What Worked Then Won’t Work Now: Reaching Non-Profit Donors in 2016

What Worked Then Won’t Work Now: Reaching Non-Profit Donors in 2016

The ever-changing usage of the Internet provides more opportunities today than were available 20, even 10 years ago – supporters can now follow your every word instantly, people can donate online directly with credit cards, and there are hundreds of platforms to find followers and ask for donations. In the past, non-profits could send out direct mail and receive donations. Nonprofits today still use direct mailing tools, but new technology means there are new opportunities to reach donors beyond their physical mailbox.

Pew Research Center found that 62% of US adults get news on social media, which is up 13% in four years. If you think your organization is doing everything right, then why are donations not flowing in the way you want?

Some facts

Well, while 78% of non-profits worldwide agree that social media is effective in online fundraising, the majority assign these tasks to staff already doing a full-time job like programming, administrative or executive staff. 32% of non-profits assign this work to a single communications person and only 11% have a dedicated social media position.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 11.05.14 AMThe table on the left shows average social media followers. How do your pages stack up? As a small, local non-profit, having close to 6,000 followers is a good starting goal. What this graph doesn’t show are the important figures of engagement with followers – how often are these people seeing, sharing or responding to these posts.

Another important fact is that American non-profits are not using the Internet to gain more donations from bequests (when someone leaves you a donation in his or her will). Up to a third of donations in the U.K. and Australia come from email bequests. That means people are seeing the email, responding, and choosing to donate in their will. Unfortunately for American non-profits, only 8% of donations come from this stream. Why? Few non-profits are promoting bequests through email. If you have a baby boomer audience, they are the most likely to respond positively simply because they saw it in an email.

Some tips

Increasingly, your audience is spending more of their time online, so it makes sense to try your best to meet them where they are. More than half of all donations are made online, so you need people around you who understand those platforms. Whether you rely on dedicated internal social media staff or you outsource to a digital marketing company, you need to be active and engaging on social media.

Full-time work

Whoever runs your social media, make sure they are ready for the work. Assigning social media as ‘side work’ to already overloaded staff can lead to inconsistent messaging and gaps in activity; someone needs to take time to engage with your followers.

Always be engaging

A study of 800 people looking at online images showed that more often than not people shared positive content over negative content. In other words, people respond more to how far their dollar can go to change lives, versus seeing how great the need is for donations. What trends saw the most shares globally? Posts that included an element of surprise. Leave questions for followers to answer in the comments. The more they are engaged, the more likely they are to remember you, share your page with friends, and ultimately donate.

Graphics we created to promote donating to Kids Against Hunger

Beyond sharing positive news, sharing news in different ways is important. 90% of the information we receive is visual. So it’s important to keep your page visually engaging with videos, photos, graphics, infographics, along with text and links.

Branded content vs news

In order to run a successful page, it should contain a good mix of “branded content” from your organization as well as curated content from the Internet that your audience would be interested in. It’s important to get your message out there, but it’s equally important to provide information that is a net benefit in your audience’s lives.

Stay organized

Whether you use GoogleCal or subscribe to another service, make sure that content is scheduled and accounted for. The more platforms you post on, the more confusing it can get. Consider using software like HootSuite (which has a free option) or SocialReport, which gives you a visual calendar of your posts across the board. The most social media activity happens during working hours, so make sure posts are timed appropriately.

Make it mobile-friendly

According to the 2016 Benchmarks study of more than 100 non-profits, 13% of donations are being made on phones and mobile devices. Is your website mobile-friendly? Is it easy to make a donation? Take out your phone and count the steps it takes to go to your website and donate. Now go to your Facebook page. Is there immediate information that will link you directly to your donation page? Every click between your donor and completing the donation is another reason to stop.
If your non-profit is struggling to attract new donors in 2016, it might be time to re-examine your web presence. How attractive is your website? How engaging are your social profiles? If you’d like to talk with us about how you can sharpen your image and tell your story, get in touch.

Molly Mullen
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