Report (IDBR), answering questions similar to those she’d had herself.Now in its third year, the IDBR has become a reliable resource for smaller nonprofits (meaning those with a budget under $2 million), giving you the data you need to compare yourself to organizations with similar resources as you have. With the kinds of data contained in the IBDR, you can really see where you’re doing well and where you have opportunities for growth.

We Hold These Truths

With the data collected over the past few years, theIDBR has found some universal truths that have carried over from year to year. First, the single most important thing you can do as a small nonprofit is to make a plan. The single thing that really mattered, through all the data, was whether an organization has a fundraising plan. The plan is what ties everything together, makes the data correlate, and shows you just where your money comes from… or where it could be coming from.The second universal truth demonstrated by the IDBR is that there is a HUGE opportunity in online giving. Organizations with new online giving programs have the potential for massive, almost exponential fundraising growth, and even established programs saw 25% growth from 2013 to 2014. Online giving is one more channel through which your donors can give, and you’re missing out on that stream entirely if you’re not ready to maximize online gifts.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Understanding very well how much a difference in budget can affect a nonprofit’s fundraising ability, the IDBR offers benchmarks for organizations with varying amounts of revenue. Compare your own organization, at a glance, to small (under $200K), medium (up to $499,999), large (up to $999.999), and super (up to $2 million) organizations, with a nice “average” category included for good measure. For example, the average nonprofit raises 36% of their revenue from individual donors, but the various categories range from 25% to 57%.You can compare your numbers by total dollars raised, number of gifts, and even break things down by the issue your nonprofit seeks to address. Be reassured, though… every size of organization saw double-digit percentages in revenue growth between 2013 and 2014!The IDBR also looks at fundraising strategies and challenges, including a Fundraiser’s Wish List. Unsurprisingly, the top wish was “more help for fundraising activities,” and the number 2 item was a wish for more time to spend with donors.

It’s All in the Plan

The data expert at Third Space Studio collected the survey results from 87 different nonprofits and found that the ONLY thing that really matters is whether your organization has a fundraising plan. Everything else, no matter how well-intended, was “no better than a crap shoot” without a plan. And who wants to shoot crap, anyway?Two-thirds of the organizations polled say they have a fundraising plan, and using it at least “sometimes.” And the difference between the haves and the have-nots is significant. The IDBR found that there’s no correlation between staff time and revenue, or fundraiser salary and revenue, or number of donor meetings and revenue… unless you have a plan.It’s that plan that is key to your fundraising. The survey results show that “for every $1 more you pay your primary individual donor fundraiser, you are able to rase another $4.25.” So all you need is a plan to recoup that expense more than fourfold? Yes, please!With a plan, you can expect a full-time individual donor fundraiser to bring in about $280,000. With a plan, individual donor meetings can yield over $5,000 in increased donor revenue. With a plan, you are simply able to raise more money. So what are you waiting for? Get planning!There’s so much more in the IDBR that it might be overwhelming to try to sum up in one blog post. Check back here soon for more info on recurring giving, online giving, technology, communication, and even the people who make it all happen, or visit Third Space Studio to download your own copy of the Individual Donor Benchmark Report.Happy planning!

a woman in a white sweater holds a red knit heart

Your Guide to Year-End Fundraising

For any nonprofit, year-end fundraising is like the Super Bowl. Your team has put in tons of hard work throughout the season. You’re ready! You’ve practiced! You’re pumped! And your generous donors are waiting for tickets to go on sale for the Big Game.And what a game it is! Over 30% of annual giving is made in the month of December, with 12% happening in the last three days of the year. That’s HUGE! And donors’ procrastination can work in your favor, because it means there’s still time for you to reach out and ask for those donations.They’re out there and ready to give… all you have to do is tell them how. And yes, you do need to tell them! There are thousands of nonprofits out there, and so many worthy causes. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make sure people know why your cause is most deserving of their charitable giving dollars.Let’s begin.

1. Have a Game Plan

Set a specific year-end fundraising goal, ideally based on both your short- and long-term needs. Decide in advance what success means to you, whether it’s a dollar amount or a number of additional donors. Share your plan with staff and volunteers early on to get everyone involved and spread out the work.To help build your plan, consider these questions:

  • What do we want to accomplish? Dollars are great and crucial to your mission, but what do you want to tell people you’ve done with their gifts? Imagine the results of your best-case scenario, and work backwards from there.
  • How do we want to reach out? Different people prefer to be contacted in different ways, and your resources are limited. Consider what the most effective communication channels will be to reach your ideal donors, and focus on those.
  • Who do we want to contact? Even skywriting only reaches a limited audience, and that’s probably not in your budget. Depending on your goal, your audience may vary; choose the folks most likely to respond to your year-end fundraising appeal and address your appeals to them.
  • What do we want them to do? Choose the one thing that you want donors to d0 right now. Do you want them to donate to a specific fund? Switch to recurring giving? Buy a particular fundraising item? Use that as the one clear call to action in each of your messages.

