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4 Effective Ways to Uncover (and Engage!) More Major Donors

Published by Jeff Giannotto

Your donors know as well as you do that donations—major donations in particular—are essential to help your organization expand and continue its good work. Regardless of what constitutes a major gift at your organization, your major donors allow your organization to thrive. Even though they make up less than 1% of all donations, major donors account for more than 70% of all donation revenue. Impressive, right? 

Attracting and maintaining the attention of these high-value donors isn’t easy, though. Instead of using single shot strategies (like hosting an event or sending an email blast), you need to take a more sustainable approach, one that prioritizes the donor experience and drives long-term results. This is something we call engagement fundraising, and it can open the door to more authentic, meaningful, and trusting relationships.

What an effective major donor strategy boils down to is instilling a culture of philanthropy throughout your organization. Take the time to make sure your prospects become your nonprofit’s partners, not targets. Remember that your major donor prospects are real human beings with real feelings and connections to your cause. Go into it with a donor-first mindset, and you’ll find that donors are much more engaged and committed to your organization.

To help you get started, the MarketSmart team has compiled its top actionable tips for locating and fully engaging major donors:

  1. Create insightful donor surveys.
  2. Look into actionable intelligence data.
  3. Maintain an open line of communication.
  4. Focus on stewarding donors.

Major donors aren’t something your organization should ever overlook. They can boost your funds and help you reach your full potential, but only if you make those major donors feel like a valued and respected part of your organization.

Ready to create valuable relationships with your major donors? Let’s dive deeper into these engagement tips.

1. Create insightful donor surveys.

Most organizations are still using traditional, expensive, and time-consuming strategies to capture information about major donors and prospects. In an effort to form relationships, a lot of organizations rely on cold calling and emailing. This might work with some prospects, but it doesn’t produce the sustainable results and relationships organizations need

To create value for donors, you’ll first need to create well-designed donor surveys, capturing valuable information on each prospect. After all, the best way to learn about donors is to simply ask.

Well-designed surveys enable organizations to better understand the ‘why’ behind their donors’ support. They invite prospects to reach out and share their needs, wants, interests, and desires, so organizations can focus on creating the best possible major donor experience. Above all else, surveys give prospects a way to engage with your nonprofit on their own terms. Collect this valuable data by asking prospects questions centered around the following:

  • What they’re passionate about;
  • Why they care about your cause;
  • What other organizations they support;
  • Which programs they care about;
  • How they prefer giving to your organization; and
  • How they spend their free time

This self-reported data (known as verbatims) enables nonprofits to drive value for their donors. However, to drive this value, you can’t just collect data and store it away; you have to actually do something with it. The information you gather through surveys should be used to better understand who your donors are. Then, determine if these individuals are ready to be contacted and personalize your outreach using their unique verbatims.

Even though surveys consistently gather high-value data, they are severely underused. In fact, only 21% of organizations reported using surveys to capture valuable information from donors. Instead, they’re sticking to pre-existing staff knowledge, limiting their major donor identification capabilities. If you haven’t surveyed your donors yet, now might be the time! In no time, you’ll boost engagement and may uncover passionate major donors who were right there all along.

2. Look into actionable intelligence data.

Verbatims can be incredibly helpful, but there’s a slight problem with them: what donors say isn’t always true. For instance, a prospect may say they would never make a major gift. Then, several years down the line, they actually do end up making a major donation. Either they chose to keep that information to themself or they simply didn’t predict that they’d be able to make such a substantial contribution. That’s where intelligence data can help.

A donor’s digital body language can help you capture the rest of the story. Tracking digital engagement is a powerful form of donor discovery, making it a vital part of your online fundraising strategy. It helps nonprofits of all sizes locate major gift prospects by analyzing what information they’re most interested in on your website. Here are just a handful of online engagement points you should be tracking:

  • What pages prospects visit;
  • Which emails they’ve opened;
  • What resources they’ve downloaded;
  • Which videos they’ve watched;
  • How long they stay on your website; and
  • How frequently they visit your website.

Monitoring this data allows you to create instant value for donors and can help you make the right appeal to the right prospect at the right time. However, this method is overlooked and underused just like surveys, with only 28% of organizations having reported tracking digital engagement. 

