LIST of what to “repeat” to save time and raise more money

Repeat.

I know the idea of “repeating” fundraising you’ve done before doesn’t make sense at first. And it can feel weird.

That’s why I want to talk about the secret of “repeating” – just think of it as a tool that savvy fundraisers use to save time and (surprisingly) raise more money.

What We Mean By “Repeat”

When we say you can “repeat” something, here’s what we mean in a nutshell: do the same thing again, but slightly differently.

  • Send the same letter again, but slightly reword it
  • Send the same email again, but slightly reword it
  • Run the same event again, but with a different beneficiary speaker
  • Send the same letter again, but with a slightly different design

Are you picking up what I’m laying down?

And in some cases you can send the exact same thing. Same email. Same letter. We’ve done both of them and they’ve both worked:

  • My podcast partner Jeff Brooks tells a story about an organization that sent an appeal every month. One month it accidentally sent out the exact same appeal that it sent the previous month – and it raised more money the second time!
  • I think about an organization that took half their donors and sent them the same exact email the last four days of the year. Those donors gave more than the other half of their donors who received four unique emails.

Because remember:

  1. Most of your donors aren’t paying that close attention
  2. Many donors need to hear something twice (or more) before they pay attention and really think about it

When To Repeat Letters And Emails

Here’s how to repeat your appeal letters and your emails.

If you are doing something that you did the year before, you can repeat it.

Say you send out a Thanksgiving appeal last year, and you’re going to do another one this year. The first thing to do is to look at last year‘s Thanksgiving appeal and its results.

If the results were better than the previous year, repeat it. Don’t write a completely new email. Don’t design a completely new letter. Make only the minimal number of changes you need to make.

The same is true for anything you do each year. Here’s a list of things we’ve repeated to great success, and I’m sure there are more examples:

  • Year-end / Thanksgiving / Back-to-School / etc. – letters & emails
  • Facebook campaigns
  • Events
  • Giving Tuesday
  • Renewal
  • 13th Gift
  • Sponsorship/monthly giving upgrade campaigns
  • Monthly giving recruitment

You name it. If you do it every year, you should be repeating it and making slight tweaks to make it better, not reinventing the wheel.

When You Repeat, Watch Out For…

Here’s what to watch out for when you’ve decided to repeat a fundraising tactic…

  • Any detail that was true last year, but not this year. You need to update anything that’s not true. New ED? Update the name at the end of the letter. This year’s “Thanksgiving Meal” costs $1.93 instead of $1.92? Update the letter. Your organization now rescues Wombats? Add “wombats” to the list of animals you rescue.
  • Does the story need to be updated? Many letters contain a story about a person that illustrates the need. That story should be swapped out and replaced with a new story. But the rest of the letter doesn’t have to change.
    • Note: this is true for events as well.
  • Doing too much. Don’t make too many changes just because you’re in there.

Story Time With Steven

I used to write appeal letters and emails for The Salvation Army. They are a fundraising machine who has all of this down to a science. (You might read that they are a “fundraising machine” and think, “Well, that would never work with my donors.” Please be open to the idea that it would work. Many of your donors also give to the Army.)

Most of the time I would receive the following instructions when it was time to write a letter:

“Here’s last year’s letter. It worked great. Update it for this year and change only what’s absolutely necessary. Do not mess this up.”

Inspiring!

No, not really. At least if you’re a ‘creative type’ like me.

But that’s how you build a mature fundraising program that raises the big bucks. You take something that works. You repeat it. You refine it. You look for little ways to make it better. You watch the results closely and look for what donors love, as told through their giving.

Over time you build a money-raising machine that allows you to do so much good in the world that people come to learn fundraising from you.

Listen, a lot of people don’t like hearing this. They want to be creative. They want to love the fundraising they send out.

I’m the same way. I get bored writing the same emails for the second (or tenth) year in a row.

But over time, if you look at the results, it becomes really obvious that if you repeat what worked before, you’re going to raise more money.