2. Send the Right Message

While numbers are great, you may want to save them for your annual report. Now is the time to share stories rather than statistics; people are more generous when they can relate to an individual’s story. Show potential donors what their gifts will support, and let previous donors know how their gifts have already helped. And while it’s your organization asking for donations, the message isn’t about you: tell supporters how great they are for wanting to help.

As you’re developing your story, balance that with keeping your message simple, short and sweet.

December’s busy for everyone! A single great picture can really help attract attention, and a nice big “donate” button makes it easy for donors to take the one, specific action you want.When you’re ready, don’t wait, start planting the seeds of generosity now! Updates on Facebook, Twitter, and on other social channels are immediately visible. Clean up your mailing lists, review your printed materials, write that newsletter… just because your donors procrastinate doesn’t mean you can wait until the last minute to say “me too.” Make sure you’re in donors’ thoughts when they’re ready to give; plan out a few scheduled email messages and emphasize urgency as the year’s end approaches.

3. Make Giving Easy

When donors want to give, where do they go? They look up your website! Regardless of whether they give online or off, potential supporters will likely check out your website beforehand. Are you putting your best face forward?You certainly should be keeping your home page up-to-date, of course. If your “current events” are from last summer, get in there and update things! Even if you need to do some digging to find out who can make changes to your website for you, it’s well worth the time to tidy things up for your new guests.

To encourage greater giving, make sure to feature fundraising prominently on the home page of your website.

People won’t give if they can’t find the right place easily. A nice, bright “DONATE” button near the top of your home page will ensure that everyone knows where to give, and you can link it straight to your main GiveCentral giving page or to a specific fund you’d like to highlight this season.

4. Say Thank You

…a lot.A brief “thanks” with a donation receipt is nice, but that alone won’t build the relationship you’re hoping to develop that will keep donors coming back.

That first “thank you” is not simply a courtesy, it’s your first opportunity to reinforce the great decision they’ve just made.

Following up with donors on the results of their giving is another great step on the path toward what will hopefully become a lifelong partnership. When you can show the concrete results of their gifts, donors are reassured that they’ve made a good choice and encouraged to give again.Thank yous don’t just have to be emails or letters! You can recognize donors on your website or ask their opinions about your next initiative. Invite them to give in other ways – by volunteering, by attending an event, or by telling friends about your incredible achievements. Word-of-mouth is great for giving!

So What’s Next?

It ain’t over ’til it’s… well, it’s never over. Thankfully, your mission is well worth it!

Fundraising for your organization is an ongoing task even after the year-end fundraising blitz is over, but you can make it more manageable by beginning a plan for 2016.

Break things up into more reasonable chunks if a full-year calendar is too much to tackle at once! Take a look at what worked (and what didn’t) in this round of giving, and adjust your future plans  and activities based on what you’ve learned.How can your plan become better aligned with your organization’s mission? What targets should get more attention in your next fundraising push? Where could your time, energy and budget be better spent? How will you continue to grow your list, and how can you best keep the donors you already have?What will you be doing in 2016?  

a red envelope tied with a candy-striped ribbon, surrounded by red and white snowflakes, a candy-cane ornament, and a red alarm clock

Holiday Email Adds a Big Boost to Year-Round Growth

The GiveCentral team’s goal is to help all of our client organizations to raise more, and we see a tremendous opportunity to improve donor retention rates over traditional payment methods like cash and checks. Earlier this year, we engaged hundreds of parishes in an exercise to test the power of communication to bring back donors who have stopped giving. Using the free email communication portal available to every GiveCentral client, we were able to demonstrate the potential of sending a single message before an important holiday.In the days before Easter Sunday 2015, we helped participating parishes send a message to their online donors who had not yet signed up to make an Easter donation to their parish. Each parish used GiveCentral’s free communication portal and email templates. The simple messages encouraged recipients to find their church on GiveCentral and make a donation.comparison graph: increase in fundraising between organizations who sent email vs. those who did notParticipating parishes saw a sustained increase in giving, growing by more than 9 percent on average over the following six months. That is nearly five times faster than the parishes that did not send an email.

  • 750 new donors responded to the call to give online.
  • Participating parishes saw a 323 percent increase in online Easter donations.
  • A single parish signed up 57 new donors with one email.

Communicating regularly is one of the most effective ways to raise more for your organization, and never is that more true than ahead of major holidays like Christmas and Easter. All you have to do is ask.

Download a case study of this great success story here.