While the start of the new year is an ideal opportunity to start fresh, the end of the calendar year is when schools must put their fundraising efforts into overdrive.
You have an important goal to hit by the end of the year. Some research suggests that nonprofits raise anywhere from 17% to 31% of their online revenue in December, and for many, 10% of their giving happens in the last three days of the year— that's cutting it close!
Your goals also coincide with school vacations and many other end-of-year emails asking for your donor's support, so now is the time to evaluate how close you are to your goal and how you can reach it in time.
Pull out all the stops, and leverage your school's communication tools, including email, social media, and online giving forms, to create connections and engage donors. By sharing the value of your school and the impact of a gift, you can continue to grow these relationships and hit your goals with time to spare.
Build a New Measurable Fundraising Strategy
First, list all the ways you are currently connecting and communicating with your donors or community. Then, shape your strategy based on data and ask yourself:
- Which methods and channels are most effective?
- Which takes the most resources with the least ROI?
- Which methods can we measure?
Email marketing and social media campaigns provide hard data — such as views and clicks — that let you know the effectiveness of your campaign. Some of this can be tracked in Google Analytics, while others can be tracked directly in the tools you're using.
Not sure how to make meaningful decisions based on data? Here are some important considerations:
- Emails with high open rates but low click rates often indicate there is a disconnect in your messaging. This is a great opportunity to try something new!
- Giving forms with a lot of mobile traffic but low submissions may mean the form isn't mobile-friendly.
- Social media campaigns with high view rates but low clicks may indicate you're reaching the wrong audience or you need to tailor your messaging.
If messaging appears to be your main area of improvement based on data, the content and story you tell in your communications may need updating. The more personal and emotional the story, the more likely your target audience will respond.
How to Find Donors for Your School | Focus on 3 Key Areas
Before we dive into key areas to focus your development efforts on, it's important first to be able to answer the question — What sets your school apart from the rest to receive support from your giving community?
For instance: There are more than 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the US, and many more are added each year. The competition is there — even within education. So where should you be focusing your efforts the most? Try these three areas:
1) Diversify your list of donors
You don't want to put all of your eggs in one basket because you can't rely on that single, generous donor to contribute each year. At the same time, you always want to keep your door open and welcome new individuals. If they can only offer a small donation, that is okay. A new donor could introduce you to their peers and networks, who may also become interested in giving to your school.
In addition to diversifying your list of donors, you also want to diversify how you communicate with them. For example, young alumni may respond well on social media, while grandparents may respond well with mailers. For schools with large alumni networks, such as an international school, an online portal for networking works well.
2) Cultivate Major Gifts and Identify Key Donors
Many schools still prioritize finding major gifts. Identify the key donor(s) contributing to your school, and then when someone makes a large donation to your school, you want to make sure you cultivate that relationship so that they feel inspired and encouraged to give again in the future. You want to make donor(s) feel part of the school community...rather than you'll just calling them when you need a gift.
Winchester Thurston School does this with their Meet Our Donors page under their Giving section on their website, where potential donors can get an idea of where they may fit in and who they may feel most connected with within your school community.
You don't want them to feel you only want to talk to them when you need something. Typically the Director of Advancement will be able to oversee keeping this communication with the donor(s) throughout the school year.
3) Create a Strategy for Donor Retention
Donor retention is possibly the most important area to focus on to keep your donors, as engaging previous donors is less expensive and more effective. Donors will be more likely to continue donating if they know what their gift is being used for — one report found that the overall donor retention rate for non-profits has fallen to 43.6% in recent years.
You can share information on upcoming school events, successes, failures, challenges, and discussions. Therefore, you want to share the impact of their previous gifts and how the school plans to incorporate future gifts to make improvements for its community. In a way, you're planting the seeds for the future for these self-identified constituents. You should be able to share what their gifts have helped already.
Emma Willard School reminds us just how important donor retention is for its capital campaign. The school's microsite does a great job listing the possibilities their gifts can have on the students, and as it relates to retention, sharing how these gifts are projected to help the community.
Use Technology to Increase Donations to Your School
Craft Donor Personas
Create an effective and influential strategy by building donor personas. Personas can be shaped around backgrounds, age, household shared income, giving trends, goals, challenges, and more. You can also segment and personalize content to students and their families and like-minded groups of donors (those who are a similar persona) to make them feel the message sent to them was intentional and not just thrown into a general bucket.
Social Media Fundraiser Ideas Schools
In the last decade, social media has changed how many approach fundraising for schools, and with good reason. Giving patterns suggest that 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media take action.
You can incorporate social media to increase your school's engagement for a major fundraising event like #GivingTuesday, which includes using live video from the event or creating a branded hashtag so donors can see what's happening in real-time.
Video Fundraiser Ideas Schools
Nearly 60 percent of donors who give online watch a video before donating and will give more over time if they can see and hear the results of their donations. If you don't have the resources to create a long, professional video, consider how you can use short-form videos on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook to share brief content about the cause to drive the point home quickly.
Mobile Donations for Online Giving
Mobile donations are now another huge advantage for many donors because it's quick, easy, and right at their fingertips. Mobile giving donations have increased by 205%, showing responsive design has helped nearly double giving donations on mobile devices.
Email marketing results in a third of online fundraising revenue, yet direct mail fundraising is nearly three hundred times more expensive than email and can be easily tracked for effectiveness. If you're looking for a quick improvement, try personalizing your emails.
Seventy-nine percent of fundraising emails do not personalize their "to" line with a first and last name, so you want to be sure you make your current and future donors feel more than just a number. And don't feel discouraged...it can take multiple touchpoints to reach a customer for the first time.
Collecting Donations for the Rest of the Year
Don't be afraid to get creative with your fundraising campaigns. For example, with holidays like Earth Day and Mother's Day coming up before the end of the academic year, you can host a flower sale to raise money for a specific cause or your annual fund. Consider hosting an athletic tournament, game, or race where you can involve as many individuals in your school community as possible.
Once you grasp how you can strategize your end-of-year planning, you'll realize many of these suggestions to help you raise funds and meet your end-of-year planning goals can also apply for next school year, just in time for peak giving season in November around Giving Tuesday.
By following through on these donor-centric initiatives, you will see more donor relationship cultivation; these donors will feel their gift has a purpose and will feel part of your school community. You can justify why their gifts matter and build from there. Never be afraid to report back to continue the conversation with your donors. Specifically, let them know what their gifts are being used for and how it is making a difference.
Reaching your fundraising goals by the end of the year shouldn't feel as overwhelming or unrealistic. Remember to start with building a new measurable fundraising strategy based on what you've done that has previously worked and some new approaches you're okay taking a risk on.