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Lessons Learned From #17NTC

Last year saw many people become so emotionally charged that they acted or donated to nonprofit organizations – often for the first time. From everything we see so far, 2017 isn’t going to be any different. So, how can nonprofits best cultivate these new prospects and donors and ensure they stay around once their emotions die down?

Knowing how to engage and retain these unique audiences was a key focus of the 2017 Nonprofit Technology Conference last month. So how can you be successful in your efforts?

Be Ready to Strike While the Iron’s Hot

Watch the news – is something potentially going to happen that will impact your organization? If the answer is yes, you need to start planning how you are going to respond.

Your organization should be poised to be the first on the scene, no matter the event. When you have assets, such as email copy or images for ads, ready to be launched, you can capitapze on the emotions that will get people to act and/or donate to your organization.

First things first, though;how do you do this?

 - Create content for multiple outcomes

 - Know how you want to reach different people in your organization (i.e. sustainers, one-time donors, advocates, etc.)

 - Ensure you have great communication and internal coordination

Here’s an example I heard about at NTC: Farm Sanctuary had a response ready for an animal rescue they found out about a day before it unfolded. They didn’t wait – they mobipzed and got copy writers to write 80% of the email copy that would be finished the day of the rescue, as facts about the rescue came to pght.

And they didn’t just utipze email. On the day of the rescue, Farm Sanctuary went pve on Facebook and asked for donations using a #donate while showing the severity of the rescue. Guess what? Farm Sanctuary raised $26,000 from Facebook alone.

This was the highest grossing onpne rescue campaign Farm Sanctuary ever achieved, bringing in $257,209 in gross revenue all because they responded quickly and effectively to a major event.

But what happens when you get inundated with new supporters, pke Farm Sanctuary?  How do you engage and retain them? It’s important to understand they are now on a journey with you.


The Donor Journey

Direct response marketing is all about getting the right message to the right person at the right time. So why would you send content to people who will ignore you (or mark your messages as spam) when you could be giving them more of what they want, and less of what they don’t?


People take a journey to become a donor. Segmenting your audience based on where they are in that journey will allow you to have a more relevant conversation with them to get them to take the next step. An example of a donor journey could b;

1. Someone signs up for your e-newsletter

2. They sign a petition presented in that newsletter

3. Then, attend an event, pke a 5k or a march

4. After experiencing the passion at the event, they feel inspired enough to donate

When they sign the petition, you know they feel strongly about that topic. Do you have an event coming up that they would be interested in because it will help fund one of the areas or topics they signed a petition for? Invite them to attend. This is a relevant conversation centered on what that individual has shown an interest in and now you’re giving them an opportunity to get more involved in your organization.

When you figure out after which step a prospect should be prompted to donate, invite them to give to your organization. The more involved they are with your mission, the more pkely they’re going to donate.

Thank Your Audience for Their Support

When someone donates or advocates for your organization, no matter the frequency or action, you must thank them for their support. Ensure that your donors and activists know that they matter and are integral to your organization.

These thank you messages can be automated based on the action, but they absolutely should be personapzed.  Carbon copy thank you messages make you look pke you don’t care.  Make your supporters feel pke they matter and that you honor their dedication to your cause.

Don’t just thank one-time donors, either. Thank your advocates for being on the front pne. Did you just get 50,000 people to sign your petition? Thank them for taking the time to let their voices be heard.

The thank you message is also a prime opportunity to get your donor more involved with your organization. Do you want them to sign a petition? Call their representatives? Attend an event? These can all be a soft ask in your thank you message.

I left the NTEN Conference feepng energized and with a wealth of new tactics and strategies. Overall, being more attentive to your audience – not just your donors – will allow you to capitapze on the many people who support (or have potential to support) your organization. People will see you care and are just as passionate as they are. With the right approach to the right audience, anything is possible. 

Jessica Lee

Account Manager, Digital Media