When you’re appealing to the generosity of your donors, every second counts… and when that second happens matters, too. Your donors are busy, and their time is just as valuable as their money.So what’s a nonprofit to do? Make it easy for your donors to give when it’s most convenient for them by offering online giving!GiveCentral’s recent survey of over 800 American donors told us that people are far more likely to donate in the evenings (36 percent) or on weekends (26 percent) than during the “normal” business nine-to-five. That’s a lot of generosity you might be missing if you’re not ready for off-hours giving.
Happy National Tell a Story Day! Do you know someone who is a good storyteller? Someone who can captivate an audience with the tale they are weaving. Someone whose stories you always want to hear because they are engaging and entertaining. For me, that someone is was always my grandfather. We would listen over the dinner table and walk with him through the memories of his youth, his love of the backwoods of northern Minnesota and his passion for Notre Dame football. Nonprofits can learn a valuable lesson for good storytellers. Storytelling is a powerful communications tool that can set you apart from other nonprofit organizations vying for your donors’ time, talent, treasure and attention. As you are well aware, donors give for altruistic reasons, so connecting with them on an emotional level is key to capitalizing on their generosity and desire to give. Storytelling is a great and incredibly effective way to do just that!Donors like (and respond to) the warm and fuzzy that comes from supporting a cause. Make sure you are continually warming their hearts through compelling and inspired storytelling that brings your mission to life. Try these storytelling techniques designed to help you speak to donors’ hearts:
Remember the three C’s.
Be clear, concise and compelling. Verbose, meandering and mundane content will be ignored.
Tell the truth.
Being truthful and transparent are extremely important. Don’t take creative liberties and exaggerate your stories. Donors can separate fact from fiction, so don’t embellish for effect.
Be your authentic self.
Every organization has a personality. It’s the way you express and represent yourself — it’s your heart and soul. Be genuine and let your persona shine through so donors can better relate to you and your mission. Stories without personality fall flat. (more…)
Churches are lucky among nonprofits; time to connect with your community is built into religious life. For Catholics, that means Sunday Mass. And as you know, evoking an emotional connection with your parishioners is the foundation to getting them more involved in the community with their time, talent or treasure.While this is easy when they are sitting in the pew at Mass, how do you carry this connection on throughout their week? They have work concerns, children to care for, obligations with friends and family, and, of course, they have other nonprofits asking them, “donate to our cause.“The fact is, your parishioners’ attention is being pulled at by several other nonprofits, possibly many times each day. Compare this to the fact that they may only hear from you at Mass on Sunday. They might take home the bulletin, but that could just sit under a stack of bills. So how can you make sure your parish stands out?
According to Giving USA, charitable giving grew 7.1% in 2014, and religious donations still hold the largest piece of that pie. However, that slice has been shrinking in comparison to other types of giving, a trend that has been going on for 30 years. This is due in large part to the influx of nonprofits reaching out to your parishioners, evoking a competing emotional connection for their organizations’ cause.So how can a church keep up? Well the good news is, a parish has an innate emotional connection to its parishioners – spirituality. Your parishioners get a very tangible refresher from hearing your pastor speak, so all you need to do is remind them of that refreshing feeling they get from your masses during the week. This will strengthen your relationship with your parishioners!
What’s Your Story?
Your parish already has a mission, and in it lies your story. Tell your parishioners a little bit about your church, and connect them to the history of your parish.
- Why did your pastor decide to become a pastor?
- Is there a message from the homily that could be repeated in a mid-week email?
- How did you come to work at the parish? What about your colleagues?
- What happened at your last big parish event, behind the scenes in preparation for the fun?
- When was your church built? Is there a story of its founding you can share?
- Can you share a weekly or monthly “Spotlight on a Parishioner” as an email or newsletter article?
Small stories like these are just the thing to help build up the sense of community that’s so crucial to your mission. Connected parishioners are engaged parishioners, and the more they feel like they’re a part of the church the more likely they are to volunteer, donate and participate. To help you share your story, I want to share a favorite, easy resource of mine with you.