Identify qualified leads by putting a plan in place for tracking this information. You’ll be able to develop specific donor personas and create highly engaging messages that appeal to your passionate and wealthy donors. You can use this data to create valuable content for donors, too. Use your donors’ clicks to help serve up highly relevant online content that appeals to their unique interests. They’ll relate more to your cause and will feel much more compelled to get involved.

3. Maintain an open line of communication.

Organizations—nonprofits especially—underestimate the importance of listening to their supporters. They get into the habit of talking at them instead of to them, but listening to their responses is a vital part of any dialogue. You can’t build long-term, trusting relationships without authentic communication, and you can’t raise funds (and fulfill your mission) without those long-term, mutually beneficial, and trusting relationships.

For donors to want to interact with you, they first have to trust you. As a start, you should make sure any and all interactions are wanted. Then, to initiate an authentic conversation, combine that individual’s verbatims with their online behavioral data to create powerful, individualized outreach. When crafting a message, keep these two important pieces of information in mind:

  • Communication preferences. If you don’t consider how donors want to be contacted, they’ll assume you’re doing what’s most convenient for you. Then, they won’t put in any more effort than they think you did.
  • What motivates them to give. Each major donor has a different connection to your cause. Whether it’s a personal relationship or an emotional link to your mission, make sure to leverage their connection to evoke emotion and trigger a response.

Remember, the easiest and most effective means of collecting donors’ preferences and motivations are surveys! They’re an effective means of prospect research (explore more ideas for this here), and using this information enables you to craft the most effective communication possible.

Automate your communication.

Imagine having to individually craft hundreds (maybe even thousands) of these ultra-personalized emails to each of your major donor prospects. Seems impossible, right? Well, when you’re creating those messages by hand, it certainly is daunting. However, when you automate your outreach, you can streamline your communications, save your staff a lot of time, and cut back on costs.

Automated communications don’t have to be impersonal. In fact, today’s technology can create highly-relevant messages based on the verbatims and the digital body language you’ve gathered. The right messages keep your leads warm while you engage with those who want to meet right now.

In any case, communication should be respectful, authentic, and (most importantly!) wanted—no exceptions. Forcing conversation doesn’t do your nonprofit any favors. In fact, it actually works against you by driving major donor prospects away. 

4. Focus on stewarding donors.

It’s not enough to create subpar appeals and call it a day. You need to get to know donors on a deeper level if you truly want to cultivate loyal relationships with them. Otherwise, if they feel unappreciated, they may choose to make a major impact through a different organization. 

There’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution for stewardship, but there are a few common best practices to motivate major donors to give. While it differs from organization to organization, the stewardship process typically looks a little something like this:

  1. The donor gives to your organization.
  2. Immediately thank the donor for their generous contribution.
  3. Take the time to learn their motivations and expectations for their gift.
  4. Report back to the donor on the impact of their gift.
  5. Begin the cultivation process to retain their support.

While the above process is boiled down to the essentials, it should give you a good starting point for developing your own stewardship strategy. Go into it with a donor-first mindset, and you’re sure to capture prospects’ attention.

Cultivate Relationships

So you’ve successfully stewarded a new donor. Great! Now it’s time to focus on retaining their support. After all, generating leads can all be for naught if you don’t plan on cultivating them. With nearly 70% of new donors only giving once and then never giving again, a dedicated focus on cultivation in your retention strategy is more important than ever, according to Bloomerang’s donor retention guide.

To help, here are a few of our tips for engaging donors and encouraging them to stick around:

  • Spend time with them one-on-one. At the very least, line up phone calls, but for the best results, you’ll want this meeting to be face-to-face. No amount of email communication can replace the authenticity of a face-to-face relationship. 
  • Ask them for feedback. Give donors an outlet for sharing their voice with engaging surveys. Surveys invite donors to reach out and give constructive feedback on your programs and future plans. Implement their suggestions to show them you’re listening and care about their opinions. After all, they are the ones funding your critical projects and programs. 
  • Invite them to share their stories. Express your appreciation for donors by showcasing highly-involved major donors on your organization’s site and social media. Not only is this recognition rewarding for your existing major donors, but it might incentivize others to step up their involvement and take that next step to become major donors themselves.

