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3 Ways to Have a Stronger Fundraising Program in 2017

Published by Kari Wilson

Can you believe it’s 2017 already?! While 2016 had its ups and downs, it’s now time to focus on the new year ahead – and how you can make this the best year yet for your nonprofit. Here are three ways you can start the year off strong.


Be transparent with your donors.

This may seem like an obvious point, but it is one that is very important. Your donors trust you to steward their money well and you must show them you are doing so. By “transparent” we mean both financial AND program transparency.

Financial Transparency:

Yes, you have to release a 990 every year which shows how you are allocating your funds, but your donors are not going to sit and read through that long document. Make sure you give your donors an easy way to digest how you are investing their money. Create a graph, chart, infographic etc. And if it looks like you spent more in say, fundraising, than expected, explain why. Your donors love your mission and giving them a peek behind the curtain creates a sense of belonging and teamwork.

Program Transparency:

This is about showing IMPACT. Not only do donors want to know what percentage of donations you spent on your fundraising software, but they want to know how many people you’ve helped, wells you’ve dug, animals you’ve saved etc. If you create an annual report, that’s a great start. Pull information from there so that you can use it in your fundraising materials, put an infographic on your website – anything that allows your donors to easily see the impact their giving is having.

A great example of this is from our friends at Poetice. Check out their annual report.

January is the perfect time to start collecting this data. So let your program staff know to start keeping track of their impact or assign a specific person to do this. Either way, make sure that you start 2017 off right.

Optimize your donor experience.

Personalization is no longer just putting “Hey %FirstName%” in your communications. It’s about knowing what your donors’ interests are, reaching out to them when it’s right, and with the right giving amount. It’s marketing 101 – reaching the right audience with the right message at the right time.

Sounds overwhelming, but it’s really not if you have the right tools. This is where segmenting your list comes in (and making sure you have a database which allows you to easily segment your donors). You can segment based on last gift amount, last gift date, a specific campaign – anything. And then create fundraising messaging around each category.

Donor optimization also includes reaching donors in ways they’re most comfortable. Ask yourself the following questions to see if you are optimizing your donor experience:

  • Are people giving through their mobile devices? If so, think of ways how you can optimize that experience for them. In 2016, 13% of online gifts were made through mobile devices.

Tip: Test where you place the donate button on the page – see if having it at the top before they scroll through all the text or at the bottom after you’ve explained the offer works better for your audience. Make sure your donation pages are always optimized for any device.

  • Are more donors giving online this year over last year? If so, how can you optimize your online fundraising efforts? According to the 2016 M+R Benchmark Study online giving increased 21% over the previous year with nonprofit monthly website traffic increasing 8%.

Tip: Test having one call to action (Donate) versus having an additional call to action (Learn More) on your homepage to see which drives more donations.

  • Can your donors give recurring monthly gifts? If so, how can you increase your monthly givers this year? And if not, think about how you can get a monthly giving program started. According to the same M+R Benchmark Study online monthly giving increased 24%! (We probably have Netflix and Spotify to thank for that.)

Tip: Need some help optimizing your monthly giving program? No worries, we’ve got this helpful Monthly Giving Guide for you.

Audit Your Systems.


It’s really hard to optimize your donor experience and increase your transparency if you don’t have the right tools in place. A great thing to do at the beginning of the year is to audit the systems you are using. Or, if you aren’t using any, now is a great time to figure out what systems will help you optimize your fundraising program.

Here are a couple of questions to help you with your audit:

  • How much time are you spending in your current data systems vs how much time you are spending talking to donors? If you are spending more time in your data, it’s probably time to look for a more advanced system.
  • Do your systems talk to each other? For example, if you someone gave to a follow up email after an event they attended are you able to easily track in your database how much they gave, to what specific email, and what event
  • Can you easily run reports? Whether it’s for board meetings or for day-to-day use, does your current system allow you access your data and run a report quickly and at your fingertips?

There are a lot of great systems out there. But you need a system that is a good fit for your organization. Keep your priorities in mind when you are doing your audit and choose systems that will help you grow and meet your organization’s goals for 2017.

And there you have it! These are three fundamental ways to have a stronger fundraising program in 2017 – and you can start implementing them today. So, let’s get started and make 2017 the best year yet!

Published by Kari Wilson