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February 7, 2024

30 Fundraising Tips to Engage Donors in 2024

Our fundraising experts weigh in on the top issues facing nonprofit organizations today. This roundup of the top trends will help you finesse your donor marketing plans in the coming year and ultimately raise more funds for your mission. 

 

The Top 30 Fundraising Best Practices and New Trends for 2024 

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask. 
    Don’t be afraid to ask your donors for a gift. Many people are hesitant to ask for donations frequently or during hard economic times, but it’s important to remember that your donors WANT to support your organization. They want to see that their money is being used to make a difference, and asking them for a gift gives them the opportunity to do just that! 

    Rhea Shahan, Senior Digital Strategist 
  2. A collaborative relationship with your brand/marketing team is key. 
    A good marketing program supports the fundraising goals of your organization and vice versa. Both are about creating relationships with your audience and building emotional connections with your organization. When fundraising and marketing work together, you can raise more revenue, gain efficiencies, and create a halo effect through recognizable campaigns that resonate with donors. 


    Autumn Melcer, Creative Director 
  3. Make your acquisition dollars work smarter, not harder. 
    It’s clear: Industry acquisition response rates are on the decline. It’s important to make your acquisition dollars work smarter through careful targeting of prospects. That includes closely reviewing direct mail merge retention rates, evaluating direct mail list sources from a net per donor standpoint, and using modeling to your advantage in list selects and post-merge. TrueSense Marketing’s suite of GPS products can help you target the best prospects in any channel to make your acquisition dollars
    work smarter. 
     

    Jennifer Starrett, SVP, Media 
  4. Know your audiences.  
    People interact with different media channels in different ways and have different expectations within each platform. Speak to your potential donors in a way that aligns with the expected content within each media channel (example: Facebook versus LinkedIn versus Paid Search).

    Taryn Myers, Vice President, Digital Media
  5. As you set new goals for the year ahead, make sure you prioritize your time around areas of high impact.
    If you work within a nonprofit, you’re likely a Jill of all trades. It comes with the territory! However, you can’t give 100% to everything; it’s simply not possible. To create the biggest impact in the year ahead, use data to distill down to three to five key focus areas that will create the greatest impact for your organization. Creating clarity to that degree will help you prioritize and allocate your time and resources toward strategies and tactics that will achieve the greatest benefit.

    Megan Carder, Sr. VP & Managing Director
  6. Monitor your results and be prepared to pivot if needed — but don’t overcomplicate it. 
    If you aren’t seeing the results you anticipated — which could be influenced by the post-pandemic world we’ve found ourselves in — it’s okay to make some real-time adjustments. You don’t have to go back to the drawing board! Leverage content you’ve used thus far to create an additional organic social post or resend your last email with a liftnote, adding a few more sentences urging individuals to donate. In addition, if you’re comfortable with it, give your donors a real-time update on how your fundraising efforts are going. If you’re falling short of your goal, share that with your audience and you may find donors who are more inclined to give to help close that gap you’re experiencing!

    Katie Curry, Account Director
  7. Include Digital Accessibility in your ongoing DEI efforts.
    No one wants to throw a party and have some guests feel left out, right? Consider making your website (and all digital content) more inclusive, and conduct a digital accessibility audit. It's like giving your online space a makeover to ensure everyone feels welcome. Think of it as upgrading your building to meet ADA compliance. So let’s optimize your content, streamline navigation, and ensure your site is user-friendly for everyone. Look at your website headings and structure, font sizes and styles, color contrast, and more, like image and link alt text and even captions and transcripts for your multimedia content. The list goes on! While it won’t happen overnight, taking the steps to create a more accessible online experience is a win-win for your organization and your online community. Plus it’s not just a good practice, it’s the right thing to do.

    Meghan Sharon, Digital Strategist
  8. Use data-driven file expansion.

