Nonprofit Giving Season: Leverage Your Database & Craft the Right Message

Here is an excerpt of a recent email written by our CEO, David Carnes.

“I have two teenaged sons that love to play basketball at our neighborhood park in Uptown.

Sadly, several of the kids they’ve met at the park have been pushed out of their homes to fend for themselves on the street.

It has happened twice within the last six months. First with a thirteen year-old who, with tears in his eyes, begged me to “let him sleep over” because he was locked out and couldn’t reach his mom..”

This email (see the full version here), sent out to our contact list, raised over $2,000 in just a week for a local nonprofit client of ours.

Why did this email work? We aren’t a nonprofit ourselves and we don’t have a database of donors. What we did have was a true story and a database of contacts that we thought might be moved by this nonprofit’s mission and be willing to give. Turns out we were right.

Giving season is coming up fast. Over the past few weeks I’ve heard from several nonprofits that they are looking for unique ways to make their end of year donation push. Unfortunately, with the short time frame of a few months, there is no quick fix. It would be pretty time consuming for a nonprofit to plan, launch and nurture enough new contacts to suddenly embrace their cause and donate.

So what can you do?

This may seem like an obvious answer, but leverage the contacts you already have. I don’t mean use your database to send another mass email or mailer that says the same thing to every one. Segment your list, craft the right message for each audience and capture their attention. The hardest part of capturing their information is already done, so take your campaigns to the next level with the steps below.

Review your database and segment accordingly

  • Do you already have your database segmented by giving amount, location, etc.? If so, you might be able to skip this step. If not, ask yourself these questions to help segment your lists:
    • What trends or similarities do you see across your data set? Distinct age groups? Location?
    • Who do you consider donation locks? As in, the people that during this time every year seem to give to your organization after receiving your usual emails and mailers. If they already give, why change your ways with this list?
    • What contacts attended one event or volunteered for the first time this year? If someone has had even a small interaction with your organization, the potential to get them more engaged is much higher.
    • Who gave years ago but hasn’t been given since? This list should be marketed to differently. They may not remember who you are or what you do, so some re-education may need to happen.
    • Is your donor database separate from your volunteer or general contact database? All these lists can be utilized so don’t limit yourself to past donors.

Create separate campaigns for each list

  • Speaking to a donor who gives every year is very different from speaking to someone who tagged along to an event with a friend. This can also be applied to locations (local vs. national), age groups (millennials vs. baby boomers), etc. Create different messaging and use different channels for each.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What do each of these audiences care most about when it comes to your organization?
    • What medium would grab their attention? Video, email, social, phone call, mailer, etc.
    • How many touches are needed for each list? For instance, a series of 5 emails or one mailer plus a phone call, etc.

Will this actually work?

The hardest part is already done; you have their contact information. If you are able to craft personal messages and reach the audience where they are – both emotionally and physically – they are so much more likely to give than if you hadn’t segmented your lists. Be persistent, be creative and be genuine.