Please trust me – I’ve banged my head against that wall enough time to have a small dent in the middle of my forehead. (Well, actually that scar is from my sister throwing a Hot Wheel at me, but it’s a better story if it’s a fundraising scar.)

You are going to be tired of what you’ve been doing. So will your boss and your Board. You’re going to want to do it differently. You’re going to want to ‘come up with a new theme for this year’!

Don’t give in. Keep doing what’s been working great. You’ll raise more money each year.

If you invent a new approach each year you’ll be causing two problems: #1, you’ll be raising less money; and #2, you’ll be taking a LOT of time you could be using to do something else. Like, you know, focusing on major donors, where 90% of your individual donations come from. Or acquiring new donors, who are the future of your organization.

But Whither Innovation?

I’m going to write a post later this month on ‘how to innovate when you’re in a culture of repeating what’s worked in the past.’ Because you have to innovate.

But you want to innovate in a way that minimizes your risk. And I’ll share how to do that. But here’s an analogy to tide you over…

If you’re Apple, do you decide to stop making the iPhone and replace it with something completely new? No. You keep on updating, tweaking the iPhone to make it better each year. And you keep releasing different versions of the iPhone to try out new ideas.

Sheesh

Enough rambling. I hope the concept of “repeating” is making sense. I know it’s not how normal nonprofits operate. But it’s one of the secrets that savvy fundraisers have discovered – and you should be using it. You’ll save time, and you’ll raise more money.

If you’d like to have me help your organization know what to repeat – or to tweak what you’re doing to make it even better – get in touch!

This post was originally published on June 7, 2018.

12 Tips for Fundraising Right Now

Coronavirus.

Last Friday, I streamed a free two-hour session reviewing Coronavirus fundraising – (mostly emails) and answering specific questions about fundraising during this crazy time.

I’d like to publicly thank Marc Pitman for gathering all the advice dispensed during those two hours and putting it in a super-helpful blog post. Read it here.

And here’s what Marc summarized:

One of the phrases Steven keeps using is encouraging us to “lean into donor generosity.” I love his constant reminder that nonprofits are needed now more than ever. Donors get that. And are currently giving to it. That giving will slow but right now is a time to be asking.

Some other nuggets he says are:

    • Your donors are amazing, and they want to help.
    • Let them decide what is relevant and important to them.
    • Crisis giving spikes, and then slows. The slowing isn’t about donor fatigue. It’s about donor inattention and about the nonprofit’s fundraising irrelevance.
    • Now is not the time to fundraise for the future. Fundraise for the crisis now.
    • Your job is to clearly state how your beneficiaries, or your organization are being impacted by this situation. And how the donor can help.
    • If your most pressing issue is a shortfall in fundraising, tell the donor.
    • Send the emergency email. Resend it to people who didn’t open it. Send it again. Send it every other day.
    • Keep asking until the data tells you to stop. NOT until your feelings tell you. When the appeals stop working, that’s the data telling you to stop.
    • There are still LOTS of older people who haven’t given because they don’t give to emails. If you can get a letter out this week, do it.
    • $25 is a low ask in an email. Average online gifts for many nonprofits is $80, $90, or even $100.
    • Don’t let your unease with asking take away from a donor the chance to make an impact.
    • Now is NOT the time to send an “update on how we’re responding to Covid-19.” That is irrelevant to donors. Share a current need that they can act on.

And one of my favorites: in crisis moments like we’re in right now, “pretty good and fast” will raise more money than “perfect and a couple days later.” Reaching donors now is far better than waiting until things have calmed down. And even better than waiting until you get the wording 100% perfect.

I stand by every one of those.

And I’ll be doing another free review this Friday – you can sign up and submit your materials here.

If you want more guidance right now, here’s a post from last week with the four main ideas that will help you the most right now.

Good luck out there! And stay tuned, we’ll be posting helpful advice every day for the foreseeable future.

