Many front line nonprofits directly dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have seen an outpouring of support over the past few months — not just in a wave of new donors, but also in the acquisition of unexpected major gifts.
Here are three ways you can use your unexpected large gifts for even greater gains:
1. Motivate Donors With a Matching Gift: Ask the large-gift donor if you can present their gift as a matching opportunity for the rest of your file. Matching gifts are proven motivators in direct response fundraising. Expressing that a donor’s gift will be doubled by a matching donation — having twice the impact — gives added value to their gift. Matching gifts are incredibly effective in all direct response channels: mail, phone, and digital.
Pro-tip 1: You can use matching gifts in unique ways online. Consider Power Hours (breaking a match up into bite-sized amounts that you “release” every hour with accompanying goals) or Triple Matches (tripling the power of a donor’s gift instead of doubling) to infuse urgency and excitement in your digital fundraising.
Pro-tip 2: Try using a matching gift for sustainer conversion over the phone. Depending on the size of the matching gift, you could offer to match a new sustainer’s gifts for the first year. This is a very powerful motivator to get donors to make a transformational gift.
2. Infuse Your Direct Response Gaps: Instead of banking the extra dollars, use the donation to supplement your current direct response program to ensure any and all gaps are filled. The first thing that comes to mind right now is second gift conversion for all of the new donors coming in through the pandemic. Using the surplus cash for thoughtful retention strategies will be powerful for your future bottom line.
Consider stewardship (communications that thank and affirm your donor) and specific second gift conversion tactics to ensure the donors who were motivated by the pandemic continue to care — and support — long after the emergency is behind us.
If you are experiencing other gaps in your program like slow growth, lapsing, waning mid-level program, or other, think through strategies that specifically solve that problem. Here are a few resources for those specific gaps:
3. Invest in Direct Response Systems Updates: This won’t tie to a direct return on investment, but it may be the most beneficial thing for your long-term ROI. If you’re sitting on an unexpected large gift that you’re able to reinvest, think about using it for a systems upgrade. Where are you lacking? Could your organization benefit financially — more revenue in, more internal efficiencies, or even both — from upgrading a current system or process? Think about the time, talent, and treasure you currently invest in:
- Your database of record
- Your email tool/capabilities
- The connection (or lack thereof) between the two above
- Your gift caging process
- Your direct response fundraising partner(s)
This may not be the shiny option — but investing today’s surplus in upgraded systems will make a world of difference in the future, opening up doors to what you can accomplish, relieving your staff of unnecessary work, and ultimately creating a better donor experience.
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