As always, make sure to send surveys to gather this information! Surveys play a huge part in developing relationships with major donors. They allow you to pinpoint their expectations, learn their motivations for giving, and much more. By interacting with donors and getting to know them on a more personal level, you’ll know exactly when to reach out, how to tailor your messages, and how to fully engage them. 

Cultivating relationships may seem difficult, but all donors truly want is to feel appreciated and part of an important cause. Maintaining relationships with donors may be time-consuming, but it’s certainly worth it.

Major gift fundraising doesn’t have to be difficult. Start by creating a donor-centric mindset where you focus on building deeper relationships with major donors. Take the time to get to know them, and they’ll be much more committed to supporting your cause.

About the author:

Jeff Giannotto

Jeff Giannotto

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

4 Crucial Things You Need to Know About Matching Gifts

Published by Adam Weinger

4 Crucial Things You Need to Know About Matching Gifts

How would you like to have donations to your organization doubled? Sounds too good to be true, right? After all, this is the buy-one-get-one-free opportunity of your dreams.

When you are looking for the secret to raising more funds for your nonprofit, you are willing to try any new, promising techniques. The solution is simple: matching gifts.

Matching gifts will revolutionize how you think about fundraising and managing your donor engagements. Utilizing a good matching gifts program is essential to ensure you maximize the impact of each and every eligible donation to your organization.

So, you may want to incorporate matching gifts into your fundraising strategy, but you still have no idea how to take advantage of this sector of corporate philanthropy. You may be asking:

  1. What is a matching gifts program?
  2. Why don’t more people take advantage of matching gifts?
  3. How do I promote matching gifts?
  4. Which matching gift tool is best for my nonprofit?

Don’t worry! This post will answer all of your questions and provide you with the information you need to know to start optimizing your fundraising strategy with matching gifts.

So, let’s dive in and prepare you for an entirely new source of nonprofit revenue!

1. What is a matching gifts program?

Matching gifts programs are, unfortunately, an underutilized source of revenue for nonprofit organizations. The sad truth is that many nonprofit development officers have no idea what they are missing.

Have you ever wondered how to tap into the corporate sphere with your fundraising campaign? Over half of the Fortune 500 companies, along with many other corporations, offer their employees a matching gifts program.

With these programs, a corporation matches its employee’s charitable donation with a 1:1, 2:1, or even 3:1 ratio! Effectively, if an individual employed at an eligible company donates $100 to your organization, their employer would then donate $100, $200, or even $300 to your organization.

So how do corporations know when their employees are donating to charitable causes?

The matching gifts process is easy and simple — for you, your donor, and their employer. The process typically proceeds as follows:  

  1. An individual donates to your organization.
  2. The donor searches a matching gift database to determine if they are eligible for a matching gifts program.
  3. The donor submits the appropriate forms to their company.
  4. The employer matches their donation to your organization.

This program is the best resource to maximize your donor’s giving potential. It will allow you to optimize a gift of average size and help donors make a difference for your organization.

2. Why don’t more people take advantage of matching gifts?

By now you are probably asking yourself: If matching gifts are as beneficial as they seem, then why don’t more people take advantage of them?

Unfortunately, just like many nonprofits do not know how to take advantage of corporate philanthropy, most people are unaware of their own eligibility for these programs. It’s likely that your donors and prospective donors simply do not know what matching gifts are or if their company offers it.

Just look at this list of top matching gift companies from Re:Charity and you will see that many popular companies offer programs and people don’t even know about it!

Only about 7-9% of donors are taking advantage of a matching gifts program. This means an incredible amount of money that could go to your organization is left untapped. Around $2-3 billion is donated to charities through matching gifts per year, while an estimated $4-7 billion goes unclaimed.

Because most donors don’t know about matching gifts, your nonprofit needs to do everything in its power to encourage donors to use matching gifts.

3. How do I promote matching gifts?

If you are serious about wanting to promote matching gifts to your donors, there are plenty of concrete ways to go about doing so.

You should consider doing the following:

Provide access to an online matching gift tool.

Many of your donors likely use an online method of donation. Donors want easy and they want fast — they want to be able to give from the comfort of their own homes and their own devices. So you should also make it as easy as possible for them to participate in a matching gifts program.

