Here we are, 2018 – hopefully ready to improve your fundraising program. While 2017 had its ups and downs, it’s now time to focus on the new year ahead. More specifically, focus on how you can make this the best year yet for your nonprofit.

Here are 3 ways you can improve your fundraising program and start the year off strong.

1. Be transparent with your donors

This may seem like an obvious point, but it’s one that is very important. Your donors trust you to steward their money well and you must show them your followthrough. By “transparent” we mean both financial and program transparency.

Financial Transparency

Yes, you have to release an IRS form 990 every year to show how you’re allocating your funds, but your donors aren’t going to sit and read through that long document. Make sure you give your donors an easy way to digest how you’re investing their money. Create a graph, chart, infographic etc. And if it looks like you spent more in one category than expected, explain why. Your donors love your mission and giving them a peek behind the curtain creates a sense of belonging and teamwork.

Program Transparency

This is about showing impact. Sure, donors may want to know what percentage of donations you spent on your fundraising software. But they also want to know how many people you’ve helped, wells you’ve dug, animals you’ve saved, etc. If you create an annual report, that’s a great start. Pull information from your annual report to use in your fundraising materials. Put an infographic on your website, or a field photo – anything that allows your donors to easily see the impact their giving is having.

A great example of this is from our friends at Poetice. Check out their annual report.

January is the perfect time to start collecting this data. So let your program staff know to start keeping track of their impact, or assign a specific person to do this. Either way, make sure that you start 2018 off right.

2. Optimize your donor experience

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Personalization is no longer just putting “Hey %FirstName%” in your communications. It’s about knowing what your donors’ interests are, reaching out to them when it’s right, and with the right giving amount. It’s marketing 101 – reaching the right audience with the right message at the right time.

Sounds overwhelming, but it’s really not if you have the right tools. This is where segmenting your list comes in (and making sure you have a database that allows you to easily segment your donors).  You can segment based on last gift amount, last gift date, a specific campaign – anything that gleans insight about your donors. You can then create fundraising messaging around each category.

Donor optimization also includes reaching donors in ways they’re most comfortable. Ask yourself the following questions to see if you are optimizing your donor experience.

Are people giving through a mobile device? If so, think of ways how you can optimize that experience for them. In 2017, 25% of donors completed their donations on mobile devices.

Tip: Test where you place the donate button on your webpages. See whether having a donate button at the top before scrolling through text or at the bottom after you’ve explained the offer works better for your audience. Make sure your donation pages are always optimized for any device. (Good news, Kindful’s donation pages are already mobile optimized.)

Are more donors giving online this year over last year? If so, how can you optimize your online fundraising efforts? According to the 2016 M+R Benchmark Study online giving increased 21% over the previous year with nonprofit monthly website traffic increasing 8%.

Tip: Test having one call to action (“Donate”) versus having an additional call to action (“Learn More”) on your homepage to see which drives more donations.

Can your donors give recurring monthly gifts? If so, how can you increase your monthly givers this year? And if not, think about how you can get a monthly giving program started. According to the same M+R Benchmark Study, online monthly giving increased 24%! (We probably have Netflix and Spotify to thank for that.)

Tip: Need some help optimizing your monthly giving program? No worries, we’ve got this helpful Monthly Giving Guide, for you.

3. Audit your systems

pulse indicator with magnifying glass indicating system audit

It’s really hard to optimize your donor experience and increase your transparency if you don’t have the right tools in place. A great practice at the beginning of the year is to audit the systems you’re using. Or, if you aren’t using any, now is a great time to figure out what systems will help you optimize your fundraising program.

Here are a few questions to help you with your audit:

  • How much time are you spending in your current data systems vs how much time you are spending talking to donors? If you’re spending more time in your data, it’s probably time to look for a more advanced system.
  • Do your systems talk to each other? For example, if someone gave to a follow-up email after an event they attended, are you able to easily track in your database how much they gave, to what specific email, and what event?
  • Can you easily run reports? Whether it’s for board meetings or for day-to-day use, does your current system allow you to access your data and run a report quickly and easily?

There are many great tools out there. But you need a system that’s a good fit for your organization. Keep your priorities in mind when you’re doing your audit and choose systems that will help you grow and meet your organization’s goals for 2018.

And there you have it! These are 3 fundamental ways to improve your fundraising program in 2017 – and you can start implementing them today. So, let’s get started and make 2018 the best year yet!

donor optimization