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Solutions for Member Giving Engagement By Anne Herbster, MBA

Nonprofit organizations are faced with many challenges against their donor retention goals – evolving trends in technology and related audiences, tax reform, and generational differences, to name a few.

As described in the 2018 Charitable Giving Report published by The Blackbaud Institute, the first-year offline donor retention rate was 29 percent, and the first-year online donor retention rate was 22 percent.1 These low rates necessitate the expenditure of significant resources to continually bring in new donors.

So, what can your nonprofit organization do to maintain donor revenue and keep your organization alive, top of mind, and in the mix for consideration when donors make decisions of where to give? This is where member engagement comes in. The term “engagement” can have multiple definitions in the marketing world – communications, events, activities, phone calls, personal emails, etc. The most common are solicitation letters or emails, but there are many other ways to ensure the effectiveness of your member engagement efforts. Here are some basic ideas:

1. Segment your donor list and create donor-specific messaging.

Recognize those who have given and the frequency of their gifts. Start a conversation with those who are new donors. Segment lists by donor amount and pay close attention to your larger donors. Use a CRM system to capture your donor data and create communication streams including core messages, stories, helpful tips or information, and a strong call to action.

2. Schedule your messaging to continue throughout the year.

In addition to creating seasonal messages. Identify any seasonality that would help with your donor requests, and create key messages to align with needs and appropriate messages. Create timely messages outside of seasonal periods that will provide a compelling story to drive donations.

3. Use storytelling to engage members and have a variety of stories available for use.

It is critical that you track which stories are used for which donor communications to avoid repetition. The key components of the story should include: (a) a description of the need; (b) how the organization helped; (c) an emotional plea for help; and (d) the consequences if no donor responses were received. Don’t hesitate to tug at the heart strings of potential and current donors; images add impact to the message.

4. Link to social media as a way to sustain interactions using tracking and engagement tools.

Facebook and Instagram can be used to showcase people and stories to a broader audience. Include a story to increase awareness and expand your donor base.

5. Always include an “ask,” which most often would include a request for donations.

Provide an easy way to give with suggested donation amounts and multiple payment methods. Ensure that you include information on the positive impact of the donations on your nonprofit’s mission goals.

6. Test and track results.

Brainstorm new ideas with staff and be willing to test and learn. For example, ask donors to share information with a friend to increase engagement and donations. Also, ensure you track results and learn which stories and other tactics work for each donor group. Bring in demographics if possible and integrate them into your communications strategy.

Don’t let donor retention challenges negatively impact your organization. Take time now to review your communications strategy and identify a long-term plan to engage with your donors to keep your organization top-of-mind for giving.

Anne Herbster is the Vice President, Marketing and Business Development at Dynamic Consulting and Accounting, LLC. She has more than 30 years’ experience in nonprofit and Fortune 100 companies, with extensive experience in financial services and marketing.

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