Don’t stress about your year-end emails, watch this video

Don’t stress about your year-end emails, watch this video

It’s easier than you think to write year-end emails that work like crazy.

I’m talking about those three emails you send on the last days of the year that work so well.

If you are still working on your emails, here’s a short video I made for Movie Mondays with an easy template to follow for your year-end emails.

You’ll learn the five things you need to include, the order to put them in, and how to EASILY create your 2nd and 3rd emails.

Sneak peek: you only really need to write one email!

The video takes 7 minutes; you’ll save hours of time, and you’ll raise more money.

Pretty good deal, no?

So go watch the video!

Uncertain?

On a completely different subject, small nonprofits come to us all the time because they are uncertain.

Uncertain because they need to raise more money and they don’t know the best way to do it.

Uncertain because there are so many options for what they can do next… but no one at their organization has the experience to really know which one is best.

And they end up feeling stressed. (“Stressed” is putting it mildly, in many cases.)

It’s a joy to help those people! You should see their faces light up when we tell them the best thing for them to do next and why it will work.

If you’re uncertain about 2019 – or if you just want to take your fundraising to the next level – keep reading.

So how would it feel if you could hand off your problem to a team of experts who will solve it for you? A team who could create your fundraising communications in a way that would raise more money immediately and keep your donors for longer?

If you’re interested, go here and fill out a simple form. Takes two minutes.

There’s too much stress on small nonprofits already. So outsource your core fundraising communications to experts – that’s what our team does all day, every day.

If you work with us, your organization will raise more money by asking your donors to help your cause or beneficiaries in powerful ways. You’ll thank your donors in ways that show them how important they are to you. And you’ll retain more of your donors than ever because you’ll report back to donors so they see the good work (that you do) that their gift made possible.

All of it will follow the tested and proven Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat communication rhythm. Each piece of communication you send out will be easier to make because a) you won’t have to make it, and b) you will enjoy working on other important things while we make it for you!

So fill out the form. Find out more. Ditch your uncertainty and your stress. And if you sign up before the end of the year, you’ll save $3,500!

You’ll do less work, you’ll free up time to work on other important things, and your fundraising will raise more money.

Imagine starting 2019 knowing that your appeals, e-appeals, and newsletters are in great hands – and knowing you don’t have to do them yourself.

LIST of what to “repeat” to save time and raise more money

Repeat.

I know the idea of “repeating” fundraising you’ve done before doesn’t make sense at first. And it can feel weird.

That’s why we’re blogging this month about the secret of “repeating” – just think of it as a tool that savvy fundraisers use to save time and (surprisingly) raise more money.

What We Mean By “Repeat”

When we say you can “repeat” something, here’s what we mean in a nutshell: do the same thing again, but slightly differently.

  • Send the same letter again, but slightly reword it
  • Send the same email again, but slightly reword it
  • Run the same event again, but with a different beneficiary speaker
  • Send the same letter again, but with a slightly different design

Are you picking up what I’m laying down?

And in some cases you can send the exact same thing. Same email. Same letter. We’ve done both of them and they’ve both worked:

  • My podcast partner Jeff Brooks tells a story about an organization that sent an appeal every month. One month it accidentally sent out the exact same appeal that it sent the previous month – and it raised more money the second time!
  • In my last post I shared a story about an organization that took half their donors and sent them the same exact email the last four days of the year. Those donors gave more than the other half of their donors who received four unique emails.

Because remember:

  1. Most of your donors aren’t paying that close attention
  2. Many donors need to hear something twice (or more) before they pay attention and really think about it

When To Repeat Letters And Emails

Here’s how to repeat your appeal letters and your emails.

If you are doing something that you did the year before, you can repeat it.

Say you send out a Thanksgiving appeal last year, and you’re going to do another one this year. The first thing to do is to look at last year‘s Thanksgiving appeal and its results.

