There are always peaks and troughs in life and our work is no different. But as marketers and fundraisers, when it comes to communicating with our supporters, we should be “always on”.
What I mean by “always on” is that the donor or supporter gets a consistent stream of regular communications, despite the time of year.
They should never know whether it’s a peak or a trough for the fundraising department.
It’s July, so for most organisations their big Winter or Tax appeal has come to an end and some Fundraising departments use this as an opportunity to take a big breath and some down time until planning their next appeal.
I know this because last Christmas we did some research and made a website donation to 100 Australian charities and we’ve been documenting the donor journey that each organisation has taken us on (or not).
What we’ve seen is:
- We’ve never heard from 35 charities at all!
Many charities sent at least one email, but If we exclude email and expect follow up in the form of Direct Mail or a phone call, the number goes up to 51 organisations who did not contact us at all in 6 months after receiving a donation.
- We have clearly been on a designed donor journey for 8 charities (of which Make a Wish, Caritas and Amnesty were particularly impressive)
- In the 6 months since we made the donation, 52 charities have sent us a DM appeal (may just for Tax time).
A donor is most engaged at their first contact. Sometimes the first contact is a petition signature or a register for an event or in our case a donation. You have to take advantage of the first 2 weeks after a donation is made and make sure you have a post-appeal communications plan.
3 ways to use digital to talk to your most recent donors
So End of Financial Year and your Winter Appeal is over – I’m often asked to recommend some things you can do with your supporters online.
- Send a thank you SMS with a video link.
SMS is an opt out digital channel – if you want to establish SMS as a communications channel, then you need to start communicating by SMS right at the start of the relationship.
The video should be about 30-45 seconds long and come from someone who has seen with his or her own eyes where your donation is being spent (field worker, case worker, recipient). There is no ask, it’s just a thank you.
Then send the donor another SMS about 10 days later asking them to give their feedback, opinion, response to something that your organisation is passionate about. They should be able to reply by SMS (no link click).
Only then can you consider a second ask via SMS, which should go to people who responded to the previous SMS’s. Send this SMS about 2 months after their Winter Appeal donation. I’d make a $30 ask as a follow up to the appeal they responded to – the message should feel like an update on what has happened in the time that’s passed. This way the ask feels relevant to them and is connected to something they’ve already shown they care about.
- Use Facebook and display remarketing banner ads to stay top of mind
When a person visits your website, or any specific page within your website (such as the Donation thank you page), we can set up what’s called a “cookie pool”. This is essentially a group of engaged supporters that you want to nurture with warm messages that are relevant to the pages they visited on your website.
So if your Winter/ Tax Appeal was about homelessness, then you may target them with stories about the commitments of the major political parties to this issue. Or you may choose to remarket “wins” that the organisation has had, or the next episode in the appeal story.
We want the supporter to feel connected to your cause, but we don’t want them to feel “targeted”. We want them to see it everywhere but think that they’re only just noticing it since they’ve become aware of the issue.
So that means you’re not always asking, you’re just keeping them in the loop (for about 2 months post donation).
It’s about awareness and trust and commitment, not the second gift yet.
- Email them with updates and a related story
If your donor has made a donation via the website (probably because they responded to your email appeal), then you must be communicating with them regularly by email. Regular doesn’t mean strict monthly newsletters, it just means regular. I believe in communicating with donors when you have something new to tell them, not just because.
It’s ok for your 6-month email calendar to look like this:
- Email 1 – with donation receipt
- Email 2 – 3 days after donation with a second thank you (it’s important to say thank you well)
- Email 3 – 3 weeks later with a related story on the same theme of your appeal
- Email 4 – 6 weeks later with an update about the appeal (how the money has been spent)
- Email 5 – 1 week later the regular supporter newsletter is sent (variety of stories)
- Email 6 – 5 weeks later
It’s about regular communications to let your supporters know what’s happening in your world, it’s not about the specific time frames.
But if you don’t communicate regularly, then your supporters will be inactive and disconnected and that will affect future email appeal income.
Digital is always on
From a donor or user perspective, digital is always on, so your communications need to be regular throughout the year. You may have peak times of the year for fundraising asks, but that shouldn’t be the only time you are in contact. If you’re only communicating with your cash donors and supporters when you need money, then you’re not truly valuing them. Digital makes it really easy to plan and schedule and automate your donor journey in advance. And if you have something topical or important to speak to them about, you just add that to the mix.
Sure, end of Financial Year is over, but your donor’s connection to the cause is year round, and so should your communications be.
Shanelle Newton Clapham is the CEO of Parachute Digital Fundraising and believes there is no longer any excuse for a bad online experience. Especially not for donors!