As you read in the first section, part of the matching gifts program requires donors to determine whether or not they are eligible to participate. The best resource you can provide to donors is a matching gifts database search tool.

This tool will provide information such as:

  • Whether a company has a matching gifts program.
  • The minimum and maximum match amounts. These can vary based on the company. Some companies match anything from single digit to four digit donations!  
  • The ratio at which a company will match. While some organizations only contribute at a 1:1 ratio, it is not uncommon to find even more generous ratios that have the potential to quadruple a donor’s contribution.
  • Employee eligibility. Find out if the company will match gifts for full-time, part-time, or retired employees.
  • Volunteer grants. Some corporations are willing to donate on behalf of volunteers. They will likely donate a certain amount for a specific number of volunteer hours. A company might donate $250 for an employee’s 25 volunteer hours, and $500 for 50 hours, etc.
  • Types of nonprofits the corporation will give to. Types of nonprofits that companies generally include in their matching gifts program are educational institutions, health and human services, arts and cultural organizations, civic and community organizations, environmental organizations, and religious institutions.
  • Submission process details. The tool should also provide basic information about the corporation’s submission process and deadline. This could be providing the corporation’s contact information or a link to their giving page.

1 in 3 donors stated that they would be more likely to donate, and donate more, if they knew about matching gifts. They would know that their donation is making a greater impact.

To see how to include a matching gift search tool on your website, check out this site.

Follow up with donors about their matching gift status.

Don’t give up on getting your donors to participate in a matching gifts program simply because they have already finished your donation process. Many corporations allow a window of time — some even offer up to a year — for employees to turn in their forms to receive a matched gift!

Following up with your donors after their donation is the key to informing more people about matching gifts. Email is essential to increasing your matching gift revenue.

People donate to charitable organizations such as yours because they want to make a difference. They will be grateful for the opportunity to maximize their impact and increase your ability to do good.

Consider emailing your donors and asking them to check their eligibility for matching gifts. Use a call-to-action in the subject line to increase the likelihood that they open your email. This can be:

  • Do you want to have your donation to [organization name] doubled?
  • Double your contribution to [organization name] with employer match.
  • Help [organization name] [organization’s immediate goal] by participating in a matching gifts program.

Emails reminding donors about matching gifts that are sent within 24 hours of a donation have an open rate 2-3 times higher than the average nonprofit email! Don’t lose out on this opportunity!

4. Which matching gift tool is best for my nonprofit?

Are you still concerned about which matching gift tool you should choose to implement? Don’t worry! There is a database out there that will be perfect for your organization and help you tap into the benefits of corporate revenue.

No matter the size of your organization, matching gift database tools will benefit you greatly.

Double the Donation Matching Gift Tool – for small to medium organizations

Double the Donation’s matching gift database is the perfect industry-leading tool for small and medium-sized organizations. This database provides information on over 20,000 companies and subsidiaries and has the most comprehensive set of matching gift resources!

This tool can be integrated into the company’s website and maintains your organization’s branding creating a seamless experience for the donor.

Double the Donation also provides the option to display your own customizable link on their site. You can raise awareness of your organization and simultaneously gain access to the best matching gifts database for your donors.

360MatchPro – for large organizations

360MatchPro is best for large nonprofits and higher education institutions that already bring in more than $25,000 in matching gifts revenue a year. This platform provides a complete matching gifts marketing automation.

Remember, this platform is most effective when the organization is already taking advantage of matching gifts, not for those organizations just starting out.

This platform can screen donors’ email domains, donation form information, and email responses to identify matching gift opportunities among your donor network. You can ensure that every donor who begins with matching gifts finishes the process by sending automated, customizable messages to them throughout the process.

You can use this platform to analyze your donor data and predict how much you will be able to add with matching gifts. This will allow you to better plan your fundraising strategy and reach your goals for your cause.

Matching gifts are the best way to take advantage of corporate philanthropy and maximize the impact of your existing donors. If you still have questions, find your answers in this guide to matching gifts.

Make sure you don’t let this extra revenue pass you by! Encourage your donors to check their eligibility and do everything in your power to make the process as easy as possible for them.

About the author:

Adam Weinger

Adam Weinger

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs.