If the results were better than the previous year, repeat it. Don’t write a completely new email. Don’t design a completely new letter. Make only the minimal number of changes you need to make.

The same is true for anything you do each year. Here’s a list of things we’ve repeated to great success, and I’m sure there are more examples:

  • Year-end / Thanksgiving / Back-to-School / etc. – letters & emails
  • Facebook campaigns
  • Events
  • Giving Tuesday
  • Renewal
  • 13th Gift
  • Sponsorship/monthly giving upgrade campaigns
  • Monthly giving recruitment

You name it. If you do it every year, you should be repeating it and making slight tweaks to make it better, not reinventing the wheel.

When You Repeat, Watch Out For…

Here’s what to watch out for when you’ve decided to repeat a fundraising tactic…

  • Any detail that was true last year, but not this year. You need to update anything that’s not true. New ED? Update the name at the end of the letter. This year’s “Thanksgiving Meal” costs $1.93 instead of $1.92? Update the letter. Your organization now rescues Wombats? Add “wombats” to the list of animals you rescue.
  • Does the story need to be updated? Many letters contain a story about a person that illustrates the need. That story should be swapped out and replaced with a new story. But the rest of the letter doesn’t have to change.
    • Note: this is true for events as well.
  • Doing too much. Don’t make too many changes just because you’re in there.

Story Time With Steven

I used to write appeal letters and emails for The Salvation Army. They are a fundraising machine who has all of this down to a science. (You might read that they are a “fundraising machine” and think, “Well, that would never work with my donors.” Please be open to the idea that it would work. Many of your donors also give to the Army.)

Most of the time I would receive the following instructions when it was time to write a letter:

“Here’s last year’s letter. It worked great. Update it for this year and change only what’s absolutely necessary. Do not mess this up.”

Inspiring!

No, not really. At least if you’re a ‘creative type’ like me.

But that’s how you build a mature fundraising program that raises the big bucks. You take something that works. You repeat it. You refine it. You look for little ways to make it better. You watch the results closely and look for what donors love, as told through their giving.

Over time you build a money-raising machine that allows you to do so much good in the world that people come to learn fundraising from you.

Listen, a lot of people don’t like hearing this. They want to be creative. They want to love the fundraising they send out.

I’m the same way. I get bored writing the same emails for the second (or tenth) year in a row.

But over time, if you look at the results, it becomes really obvious that if you repeat what worked before, you’re going to raise more money.

Please trust me – I’ve banged my head against that wall enough time to have a small dent in the middle of my forehead. (Well, actually that scar is from my sister throwing a Hot Wheel at me, but it’s a better story if it’s a fundraising scar.)

You are going to be tired of what you’ve been doing. So will your boss and your Board. You’re going to want to do it differently. You’re going to want to ‘come up with a new theme for this year’!

Don’t give in. Keep doing what’s been working great. You’ll raise more money each year.

If you invent a new approach each year you’ll be causing two problems: #1, you’ll be raising less money; and #2, you’ll be taking a LOT of time you could be using to do something else. Like, you know, focusing on major donors, where 90% of your individual donations come from. Or acquiring new donors, who are the future of your organization.

But Whither Innovation?

I’m going to write a post later this month on ‘how to innovate when you’re in a culture of repeating what’s worked in the past.’ Because you have to innovate.

But you want to innovate in a way that minimizes your risk. And I’ll share how to do that. But here’s an analogy to tide you over…

If you’re Apple, do you decide to stop making the iPhone and replace it with something completely new? No. You keep on updating, tweaking the iPhone to make it better each year. And you keep releasing different versions of the iPhone to try out new ideas.

Sheesh

Enough rambling. I hope the concept of “repeating” is making sense. I know it’s not how normal nonprofits operate. But it’s one of the secrets that savvy fundraisers have discovered – and you should be using it. You’ll save time, and you’ll raise more money.

If you’d like to have me help your organization know what to repeat – or to tweak what you’re doing to make it even better – get in touch!