       All organizations wish to attract younger donors to ensure long-term program viability. But what does “younger” mean? Quantifying your five-year long-term value (LTV) by generation is one of the most impactful analyses that can drive the right strategy for cultivating younger donors. The result is your organization’s unique fingerprint, as no two distributions are the same, even in the same vertical or market. 

       Lori Collins, Senior Vice President, Giving Sciences 

  9. Segmentation and personalization are no longer synonymous, and segmentation alone is outdated.
    Segmentation equates separating donors into groups or audiences based on broad factors such as RFM, demographics, donor type, etc., and is derived from stored data. True personalization involves delivering individualized experiences for each unique donor based on behaviors and real-time context to increase relevancy. To break through the noise and clutter in today’s marketing, it is time to move beyond segmentation. Nonprofits need to invest in software that can bring multiple data sources together to transform data into a creative narrative that will make lasting impressions. 

    Samantha Jasnos, Vice President, Strategy 
  10. Plain can be good. 
    When it comes to email, we’ve come to expect increasingly elaborate graphics, animations, embedded videos, and the like. But sometimes, an email in plain text can be the perfect vehicle for conveying a compelling fundraising message — particularly one that’s sincere and direct. These types of emails are often most powerful when given the appearance of a written letter on stationery.

    Alan Hyams, Copy Director
  11. During the pandemic, a whole new group of people made donations, often for the very first time.
    Pandemic donors were younger and more diverse. While they may not have given again, they established a relationship with your organization. As these donors age they will be working their way through the lapsed segments. With each passing year many of them will reach the stage of life when they are more likely to make charitable gifts. Since many of these donors gave without the cost of acquisition mailings, their potential lifetime value is very high because they don’t come with the burden of the initial cost to acquire. Put in place a clear plan for reactivation that includes ongoing monitoring of their performance as a unique cohort of donors.

    Paul Hebblethwaite, Vice President of Strategy 
  12. Let donors know you see them.

       Yes, a thank you letter following a gift is the first and most important step on this path. But there are other easy ways to make a donor feel seen and appreciated. Through data, you can set up triggers to recognize certain actions, like when they make a larger gift than usual. Or you can recognize their consistent annual giving at their giving anniversary. Every now and then, ask for their input through a survey, and let them know their thoughts matter. These types of small efforts can help donors feel they are not lost in a sea of supporters, which in turn builds their bond with your organization. 

       Maria Harmer, Vice President, Creative

  13. 2024 will be the year that begins to see conversational marketing begin to take shape using generative AI solutions.
    Nonprofits who fast follow commercial brands the quickest may capture donor attention and share of wallet by getting there first.

    Stephen Ferrando, SVP of Strategy and Analytics
  14. Nonprofit storytelling is being held to a new standard.
    Instead of writing about saviors and victims or good vs. evil, offer a nuanced look — one that’s rooted in community. This doesn’t have to mean sugarcoating or ignoring urgent problems. The difference is in your approach. Today’s storytelling tells all sides of a story, avoids generalizations, and leads with empathy. One way to gauge your message is to ask yourself, “If this story was about me or someone I know, how would it make me feel?” Use empathy, not sympathy, to bridge gaps between people, and position donors as partners for the common good.

    Jolene Miklas, Associate Creative Director 
  15. Eliminate tension points in your donor’s journey.
    Make the donation process simple and straightforward. The number of clicks it takes to get to the donation form from a homepage should be as few as possible. Every additional click you add to the process makes it less likely that a donor will complete their donation. Donors should feel safe giving to you! Make sure that your form has secure giving messaging throughout and creative elements that make the donor feel safe. Lastly, your donation form should not be repetitive. Donors should only see a title of a field one time. If you’d like to collect additional information for non-transactional needs, you should do so on a separate form that is only accessible after the donation has been made in an auto-reply. 