Get access to interviews with multicultural marketing experts to see how you can improve your marketing to Hispanics.LEARN MORE

5 Hispanic Marketing Insights for Nonprofits

Published by Ivan Leon

5 Hispanic Marketing Insights for Nonprofits

Cinco de Mayo is just days away! To celebrate, I’ve prepared a spicy plate of data-driven Hispanic marketing and fundraising insights from marketing leaders in companies like Sprint, Nestle, Pepsico and Comcast to help you optimize your fundraising to Hispanic donors.

There’s a huge opportunity for nonprofits to connect with Hispanics and engage them in their missions.

I got to sit down and interview these industry leaders during the Culture Marketing Conference, the premier gathering of Hispanic strategists and creatives.

You can watch each full interview with these multicultural marketing leaders here »

According to these marketing leaders, there are big changes in marketing and fundraising right around the corner. The ethnic diversity in the United States of America increases every day.

And one ethnicity is taking the lead in terms of numbers – Hispanics.

That’s why in the interviews with these successful marketing leaders, we tapped into their wisdom and asked how their strategies and principles apply in the nonprofit sector.

Here are just five of the many recommendations they gave me for nonprofit leaders.

1. Hispanics are changing the face of American society.

It’s been a long time coming, but it is finally here.

Minority populations in America are shifting, and Hispanics are about to take the lead in sheer numbers.

According to the latest Census data, Hispanics will make up over half of U.S. population growth between 2016 and 2020 (and as much as 80% by 2040-2045).

On top of that, Hispanics have a younger median age and longer life expectancy. So as this demographic moves into its prime years of wage earning, it is set to reshape the U.S. market.

In terms of social and political causes, the Pew Research Center released a study earlier this year showing Hispanics will be the largest voting minority in the 2020 election.

The data is clear: Hispanics are and will be a growing force for social change in the U.S.

Vanessa Strain, VP of Multicultural Growth and Strategy at Nielsen, warns against putting this priority off to another time.

The nation’s Hispanic population is projected to double by 2050.

Simply looking at the demographic data, Vanessa urges nonprofits to invest now in multicultural marketing and fundraising while there is time to plan.

The Hispanic market is an expanding population who already values social and community causes.

Just consider how Hispanic buying behavior speaks to their concern for community causes:

  • 57% of U.S. Hispanics agree they are more likely to purchase from brands that support a cause they care about.
  • 43% expect the brands they buy to support social causes (over-indexing non-Hispanic whites by 26%).
  • 58% agree they are willing to pay more for a product that is environmentally safe.
57% of Hispanics are more likely to buy from brands that support a cause they care about.

No matter what experience your nonprofit may have had with Hispanic marketing or fundraising, this growing market cares about community and social causes.

Don’t miss the massive opportunity to get ahead of the curve!

2. Don’t translate. Communicate.

While speaking with José Velez-Silva, VP of Multicultural Marketing Communications at ComCast, he stressed that addressing multicultural audiences doesn’t mean sending the same blanket message to everyone.

Nonprofits should avoid translating their general marketing messages into Spanish.

Instead, they should listen to their Hispanic audience to see the world through their eyes and then craft messaging that will resonate with them… in whatever language makes sense for that particular campaign.

It’s counterintuitive. But your most effective messaging can be in Spanish or English.

Ricardo Aspiazu, Director of Brand Marketing at Verizon, put it this way: “It is less about language and more about culture.”

Today, second and third generation Hispanics live in the US, making up more and more of the market. And they’re bilingual.

In order to reach Hispanics, nonprofits must now engage with culture, not just language.

Marketers have endless options for tuning in to Hispanics’ rich and vibrant culture.

One size does NOT fit all.

Each demographic needs to be engaged on its own terms, while at the same time supporting a unified nonprofit brand.

3. Digital marketing is a MUST.

Although digital marketing has many advantages for reaching all kinds of demographics, Hispanics tend to be overrepresented in digital marketing channel data, especially social media.

In their studies, Nielsen found that “35% agree that they are among the first of their friends and colleagues to try new technology products (over-indexing against non-Hispanic Whites by 36%).”

35% of Hispanics are among the first of their friends and colleagues to try new technology.

That means your Hispanic donor or audience is more likely to try out and own new gadgets and technologies than non-Hispanic whites.

