We’re thrilled to say goodbye to 2020, for lots of reasons. While many nonprofits saw strong fundraising results, the COVID-19 pandemic and US Postal Service challenges made our campaigns even more challenging. Almost nothing was “business as usual” last year.
But fundraisers are nothing if not resilient. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work. Not just working harder . . . but working smarter. We tinkered with everything from messaging, to channel mix, to package formats and more. Here are some of the innovations born out of crisis last year that may prove useful for the year ahead as well.
DAFs, DAFs, and More DAFs: We worked with our clients to better understand who is giving through their donor-advised funds and to create special package versions to speak to those donors directly.
Creative Reply mechanisms: When the world shut down last spring, and everyone was staying home, we asked, “Will donors even have stamps at home?” We added postage to return envelopes whenever possible and included more prominent “give online” messaging in all campaigns.
Innovative Virtual Events: What do you do when you can’t go visit your donors? Invite them for coffee on zoom or hold a special phone briefing. One of the most creative list building events we saw last year was from the Elizabeth Dole Foundation who hosted a “Military Kids Have Talent” contest that was super fun for the military families they serve and for those of us who watched the show!
Inspired Acquisition Campaigns: What do you do with all those donors who visit your website but don’t donate? Do some super sleuthing to find their mailing addresses. Then send a cost-effective postcard that drives them back to your website to make a gift.
Staying the Course: Sometimes the best innovation, is none! Turns out, when people stay home more, they actually read their mail. So, we advised all our clients to stay in the mail and stay on schedule. Adjusting strategies and language to acknowledge the state of the world was important, but the most critical thing was to continue communicating – in a sensitive manner – at every donor level.
A New Tone: The world was turned upside down last year and our messaging had to change as well. Many organizations reached out to donors just to ask, “How are you doing?” It was important to continue to put our planned giving message in front of donors too – without sounding like fearmongers or opportunists. We shifted from making direct asks for gifts to more customer service-oriented messaging such as, “Here’s some useful information” and “We’re here to help.”
Mail Tracking. Most large mailers use a service such as US Monitor to track when their letters hit mailboxes. This year, as the mail became increasingly unpredictable, that tracking became even more important.
Innovation is a big buzz word that people like to throw around a lot. But in 2020, innovation truly saved the day. What new things did you try in your organization? We would love to hear from you.