Send the Same Thing at the Same Time to Save Time

Repeat.

When you send out a fundraising letter or email that works great, I want you to do something: plan to send out the same message, in the same format, at the same time next year.

Think about how much time you could save!

And wouldn’t you love knowing that what you send next year is going to work great?

If you’re not already using this strategy, here are some examples of letters / emails / campaigns that nonprofits we serve are successfully repeating each year…

  • March “Send a kid to the museum for a day”
  • Late January “Monthly donor recruitment” campaign
  • July “Stop a girl from becoming a child bride”
  • Early August “Back to school”
  • Late October “Thanksgiving meals”
  • Early May “Send a kid to summer camp for a day”
  • Summer “Provide clean water for a family”
  • Early November “Christmas Newsletter”
  • Late October “Fall gift catalog”
  • Early March “Easter appeal”
  • September “Persecuted Church” campaign
  • Early June “Summer Book Drive”
  • Early May “Help a graduating student with disabilities get a job interview”

All of the above letters / emails / campaigns are reliable performers where the nonprofit can count on raising a bunch of money.

They all started when we sent a letter or email, noticed that it did particularly well, and we decided to “do it again next year.”

Specifically, we sent the same message (with the same “offer”), in the same format, at about the same time.  The writing and design was updated only as much as absolutely necessary. 

When you use this strategy, four powerful things happen:

  1. You do less work because it takes less time to “update last year’s letter / email / campaign” than it does to “create a new letter / email / campaign from scratch.”
  2. You have more energy for other projects because of the “lighter lift” required by mail and email fundraising.
  3. Over time, your annual plan fills up with proven winners, so your annual revenue becomes more predictable
  4. You start raising more money every year because you get better and better at knowing what makes each letter / email / campaign work well.

    1. For instance, say you’ve done a “Stop a girl from becoming a child bride” letter for three years in a row.  You notice that one of those three letters raised more than the other two.  You open the PDF of the one that worked best and use it as the “template” for the next “Stop a girl from becoming a child bride” letter.  You’ve learned from your experiments and you’ve leveled up!

So… look at the results of your fundraising pieces from last year.  Did you do anything that you can “do again” this year with minimal updating?

Or if you’ve been “repeating” letters, emails and campaigns for years, what did you learn from last year’s fundraising that you can use to make this year’s fundraising more effective?

Direct mail and… Kale?

Kale.

Direct mail is like kale – nobody likes it the first time they try it.

Kale is a tough, leafy vegetable that tastes like a hedge.

But over time, a person can come to see the benefits of eating kale.  You start to appreciate kale.  And with the right prep and dressings, even enjoy it.

Direct mail is a tough, counter-intuitive, expensive way to raise money.

But over time, an organization can come to see the revenue that direct mail brings in and the relationship it builds.  You start to appreciate direct mail.  And with the right approach and understanding, even enjoy it.

Kale will never be as enjoyable as a cheeseburger.  Direct mail will never be as enjoyable as a great conversation with a major donor, or the emotional high of a beneficiary’s story at an event.

You might not like direct mail or kale.  But both of them are still good for you.

2.4 Gifts Per Donor Per Year

Action creates momentum.

At the Big Fundraising Agency I used to work at, we noticed a trend:

The individual donors who gave two or more gifts per year were the donors who were most likely to give again the following year.

Think of it like physics: a donor’s relationship with your organization has momentum.  If a donor is giving often, they are more likely to keep giving.  If a donor is giving infrequently, they are more likely to stop giving.

The data analysts further identified that if an organization’s individual donors averaged 2.4 gifts per donor per year, that seemed to be a “sweet spot” for revenue and donor retention. 

I share this because many nonprofits have an unspoken belief that goes something like this: “most donors don’t want to give more than once a year.”

That belief then drives their fundraising strategy: they only send one or two appeals a year, they over-steward their donors, they constantly watch out for the mythical “donor fatigue,” they would never ask a Major to give more than once per year, etc.

Those strategies go against everything I’ve ever seen in data in 30+ years of fundraising.  (Are there individual donors who are outliers?  Of course.  And when a particular donor says that they prefer something, honor that preference.)

My advice to you: follow the data.  Create fundraising plans that actively give donors more chances to give. 

A donor at rest tends to stay at rest, and a donor in motion tends to stay in motion.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Afraid to Ask

I wrote this blog a few years back but it’s more relevant now, than ever.  The summary is that there’s an easy way for you to raise more money in 2021 with very little work.