Share Your Stories
My story-telling knowledge is inspired by a woman named Vanessa Chase. Her website, The Storytelling Nonprofit, is chock-full of resources, ideas, inspiration and motivation that you can learn from and adapt to fit your parish. I cannot recommend her website enough!Vanessa encourages non-profits to think of their donors as intimate relationships – and what keeps you supporting your friends, families, and loved ones more than the emotional connection you share with one another? It’s that emotional connection with your loved ones that is built so much by the stories you build together and tell one another, so Vanessa teaches us how to begin that conversation with parishioners and donors.Your parishioners come to you for a very intimate reason, and communicating your story with them not only validates their spirituality but also strengthens their desire to support your mission. Connect over stories and watch your community grow!
The mad dash to file personal income tax returns is on! With the April tax deadline looming, we thought it would be interesting to share insights on what drives donors to give. Hint: tax deduction doesn’t even make the top 10!Knowing the motivating factors behind charitable giving is critically important for successful fundraising. According to the recently released GiveCentral Insights on Nonprofit Giving report, altruistic motivations are the primary drivers for charitable giving. Overwhelmingly, Americans donate out of the goodness of their hearts, not because they have to or should for tax purposes. Faith and the desire to help others trump tax breaks.
Understanding why donors give is one piece of the fundraising puzzle. Armed with insights on donor behaviors, your challenge is to create strategies that tap into donor motivations. Communications should be a cornerstone of your strategic plan. From a compelling content marketing strategy to inspired storytelling, demonstrating how donor contributions make a real and meaningful difference to your mission can have a direct impact on your funding. Knowing how important a comprehensive communications plan is to your success, we will continue to share ideas and tangible tips on how to maximize your communications, so be sure to check back frequently. In the meantime, I’m signing off so I can go finish my taxes!
Individuals account for nearly three-quarters of the nation’s charitable contributions. While the reasons why they give vary, once thing is certain: The request to give resonated with them emotionally and motivated them to take action. Our recent Insights on Nonprofit Giving report revealed major motivators and donor preferences for charitable giving, including:
- Want To…Not Have To Or Should. On the whole, Americans donate because they want to support causes that will help others or society. Fewer than a quarter of donors (22 percent) do so because of an obligation or sense of duty. Giving because it’s how they were raised was also cited as a reason to behave charitably (29 percent).
- Helping Hands. To help people in need was the most often cited reason to give (58 percent), followed by feeling fortunate and wanting to give back (39 percent) and for religious reasons (29 percent). Contrary to popular belief, only 15 percent of respondents said they give for the tax deduction.
- Emotional Connection. Nearly 20 percent of survey respondents said they were emotionally moved to donate by someone’s story, making donor communications a key component of every marketing plan.
- Online Giving On The Rise. While donating in-person in cash is still a “comfort zone” across all age groups, electronic giving options are popular, with one in three Americans indicating such. Significantly, those with higher incomes show greater preference for electronic methods. In fact, 18 percent of those earning under $20K showed preference for electronic giving methods, whereas 44 percent of those earning more than $100K showed preference.
- Credit And Debit Trumps Transfer. While 23 percent of those 18-34 years old said they prefer using credit or debit cards on computers, tablets and mobile devices, only 8 percent prefer using money transfer services on those devices for giving. The same preference for credit and debit payment options versus money transfer services holds true across all age brackets.
- Regional Giving Differences. People living in the West donated the most, contributing to charity twice as much as people living in the Northeast ($1,224 and $599 on average respectively). Those in the South contributed on average $660, leaving those in the Midwest in last place with a $587 average total.
What’s The Takeaway?
So what does this all mean? Understanding the why behind donor contributions helps you nurture and strengthen those relationships, setting the stage for future donations and a long term relationship. It’s important to have both a strategic fundraising plan and sophisticated, multi-function tools in place to capitalize on your donors’ desire to support your cause.
Consistent, regular donations help fuel your church and its mission, but asking for money can be uncomfortable and even intimidating. Your confidence in making the ask can be boosted by one simple technique: transparency.
Through our experiences and best practices, we have compiled four simple Steps to Success for being transparent with parishioners to help you receive the offertory your church needs to grow and thrive.
1. Tell Them Why
The most important part of transparency is telling your donors how their gifts are being used. People can be hesitant to donate their hard earned money if they don’t know what that gift is going towards.
How can you do this most effectively? There are plenty of ways to demonstrate your need for the money necessary to keep your organization operating, many of which can be tailored to your audience. Examples include:
- Putting together a complete list of expenses and make it readily available. Depending on your circumstances, you can keep an updated list on your website, in your bulletin, or anywhere you know your parishioners will see it.