    Rhea Shahan, Digital Strategist
  16. Stewardship deserves your attention.
    Retaining active donors is vital to maintaining and growing your organization’s fundraising revenue. Kick off 2024 by creating — or refreshing — a structured, achievable, year-long donor stewardship plan that expresses gratitude, builds trust, and inspires excitement. Your intentional investment in these key donors, balancing renewal asks with relationship-building outreach, will keep your organization and mission top of mind, fuel renewed and increased giving, boost donor retention, and positively impact the health of your fundraising program. 

    Kristin Serrano, VP & Managing Director
  17. Build trust with your donors.
    In an age where anyone can post anything and pose as a subject matter expert, trust is more important than ever. Donors need to know that you will do what you promise, that their contributions will make a difference, and that you are committed to your mission and vision. You can build better trust with donors by being transparent in your communications, explaining specifically what their gift will be used for, how much you need to raise, why their support is important and, of course, by sharing a story of someone who has benefited personally from the services of your organization. 

    Autumn Mercer, Creative Director
  18. Single channel donors don’t exist.

       While a donor may only transact in one channel, they are consuming media across multiple channels. Direct mail donors see digital ads and are influenced by them. Online donors are influenced by direct mail, FSIs, TV ads, and even billboards. While many of these channels may not show a last-touch attributable response, they are influencing the overall success of your fundraising programs.

       Jennifer Starrett, SVP, Media

  19. Multichannel outperforms single-channel.
    It takes anywhere from 7 to 21 touches of your brand before someone takes action. This holds true for new donors as well. When trying to reach new donors, you need to put your brand and message in front of people multiple times in various channels before they will make the donation.

    Taryn Myers, Vice President, Digital Media
  20. Remember the three-year rule!
    If you've been in fundraising long enough, you’ve likely seen some high-highs and some low-lows. Coming out of COVID, when many nonprofits experienced extreme upticks in giving, we’re seeing the rebound to more normalized giving trends. This expected decline coupled with inflation, stock market volatility, and other world events has resulted in charitable giving declines for many in 2023. Often these unfavorable fundraising conditions trigger a “pull back” response where nonprofits discontinue investments, particularly in acquisition. However, this decision often leads to a bleak long-term reality. The three-year rule says it takes three years for your acquisition investment to truly impact your file. So when you pull back on acquisition investments, you’ll see a positive net revenue outcome in that initial year, but you’ll see a decline in Multi Year donors (your most valuable segment of donors) three years into the future. And when this happens and you decide you need to replenish that multi-year file, turning your acquisition investment back on will take another three years to create multi-year impact. Learn more about why Long-Term Value is such an important consideration when making acquisition budgeting decisions. 

    Megan Carder, Sr. VP & Managing Director
  21. Let your donors share your mission for you! 

       You already have hundreds of individuals who give to you regularly. Let them share your mission for you! Use social media and encourage your followers to like, share, and engage with your content on their personal channels. You can also initiate a social media “challenge” encouraging people to share WHY they give to your organization and have them use their individual social media platforms to share stories. When they post on their personal pages, your reach has become exponential, without any of your organizations budget dollars being spent.

       Katie Curry, Account Director 

  22. Data, data, data.
    If you’re not talking about data, thinking about data, improving your data, and ultimately leveraging your data as a strategic competitive advantage, you’re in the wrong game. The era of hyper-personalization and performance creative has arrived. Get on board or get run over. 

    Stephen Ferrando, SVP of Strategy and Analytics 
  23. Think through a donor’s journey BEFORE acquiring them.

       Donors are people, with feelings and thoughts and lives of their own. Often, as fundraisers, we are too close to the campaign assets, copy, and creative being sent to donors and pushed in market. This can make us easily forget that we’re talking to humans. Make this process as human and personal as possible. 

       Why someone gives is tactically complex — and yet simple when you ask the donor their motivator. TrueSense Marketing’s 2023 DonorGraphics study says 22.9% of donors give because they feel a responsibility to give back or tithe. Other reasons noted from this study are supporting a cause that has affected the donor or a loved one; addressing/impacting needs worldwide or in the local community; feeling connected; and more.

