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By Ann Green

 

Happy New Year! I hope you had a nice holiday. My vacation went by way too quickly.

I also hope 2023 was a successful year for your nonprofit organization. If it wasn’t, you can work to make 2024 a better year. As with personal New Year’s resolutions, you want your goals to be realistic and attainable. If you’re a small organization, you may not have much luck pulling off a huge gala.

Here are a few ways to help you ensure a more successful year.

Have a plan in place

You must have fundraising and communications/marketing plans. If you haven’t put together these plans yet, do that now! 

You know from past experience that you may need to make changes to your plans. In 2020, organizations that were able to make changes to a plan already in place were most successful.

Take a look back at 2023 to see what worked and what didn’t in your fundraising and communications/marketing. Incorporate what you’ve learned into your 2024 plans. 

Be sure your fundraising plan includes a diverse stream of revenue. Individual giving has proven to be successful. A lot of small donations can add up! Start or grow your monthly giving program (more on that below). Also, look into major and legacy giving. 

You can apply for grants and hold events, but those sometimes require more effort than it’s worth. Invest in strategies that make sense for your organization.

Revisit your fundraising and communications/marketing plans regularly and make changes as needed. Do this at least every two to three months.

Make sure that donor relations and donor retention are part of your fundraising plan. Those are key to your success.

Pay attention to your donor retention

Many donors have stepped up over the past few years to support nonprofit organizations. You don’t want to lose these valuable donors.

Donor retention should be a priority. You’ll have more success if you work to keep the donors you already have instead of focusing on getting new ones.

First, if you don’t already know it, figure out your retention rate. Do this after every fundraising campaign.

If it’s low, it’s something you can fix, usually with better communication. Donor retention is a huge problem for nonprofits. Your goal should be to have donors who support you for a long time.

It’s easier and less expensive to keep your current donors than to find new ones so once again, make donor retention a priority.

That said, you may have some new donors who saw a need and felt a connection to your cause. Don’t let these donors slip away either.

 

Go all in on monthly giving 

Speaking of retention, the retention rate for monthly donors is 90%. These donors are dedicated to your nonprofit. 

I’m a huge fan of monthly giving. It’s always made sense, but it’s been especially crucial over the last few years. Organizations that have monthly giving programs receive a steady stream of revenue throughout the year. Donors who opt for monthly giving find it’s easier on their finances. Even gifts of $5.00 or $10.00 a month can make a difference for your organization. Dedicated monthly donors have also stepped up and have given additional donations.

Work on starting or growing your monthly giving program so you can have a bunch of highly committed donors. A good way to start is to invite your current donors to become monthly donors.

Monthly donors are also potential major and legacy donors. Remember the importance of individual giving.

Do a better job of communicating with your donors 

There are many ways to do a better job of communicating with your donors. First, make this the year you say goodbye to boring, generic communication. Stop using jargon, such as at-risk and underserved. Tell more stories and go easy on the statistics. It makes a difference if you can put things in human terms, so you can do a better job of connecting with your donors.

Better communication also means more frequent communication. Donors want to  feel appreciated and know how they are helping you make a difference. Be sure to implement the ask, thank, report, repeat formula

You want to segment and personalize your communication, too. Address your donors by name (not Dear Friend) and recognize their past giving or if they’re a monthly donor.

Better, more frequent communication will help you raise more money. Having a communications calendar will help you with this. 

Work on building relationships

You may think the most important component of fundraising is raising money. While that’s important, so is building relationships with your donors. 

It’s hard to raise money year after year if you don’t build a good relationship with your donors. Every single interaction with your donors needs to focus on building relationships. That includes fundraising appeals. It’s possible to raise money and build relationships at the same time. 

Stop thinking of the donations you receive as a transaction and instead think of them as the start or continuation of a relationship. 

Good relationships with your donors will help you with retention.

Create an attitude of gratitude

A big part of building relationships is showing gratitude to your donors. Many nonprofits do a poor job of this. 

You need to start by sending a heartfelt thank you immediately after you receive a donation and then find ways to thank your donors throughout the year. Put together a thank you plan to help you with this.

Start the New Year off by making fundraising and communications/marketing plans, if you haven’t already done so. Prioritize donor retention, monthly giving, showing gratitude, and building relationships with your donors. This will help bring you more success in 2024.

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