- Highlighting one expense per month on which to focus your fundraising efforts. Tackling expenses one at a time helps keep folks from getting overwhelmed and draws attention to individual, tangible needs.
- Placing GiveCentral enrollment forms (or instructions on how to register online) in frequently-used spaces and places where people naturally congregate to chat after Mass.
Through our experience at GiveCentral, we have witnessed a variety of ways to showcase the funds needed to keep church doors open. Check out our list of Giving Ideas for some additional inspiration.
2. Ask for Donations
Now that you have told your donors why you need the money, it’s time to ask for donations. To some this may feel a bit uncomfortable, but by maintaining a level of transparency about what the funds are going towards it will become easier to show parishioners why they want to give. Explain why their donations are so important to your ongoing mission and day-to-day operations, and consider trying some of our Giving Ideas as new ways to ask for donations.
When you are asking for new donations, be sure to share specific details about your initiatives. Who will they help? What support systems will be put in place? How will your efforts make an impact on the community? Research has shown that when you can demonstrate a donor’s personal connection to a cause, the more likely they are to say “yes” to supporting that cause.
One way to make asking for donations easier is to spread out the work. People say that friends and family hold the most influence over where they donate their time and money, so tap into your community for vocal supporters and ask them if they are willing to help advocate on your behalf. These trustworthy messengers can boost the transparency of your message by speaking authentically and impartially about the good work you do.
3. Say Thank You
Immediately after receiving a donation, sending a letter of thanks is a must that shows them your appreciation and acknowledges their support. GiveCentral’s receipts are automatically sent after each donation is made, and they do say “Thank You,” but a personal message from you makes all the difference.
And of course, the first letter of thanks should not be the only one. Every few months, thank your donors again. Whether it be via email, letter, card or phone call, get in touch with them just to say thanks for their generosity and for their participation in your activities. This is a great opportunity to tell them (perhaps again) how much their donations have helped your organization accomplish. And remember, this shouldn’t be used as a platform to ask them to give again but simply an acknowledgement of your gratitude.
4. Provide Updates
While you’ve already told your donors where the money is going, it’s just as important that they see their gifts put to use. This is truly transparency in action: you asked them for a gift, told them what you would use it for, and are now ready to show them the results.
For example, if they were donating to make repairs to the church, consider how you will send updates on the status of those repairs. If they donated to help fund church groups, have members of the group speak about the impact of donations or write a note to include in your newsletter. Seeing the outcome of their donations will make people feel more comfortable donating again as well as form a connection between your parish, their donation, and the fantastic results.
GiveCentral offers tools and support to help you send email updates, which help keep donors up-to-date on the initiatives they are helping to support. Learn more about our communication portal here, or participate in our discussion community.
Your donors want to support you, but they need to know what you need. They know your parish needs money, but how can you best express this to encourage giving?
Here are some creative ideas for communicating your expenses and their effect on the parish community:
These ideas reinforce your message of need with repetition, making your message familiar:
- Discuss your message of need with your pastor, and ask him to consider weaving this message into his homily.
- Place an advertisement in your bulletin asking parishioners to contribute to a specific initiative. Include a link they can type into their browser that goes to your GiveCentral page. (Try a link shortener to save space.)
- Print up flyers with messages of stewardship and place them around your church, activity hall, and school (if you have one). Time and talent are just as important as treasure… it’s not always about the money, but connecting donors to your community events is shown to encourage giving when the time comes.
- Send an email “newsletter” with messages about your various initiatives. Is your Women’s Club holding a flower sale? Are you raising money to repair the church steps? Is your choir holding auditions soon?
These ideas ask your donors to take action on the spot:
- Make sure to have a prominent link to your GiveCentral page on your parish website!
- Place giving forms in the pews to encourage them to register for online giving. (Make sure to make it clear where the forms should be dropped off.)
- Post helpers at the back of church after Mass to distribute registration cards or instruction sheets for online giving.
- Hold a “Stewardship Table” in the church lobby or entryway to talk to people about online giving. If you can, have a computer or tablet available to help parishioners to sign up then and there.