      Make sure you’re thinking about donors’ first sight of your organization through a full life cycle to a planned giving gift. Ask yourself questions like: Do I welcome them? Do they get mail and/or digital communications? Do I include them in monthly offers or just one time? How will I thank them, steward them, and affirm them as making an impact?

       Be certain you’re building this marketing communication calendar — this journey — like you’d build a relationship with a new friend. Everyone benefits, everyone is happy, everyone is taken care of!

       Rhea Shahan, Senior Digital Strategist

  24. Accessibility is getting much-needed attention in the world of direct response
    Remember to bring accessibility to your copywriting, too. Strive to write copy that resonates with everyone, regardless of background or ability. Always avoid insider language that excludes the average person. Remember that clear, uncomplicated copy is a courtesy to your readers. When your message can be understood by everyone, equally, it can draw more donors closer to your cause. 

    Jolene Miklas, Associate Creative Director

     

  25. Have a growth mindset. 

       Fundraising is changing. There was a time when receiving a piece of direct mail was important and interesting. When emails were almost always opened because people were eager to see what made their computer *DING* with that new email sound. We are in a time when people are adapting faster than ever before to new ways to consume media, pay bills, and share information. The same fundraising plan you’ve had for the last too many years simply won’t continue to work into the future. Have a growth mindset as you approach your fundraising planning.

       Jennifer Starrett, SVP, Media

  26. Timing is everything.
    The Thin Market principle tells us that placing the Right Message in front of the Right People at the Right Time is what will yield results. But you also want to keep that message out there efficiently. Putting day-parting and frequency caps in place allows your paid media dollars to work smarter for you. 

    Taryn Myers, Vice President, Digital Media
  27. When it comes to lapsed recapture strategies in 2024, use caution (and data!). 

       For those nonprofits that experienced a boom of new donors during COVID, a majority of that cohort is likely sitting in your lapsed file. Holding status quo lapsed recapture strategies will very likely result in quite a few wasted dollars — and we know every dollar invested matters! Use analytics to gain a better understanding of your lapsed pool of donors and create tailored tracks (of varying investment levels) based on key attributes. It may not be worth it to include a single-gift, online donor from 2020 in your direct mail recapture efforts. Learn more about how TrueSense is using modeling for smarter selects. 

       Megan Carder, Sr. VP & Managing Director

  28. Variety is the spice of life. 
    When sharing your organization’s good works with your donors, try to find the stories that convey the full depth and breadth of what you do. If your organization performs an array of services, try to collect stories that capture that variety. And if your group specializes in one particular service, try to show the different types of people you help and the varying circumstances that bring them to your door. 

    Alan Hyams, Copy Director
  29. A realignment of what growth looks like for fundraising programs.
    Not only has the pandemic bubble all but burst for many organizations, but the economics of fundraising have changed forever due to a rapid increase in costs that is almost certainly permanent. Traditional and even digital media cost-to-acquire have skyrocketed due to heightened competition and saturation, pricing out many low-dollar donors from viable long-term net creation. If you’re still chasing file size and not fully understanding the future net revenue potential of your investments, you’re on the path of the dinosaurs (soon to be extinct). 

    Stephen Ferrando, SVP of Strategy and Analytics 
  30. How are you looking at results? 

       It’s important to view results at both the channel and program levels to get a complete picture of how your fundraising is performing. Viewing results at both levels allows you to identify where fundraising efforts are succeeding and where improvement is needed. This helps you make better strategic decisions about where to allocate your fundraising budget and how to improve overall return on investment. 

      In addition to viewing results at the channel and program levels, it’s also important to look at the full omni-channel view. This means tracking how your donors are engaging with you across all channels. By viewing results at the channel, program, and omni-channel levels, you can get a complete picture of how your fundraising is performing and make better decisions about how to improve your overall program.

       Rhea Shahan, Senior Digital Strategist

     

 

 

 

 

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