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As a former independent school advancement & alumni associate, Meredith Kaplan, Senior Client Success Manager & Head of International Client Success at Finalsite, has a lot of professional and personal experience in fundraising and development. As the end of the fiscal year approaches, it's time to put the pedal to the metal — which is why she shared numerous valuable tips in her recent webinar, End-Of-Year Planning: How to Hit Your Development Goals.
We're now just months until the end of the year and you have a big goal to hit. While 31% of annual giving occurs in December, the new year is an ideal opportunity to reflect and re-strategize, as year-end gifts are typically settled prior to holiday breaks, and 10% of annual giving occurs on the last three days of the year. Now is the time to evaluate what has and has not worked, how close you are to your goal, and how many hours per week you can dedicate to reaching your goal. In a time where social media, texting and email may limit human interaction, advancement professionals should consider strategies that create connections with donors, sharing the value of their school and what makes it unique, to grow these relationships and build trust with these donors.
Build a New Measureable Fundraising Strategy
First, make a list of all the ways you are currently connecting and communicating to your donors (or community, if you have not set up a proper donor base yet).
Second, shape your strategy based on data. Ask yourself: which methods and channels are most effective? Which take up the most resources, but have 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 some of it can be tracked directly in the tools you are 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 is not mobile friendly.
- Social media campaigns with high view rates but no clicks may indicate you are 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. According to CASE, "The more personal a story, the more people respond." If you need some inspiration for improving the narrative surrounding your fundraising campaign, read this recent blog post.
Try these 10 strategies for engaging donors in this free whitepaper.
Focus Your Development Efforts On These Four Key Areas
Before we dive into four key areas to focus your development efforts on, it's important to first be able to cover the big question - what sets your school apart from the rest to receive additional or new support from your giving community? For instance: There are 1.8 million registered nonprofits in the US with roughly 75,000 new additions each year. The competition is there - even within education. So where should you be focusing your efforts the most on? Try these four areas:
DIVERSIFY YOUR LIST OF DONORS
You don't want to put all of your eggs in one basket when it comes to donors 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 at any time. If they are only able to 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 the way 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. For example, Lincoln Community School in Ghana connects alumni worldwide in a password-protected portal accessible from their website. This provides them with an opportunity to connect with alumni they may have not had the opportunity to through other mediums.
CULTIVATE MAJOR GIFTS AND IDENTIFY KEY DONOR(S)
Finding major gifts is still a priority for many schools, although they may not seem to be. It's important to identify the key donor(s) contributing to your school. 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 call 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.
MAINTAIN CONSISTENT AND MEANINGFUL DONOR ENGAGEMENT
Did you know: you are likely to lose over 60% of donors each year due to lack of engagement. So, you have to keep the communication flowing. Continue to show your school's value and how their gift is making an impact. You can share information on upcoming school events, successes, failures, challenges, and discussions.
Avon Old Farms does a great example of this through their email newsletters sent from eNotify. Here is an example of an email they sent out in December on the gift of scholarship and how this has helped influence the education of their students.
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 are aware of what their gift is being used for. 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 are planting the seeds for the future for these self-identified constituents. You should be able to share what their gifts have helped already, what it will go towards.
Vanguard University reminds us just how important donor retention is. The university's Giving Microsite does a great job listing out the possibilities their gifts can have on the students, as it relates to retention, to share how these gifts are projected to help the community.
Use Technology to Influence Donors
CRAFT DONOR PERSONAS
In order to create an effective and influential strategy you should create 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 like-minded groups of donors (those who are a similar personae) to make them feel the message sent to them was intentional and not just thrown into a general bucket. HPA was able to do this in a unique way for one of their recent #GivingTuesday campaigns using eNotify by sending two segmented emails out - one to those who already donated and others who hadn't yet.
Giving patterns suggest that 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media end up taking some sort of action. When it comes to school fundraising, some ways you can incorporate social media to increase your school's engagement for a major fundraising event like #GivingTuesday includes sharing live video from the event or creating a Facebook event so donors can see what's happening in real time.
57% of donors that give online watch a video before donating and will give more over time if they can see and hear the end results of their donations. If you don't have the resources to create a long, professional video, consider how you can use ephemeral content (short videos) on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook to share snackable content about the cause to drive the point home quickly.
Mobile donations are now another huge advantage for many donors because it's quick, easy, and right at their fingertips. In the past year, mobile giving donations also increased by 205%, showing responsive design has helped nearly double giving donations on mobile devices.
This is now a new feature, also related to the growing use of mobile devices, that also makes it easy for donors to send a gift right from their phone. The average donation size for text-to-donate fundraisers is $107. This type of technology is beneficial for twenty-four hour fundraising campaigns, for example.You can try these seven online donation tools from Nonprofit Hub to get started on this for your next fundraising campaign.
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 for 2018, 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 up to eighteen to twenty touchpoints to reach a customer for the first time.
What To Keep in Mind for The Rest of 2018
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 school year, you can host a flower sale to fundraise 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 have a grasp on how you can strategize your end-of-year planning, you'll realize many of these suggestions to help you 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.
Through following through on these donor-centric initiatives, you will start to see more donor relationship cultivation; these donors will feel their gift really has a purpose and will feel part of your school community. You'll be able to justify why their gifts matter and build from there. Never be afraid to report back, when possible, 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.
Be where your donors are - whether that's on social media, mobile, email, or other areas. Technology is now influencing donors more than ever with its ease of use, automation, and the ability to share information about causes that resonate most with them right where they spend their time online.
We want to encourage you to continue these best practices not just through the end of the school year, but for the rest of 2018. #GivingTuesday in November has become one of the most popular giving events for schools alone as it continues to grow in awareness year after year.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie brings a fresh new marketing perspective with her background in social media, communications, and radio broadcasting. She is a co-producer for the FinalsiteFM podcast network and is passionate about helping schools stay ahead of their marketing goals by tracking new trends and developments. She is also a practicing singer/songwriter and loves to expand her creativity in DIY projects.
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