- Use social media to convey your message of giving! Facebook now lets you post a donation button (only for Pages), and you can also share links to GiveCentral on Twitter. People love photos, so you can share pictures of your events and the results of your campaigns.
- Send a short email with a specific giving request. Include a link directly to the fund you’d like them to support on GiveCentral.
These ideas show, rather than tell, what happens without giving:
- What if you couldn’t pay your electric bill? Turn the lights and/or air conditioning off during Mass.
- What if you couldn’t pay your gas bill in winter? Hold Mass with the heat turned low in the church. (Keep Sunday school and day care warm, of course!)
- What if you couldn’t pay for songbooks? Remove the songbooks from the back of the pews… and consider replacing them with GiveCentral donation forms.
- What if you couldn’t pay for music? Hold Mass with no choir or cantor to lead the parish in song.
- What if the church had to close? Lock the doors of the church one Sunday and hold mass outside.
- What if you had to merge with another church? Have congregations from two parishes attend the same Mass at one church
- What if you could only afford one Mass? Hold just one mass on a particular Sunday (announced in advance, certainly).
- What if you couldn’t pay for printing? Conspicuously remove all bulletins and flyers from the church for one week.
- What if you couldn’t afford landscape maintenance? Consider letting the church lawns grow out, with a lawn sign explaining why.
And as always, remember that your donors want to know where their money is going. Let them know your plans for their donations, and also the outcomes. Show them the great results, and they’ll be encouraged to give again.
Do you have more ideas for encouraging giving? What has worked at your parish? Let us know in the comments, we can add them to the list!
by Bridget Mayer
New Nonprofit Giving Survey: 2015 Predictions for Nonprofit Giving
Communication and Technology Adoption Key to the Future of Donor Management
Change is practically synonymous with a new year and this rings true for nonprofit organizations in 2015. The next few weeks and months are a time for fresh fundraising strategies and an overall penchant to shake things up.Technology is one area in particular that is driving forward change within nonprofits of all shapes and sizes, regardless of the industry. Here at GiveCentral, we’re constantly striving to learn more about technology’s transformative effect on donor giving and how organizations are responding to the digital age’s influence. Whether it be how mobile technology is mixing things up or how donor management tools have changed, it’s important to us to stay on top of the latest trends.We recently conducted a proprietary survey among more than 80 nonprofit senior executives, including senior religious leaders, Chief Executives, Chief Financial Officers and development managers across a wide range of nonprofit organizations. We wanted to identify the best donor management practices and understand the biggest giving-related challenges and opportunities that nonprofits will face in 2015.You can download the full report here.What we found in our inaugural report, 2015 Predictions for Nonprofit Giving, was both enlightening and encouraging. Senior executives of nonprofits recognize there are many challenges ahead—from the increasing level of competition for donors to the pressure of technological change. The good news, however, is that they are preparing for the future.A few statistics in particular stuck out to us as we dove into the data, including the importance of effective donor communication to engage with donors, how donors are becoming more comfortable with online giving and the need for increased technology education. Below, I’ve outlined these findings.To ensure your organization is positioned to increase its donations in 2015, please check out the full report for a comprehensive look at the current nonprofit giving environment.
Lack of Communication Puts Donor Relations at Risk
Many nonprofit executives reveal that the greatest barrier to donor engagement and giving is a lack of communication.
- Despite 84 percent of respondents reporting their organization embraces technology change, more than one-quarter (27 percent) do not have a formal email communication schedule in place and only 10 percent send weekly donor emails.
- One-quarter (26 percent) still rely on weekly printed newsletters. As a result, nonprofit senior executives are leaving many opportunities on the table to communicate and engage with donors to build stronger relationships and increase giving.
Donor Fear of Technology Diminishing
Nonprofit senior executives said that although they still face some hesitation from donors when it comes to technology, more and more are becoming comfortable with digital channels.
- 84 percent of nonprofits recognize the importance of catering to a new generation of donors and embrace technology change.
- Only one-in-ten nonprofits retain fully manual donation processing, demonstrating the prevalence of technological advances in giving programs.
Donor Education is Key to Embracing Technology Change
While donors are becoming more comfortable with the idea of technology change, increased education is needed to close the gap. At the same time, organizations are confident their donors can move past the perceived complexity of online giving programs.
- Nearly half (49 percent) of survey respondents said their donors don’t understand online giving.
