November 18, 2020 | by Brianna McKinney
2020 has been a challenging year for nonprofit giving. With high unemployment rates, the uncertainty of COVID-19, and many more unknowns, this year has proven to be a daunting time to be a nonprofit. But don’t give up hope. Take this time to dig in and start planning for 2021. Donors are still out there and ready to invest.
As an agency that works with mission-driven organizations, we’ve identified five common problems that arise when attracting, converting, and stewarding donors. Below are some tips on how to address each of these by evaluating and optimizing a few essential marketing and public relations efforts to boost fundraising efforts in 2021.
Donor Problem #1: “I can’t find you online.”
Solutions: SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Content Marketing, and PR (Public Relations).
A simple acronym for a not-so-simple endeavor, SEO involves link building, keyword research, inbound linking, meta elements, and more. Fortunately, there are some other things you can do to move the needle if you don’t have the budget to hire or outsource an SEO expert.
Content marketing and public relations activities hugely support SEO initiatives for nonprofits as they provide meaningful content for search engines, like Google, to find. Blogging, video creation, and social media are three forms of content marketing that are excellent for creating and sharing information and stories about your nonprofit online. Historically, organizations have been rewarded by Google based on the amount of content they produce and the density of the keywords found in that content. The good news here is that while nonprofits certainly need to create fresh content often, there’s no need for a hair-on-fire, must-post-five-times-per-day panic.
Additionally, the PR initiatives of press release writing and dissemination, as well as pitching articles to be written by professional journalists create links back to your site from credible, third party sources. This is called backlinking and is an important variable that is used to rank websites. Nonprofits also have access to Google AdWords via the Google Grant program, allowing the option to advertise on Google. There are so many other ways to make it easy for your donors to find you online, but hopefully this gives you a good starting point.
Donor Problem #2: “I don’t understand what you do.”
Solution: Have a clear, consistent message.
Think you already have this nailed down? Consider the following. You love your nonprofit and live and breathe its mission every single day. You know the ins and outs of all you do, including the messiness that comes along with nearly each and every staff member wearing multiple hats.
Crafting messaging for your own organization is hard. We know this not only because we’ve seen it with nonprofit clients we’ve developed messaging for, but also because we are currently in the process of repositioning Bloom’s messaging. It’s much easier and more effective to outsource this piece to a third party communications organization that can offer a less biased perspective. It is for this very same reason that we go to our trusted friends for advice when facing challenges and choices in our personal lives. Boiling down what your nonprofit does into one simple and concise message that is easily understood by anyone will help position your organization seamlessly in all communications efforts. It will also help your existing donors share your story and value with ease.
Donor Problem #3: “It’s difficult to get more information.”
Solution: Be transparent and available.
Proactively providing easily digestible information to constituents is key to spreading a nonprofit’s mission and work. Be transparent on your website – the more information you provide, the better. If you’re having trouble coming up with what to include, get together with your colleagues and brainstorm the questions most asked by your donor base, including donors, donor advisors, and foundation grantmakers. Then, answer them through content on your website. Foundation grantmakers in particular research information about a nonprofit directly on their website, rather than relying on information from third party certification organizations such as the Better Business Bureau (Nonprofit Quarterly).
Once you make information more available on your website, tell current and potential donors it’s there. Use all of the communications channels at your fingertips to drive your audience to your newly-improved website: email, direct mail, social media, a blog post, video, and more. Communicating using all of these channels allows members of your audience to engage with you based on their unique style and preference.
Additionally, be available. If a potential donor contacts your organization to request information, get back to him or her within 24 hours. A phone call is optimal, as additional questions often come up that can be best answered through a conversation. In today’s virtual environment and Zoom fatigue, a phone call also adds a respite to video meetings, as well as a personal touch that can separate your nonprofit apart from other organizations the donor may be considering.
Donor Problem #4: “I never hear from you except when you want me to give.”
Solution: Recognize your donors.
While nonprofits cannot give back to donors in a monetary way, they can certainly keep them apprised of how their donations are serving their communities. For example, start a newsletter that regularly communicates with your donor audience throughout the year to keep them emotionally connected to your organization. In this newsletter, include success stories, pictures of your work, past event reports, upcoming events, and volunteer opportunities. Map out a calendar with deadlines to help your organization make it a priority.
Also, acknowledge your donors at events or through digital and social communications. Make it known that your donors are just as important to the organization as the work you do—because they help make it possible. Having them speak at events or take over your social channels about what the work your organization means to them and the community will humanize your work.
Donor Problem #5: “It’s impossible for me to get involved beyond giving money.”
Solution: Be aware of what is going on in the world.
With the effects of COVID-19 still being felt monetarily, personally, and emotionally, it is important now more than ever to think of how the pandemic has affected your work and the work of others. Be cognizant of the fact that donors may no longer have the ability to make the kind of financial donations as before. Provide other opportunities to get involved or give back. Engage your donors in hosting virtual events or identifying virtual volunteer opportunities where they can contribute their individual talents. They may not be able to give financially this year, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to give at all.
By being creative during these unprecedented times and investing additional time and/or funds in proactive marketing and PR efforts, nonprofits will very likely discover how meeting both new and existing donors where they are will translate into an increased volunteer base, increased donor retention, larger donation amounts, and increased donation frequency.