It’s worked for years, and it worked again in 2020.  Even in the midst of the pandemic…

Every one of our clients who Asked their donors for support more often in 2020 (compared to 2019) raised more net revenue than they did the year before.

And there were almost zero negative consequences.  To be more specific, there was a complaint or two, a worry from a board member, and some unsubscribes from their email lists.

But those negatives were completely overwhelmed by the additional donors that were engaged and extra money that was raised.  In short, donors wanted to help.

The nervous fundraisers, EDs and organizations who weren’t sure whether they should do this were handsomely rewarded with more net revenue for very little cost.

There were no breakouts of “donor fatigue.”  No massive numbers of people unsubscribing.

These organizations just raised more money, did more good work, and learned more about their donors. 

Which now sets them up for an even more successful 2021.

Let me put it this way…

The easiest way to raise more is to Ask more often.

This means adding another appeal or two.  Or more e-appeals. 

Not replacing what you’ve been doing.  In addition to what you’ve been doing.

Here’s an easy way to add an Ask:

  • Look at your fundraising calendar for 2021
  • Look for a gap where your donors don’t hear from you for a while
  • Think back through your most successful appeals and e-appeals last year (other than year-end)
  • Pick the most successful appeal that’s appropriate to send during the “gap” in your calendar, then create a version of that appeal to send in the gap

What you’re trying to do here is add another appeal with the least amount of effort possible. 

And if you want easy ways to improve all your appeals or e-appeals, download our free eBook, “Asks That Make Your Donors Take Action.”

Please Try It

Almost no one believes me when I say, “The easiest way to raise more money is to Ask a couple more times this year.” 

Almost every organization has an awful, no-good, very-bad, organization-shackling assumption that they can’t Ask their donors any more often than they already are.  Especially after the year we’ve had.

But it’s a bad assumption.  Let your donors make the decision not to give.  Don’t make it for them. 

So please, try it.  You can even just try it with an e-appeal so there’s basically no cost.  Track the results.  Look at the expenses, the revenue, your retention rates, everything.  You won’t see the negative consequences you fear.

And you’ll LOVE the amount of additional money you raise with very little work.

Ask More, Don’t Fear

Ask More, Don’t Fear

Let me share a fun fact with you: there’s an easy way to raise more money in 2019 with very little work. It’s worked for years, and it worked again in 2018…

Every one of our clients who Asked their donors for support more often in 2018 (compared to 2017) raised more net revenue than they did the year before.

And there were almost zero negative consequences. To be more specific, there was a complaint or two, a worry from a board member, and several unsubscribes from their email lists.

But those negatives were completely overwhelmed by the additional donors that were engaged and money that was raised.

The nervous fundraisers, EDs and organizations who weren’t sure whether they should do this were handsomely rewarded, with more net revenue for very little cost.

There were no breakouts of “donor fatigue.” No massive numbers of people unsubscribing.

These organizations just raised more money, were able to do more good, and learned more about their donors.

Which set them up for an even more successful 2019.

So in our continuing series of posts sharing what we saw that worked best in 2018, let me share this…

The easiest way to raise more is to Ask more often.

This means adding another appeal or two. Or more e-appeals.

Not replacing what you’ve been doing. In addition to what you’ve been doing.

Here’s an easy way to add an Ask:

  • Look at your fundraising calendar for 2019
  • Look for a gap where your donors don’t hear from you for a while
  • Think back through your most successful appeals and e-appeals last year (other than year-end)
  • Pick the most successful appeal that’s appropriate to send during the “gap” in your calendar, then create a version of that appeal to send in the gap.

What you’re trying to do here is add another appeal with the least amount of effort possible.

And if you want easy ways to improve all your appeals or e-appeals, download our free eBook, “Asks That Make Your Donors Take Action.”

Please Try It

Almost no one at conferences believes me when I say, “The easiest way to raise more money is to Ask a couple more times this year.”

Almost every organization has an awful, no-good, very-bad, organization-shackling assumption: that they can’t Ask their donors any more often than they already are.

It’s a bad assumption. Our clients have disproven it so many times I’ve lost track.

So please, try it. You can even just try it with an e-appeal, so there’s basically no cost. Track the results. Look at the expenses, the revenue, your retention rates, everything. You won’t see the negative consequences you fear.

And you’ll LOVE the amount of additional money you raise with very little work.