- Yet, only 12 percent of respondents say online giving technology is too complex for their organization to use.
As you usher in 2015’s changes and begin to prepare for the years down the road, we’re hopeful that the donor giving information in this survey from nonprofit leaders is valuable to your organization. Whether it’s gaining a small piece of insight, finding comfort that you’re on track for technology’s demands or even realizing you are behind the digital curve when it comes to nonprofit giving, please let us know what you thought of the survey results in the comments below.Wait, there’s more!To confirm you are positioned to increase your donations in 2015, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an analysis of your donor management practices.
Online Giving Myths
Debunking These and Revealing the Truth
To say the Internet has had a huge effect on our society would be a gross understatement. The reality is, the digital age has transformed more parts of our society than we could even count. From business operations and communicating with loved ones, to consuming media, the list goes on and on. And we all have to stay on our toes as technology evolves, introducing new opportunities and challenges.
One major opportunity the digital age has brought forth is the ability for donors to give money to organizations digitally. With a swipe, click or tap, people now have the ability to donate whenever and to whatever organization they want.
While this is a great advancement forward for the industry, some organizations are still wary of introducing online giving programs. The reasons why nonprofits are apprehensive can run the gamut, but I wanted to pause and debunk some of the major myths associated with online giving.
Myth #1: Online giving services charge high fees that take a large amount of money from my organization.
Truth: While online programs do require processing fees to operate effectively, the increased amount of donations gained by offering online giving as an option outweighs any fee structure. Online donations rose 13.5 percent last year, according to Giving USA. This is nearly three times the rate of overall contribution growth, which means that while fees can be a deterrent from the online giving game, you don’t want to be left sitting on the bench. Even more compelling: GiveCentral reports that organizations have seen growth of 10 percent per month after introducing an online giving program.
GiveCentral is also proud to present fees that are on average only 1-2 percent of total online donations. This is significantly lower than other services available to nonprofits.
Myth #2: People are either online donors or offline donors, without any crossover.
Truth: No nonprofit wants to alienate a potential donor by not offering multichannel donation options. If you stick with either solely online or offline fundraising options, though, you’re bound to miss out on donations from folks who like a wide variety of giving options.
The key is to find the right mix for your organization and its donor audience. Perhaps supplementing a direct mail campaign with a follow up email makes sense for your nonprofit. Or maybe you want to overhaul your whole fundraising strategy to cover every possible donation avenue—from text-to-give, to online giving to check collection and more. Take the pulse of your donors and implement a giving program that maximizes potential donations.
Myth #3: The technology needed to facilitate online giving is too complicated and difficult for my staff to use.
Truth: Many online giving programs can be set up within hours, allowing nonprofits to start collecting donations electronically almost right away. While there are initial set-up steps that require your staff’s expertise, once a program is up and running, there is very little maintenance required. Of course, organizations are encouraged to manage and update their programs as they gain familiarity with the services and understand the benefits.
If you’re still weary of the burden an online giving system could place on your administrative support staff, keep in mind that many organizations provide set-up support and ongoing consultative services to ensure success.
Technology that enhances the donation process for everyone, and is easy to use, is the hallmark of GiveCentral’s services. By consolidating all collection, fundraising and communication activities in one place, GiveCentral’s platform makes it easier for donors to give, for nonprofits to reach out, and for administrators to save time on accounting and data management. Everybody wins!
There are many more myths about online giving out there, but knowledge is power. Make sure you explore all the options available to you, and do sufficient research, before you make a quick judgment about online giving. And remember: trying something new always has risks, but it also can provide great rewards. Learn more about how GiveCentral can enhance your fundraising efforts.
PS: Here at GiveCentral, we strive to stay on top of the latest trends, challenges and opportunities that affect our clients. We want to make sure we can answer your questions about popular myths, for example, while also providing you with unique insights and data about our industry.
Right after the new year, we’ll be releasing exciting new survey information here on the blog, so please be sure to visit us in once we flip the calendar to 2015!
Recently, we shared our new white paper on best practices for rejuvenating your annual campaign with online strategies. Because everything is more fun with pictures, we’ve taken our tips to the next level in our latest infographic.Make your way around the “8” to get additional perspective on how to bring a fresh approach to your organization’s annual campaign.