here is a misconception that to reach donors or forge a deeper connection with your established donors; you should be implementing elaborate marketing strategies and tactics to get attention. While innovative and creative thinking is always a plus, the number one way to get the attention of potential donors is through content.
Far too often, content is a seen as a marketing piece but not a development piece. In fact, the content you produce, whether it’s via social media, email marketing, or your blog, is the very first step in your donor engagement model.
The donor engagement model is comprised of five steps and is comparable to the buyer’s journey in marketing. The first step is to gain your audience’s attention via content, get them on your email list, build a connection, make an ask, and follow-up.
Gain Attention through Content
In nonprofit marketing, there is a significant emphasis on storytelling. However, when one hears or sees the word storytelling, thoughts of testimonials, recorded interviews, or videos often come to mind. Many people tend to overlook pieces of content such as behind-the-scenes photos, videos of your day-to-day happenings, and press mentions of your organization. Any material your organization produces is a part of your storytelling.
When reflecting on the different types of content your nonprofit should be producing, start with what you already have. For example, do you have a blog on your site that gets significant traffic? Do you create social media videos that garner a good amount of engagement? Great! Your next step is to figure out how you can repurpose those pieces of content. For example, you could take a section of your blog post and use that as the focus of your email marketing newsletter. If that blog post includes statistics, you can repurpose the content into an infographic for social media.
As you create content, you are controlling the narrative. You are crafting the story you want your audience and potential donors to remember.
The next piece of advice to remember when developing content is that it should send your audience somewhere through a call-to-action. While posting a photo of your recent fundraiser is okay, you can take that one step further and add the caption, “We had a great time at our X, Y, Z fundraiser! If you were unable to attend, don’t worry. You can still donate by clicking here.” Providing your audience with a directive gives you a way to track the traffic of the content that is resonating with your audience the most.
Get Them on Your Email List
One of the primary ways that nonprofits tend to grow their email list is through previous interactions. These previous interactions can include past volunteer opportunities, previous donors, or former workshop attendees. One area where nonprofits can grow their email list is via opt-ins and downloads. An opt-in is a piece of content that is provided to your audience in exchange for their email address. Have you ever downloaded a free ebook or maybe a template? More than likely these were opt-ins to get you on the email list of a company or service.
When creating opt-ins, focus on the content you have readily available. You have the option of turning that recent blog post into a checklist or an ebook. However, opt-ins can be tricky if you don’t back them up with a strategy.
Use the following steps to create your opt-in/download strategy:
Decide on your key three or four opt-ins for the year. Having too many opt-ins can create confusion with email marketing on your end and be considered annoying to your audience. An additional item to consider when determining your opt-ins in ensuring that each opt-in is segmented. For example, if your organization is focused on environmental protection, one of your opt-ins can focus on water protection, the other on air quality, and the third on anthropogenic pollution. When you begin to segment your opt-ins into categories, you automatically know which subjects your audience is interested the most, and you can eventually focus the content you send them on those subjects.
Determine the opt-in format. When you are beginning to use opt-ins feel free to experiment with different opt-in content types such as ebook, checklist, infographic, or webinar. Eventually, you will find which format resonates the most with your audiences.
Develop the opt-in. Repurposing content can jump-start your opt-in creation. If you don’t have material on which you can draw from, you can start from scratch.
Create a landing page. This webpage outlines what the opt-in is, the value of the opt-in, and most importantly, a place to collect email addresses. Services like MailChimp now offer free landing pages, and you can also host one on your site.
Promote the opt-in. The key to promoting your opt-in is never to use language such as, ‘Download this opt-in.’ People's inboxes are sacred, and the minute someone sees that language, they may run in the other direction. However, you should use value-based language such as, “Learn more about how you can reduce your carbon footprint” or “Make your home environmentally friendly with these five steps.” If your audience is interested, they will provide their email address. If they aren’t interested, they will pass.
Build a Connection
Once a potential donor is on your email list, it is your responsibility to nurture them and get them acquainted with your organization. One of the ways to start this connection is using a ‘Welcome Email Series.’ This series consists of one welcome email or two to three emails. In these emails, be sure to thank them for signing up for your email list, set expectations of how many emails they will receive from your organization, and add a little information about your organization.
Once the welcome email is sent, you should begin sending regular correspondence to your list. Nothing is worse than signing up for an organization's list and not hearing from them until year-end giving. Sporadic communication is one of the top ways to destroy trust with your audience. Send at least quarterly emails to your list; weekly or monthly is even better.
Go in for the Ask
At this point in the donor engagement funnel, you have been building organization awareness through storytelling, converting your social media followers to email list subscribers, and now it’s time to move your email list subscribers to donors. When asking your email subscribers to be donors, it should be strategic. Think about your development plan and the critical giving times you have established for the year. For example, will the ask to your list be centered around Giving Tuesday, on your year-end giving campaign as a whole, or a Facebook Fundraiser? Too many asks can be off-putting to your audience.
You have successfully converted your email list subscribers to donors. Once someone moves from subscriber to donor, it’s important to keep that connection going. After someone donates, you should have an automatic, personalized, thank you email as an acknowledgment of his or her gift. You can also take it one step further and add in a handwritten note from the Development Director or Executive Director, thanking them for their contribution.
Showing appreciation of your donors shouldn’t only happen when they give. Begin to think about how you can show appreciation for your donors around Valentine’s Day, New Year's, or additional holidays. The goal is to keep your organization in the forefront of your donor’s minds.
Content isn’t just content with nonprofit marketing. It is the crucial piece that draws in potential donors and audience members. As you are creating your donor engagement strategy, think about the goal of the content, the call-to-action, and whom you want to target. Having this system and process outlined and implemented creates room for you to increase your impact.
Aleshia Patterson is the Editor-in-Chief of Nonprofit Marketing Magazine. She has served in the nonprofit sector for almost a decade. She currently works as a Marketing and Communications Coordinator for a local nonprofit in Saint Louis, MO. In her spare time, Aleshia loves to travel, binge watch Netflix, and go on Office Depot excursions.