An industry leader in youth Latino entertainment and television, David Chitel is even more enthusiastic about digital marketing to Hispanics saying, “Digital is the great equalizer for Latinos.”

“…digital has special relevance for Hispanics at different levels of acculturation. With the right talent or partners, you could release Spanish language content on any of those platforms. With digital, you have access to all kinds of Latinos, including many bilingual, bicultural millennials. Hispanics with all kinds of desires and passion points are waiting for you to speak to them.”

– David Chitel

Not only do Hispanics consume digital content at higher rates than other ethnicities, they also engage on these digital platforms.

In my interview with Meghann Elrhoul, Head of Global Research for Twitter, she told the story of how Hispanics changed Netflix’s programming decision to cancel the popular show, One Day at a Time.

This show follows the life of a Cuban-American family, and Hispanics loved it.

But when Netflix pulled the show – cast, crew, and fans of the rebooted sitcom took to Twitter, demanding a third season.

And Netflix listened. On March 26, the series was renewed.

To reach out to your Hispanic donors, you’ve got to meet them where they’re at, online.

4. Hispanics are generous.

You might have heard before that Hispanics don’t give.

This myth has been around for some time, claiming that Hispanics either don’t have the means to give, or that philanthropy isn’t as valued in their culture

Multicultural marketing leader Jose Villa says differently.

“Hispanics are a huge opportunity for organizations that depend on donors.”

– Jose Villa

So why the discrepancy in the amount that Hispanics, as a whole, give to charity?

Villa explains in our interview that for centuries, the life of the average Hispanic “centered on the church – and that’s where they’ve directed their giving.”

But now as Hispanics continue to immigrate to the United States, they are growing accustomed to the American society where “the church is a less dominant cultural force. And the alternatives for giving are endless…”

Last year, Telemundo and Univision raised $20 million in 30 hours for victims of Hurricane Maria and the Mexico City earthquake, out of a primarily Spanish-speaking audience!

One of my favorite examples is how St. Jude Children’s Hospital set a record raising $4.6 million in a campaign with Spanish-language channel Univision.

This is a big opportunity for nonprofits like yours to become the charity they give to.

5. Collaboration is critical for Hispanic marketing success.

The idea of working with a marketing agency or fundraising firm isn’t a new one. You’re probably already working with a general marketing agency right now.

Marketing is a specialized field, and it’s a lot cheaper in the long run to hire an agency than to hire a large team in-house.

However, long-time multicultural marketing veteran Aldo Quevedo warns against leaving your Hispanic marketing up to the generalists.

“If your nonprofit recognizes the need for Hispanic marketing, that objective will probably butt heads at some point with general market goals. Plenty of organizations end up working with both a Hispanic marketing agency and a general market agency. This may seem complicated, but successful collaboration is a game-changer.”

– Aldo Quevedo, Principal and Creative Director, Richards/Lerma

Aldo’s not the only one who thinks partnership is essential.

Alberto Lorente, Sprint’s multicultural marketing director, attributes much of Sprint’s success in Hispanic marketing to their Hispanic marketing agency partners.

In 2017, about 34 percent of Sprint’s new customers were Hispanics, — and at the time, they only composed 18 percent of the U.S. population!

34% of Sprint's new customers in 2017 were Hispanic.

Sprint sells more in the Hispanic segment than their competitors, Verizon or AT&T. That’s incredible.

Their success is no coincidence.

Bonus: Commitment is key.

The success of the marketing leaders I interviewed is linked to their commitment to reaching out to the growing Hispanic market.

I’m confident that with the same commitment, your nonprofit can experience the same success in optimizing your fundraising by connecting with the heart of Hispanics.

And if you want to glean even more insights into how your organization can develop relationships with Hispanic donors, you can get all the interviews in full!

Watch the Interviews with Multicultural Marketing Experts

Get free access to each full-length interview with key multi-cultural marketing leaders to see how you can start reaching this key demographic.

About the author:

Ivan Leon

Ivan Leon

Ivan – the founder of Kerux Group – is an accomplished communications strategist, specializing in the Hispanic market. With more than 10 years of experience as a publicist, television producer, and marketing executive, he is passionate about offering solutions that overcome cultural barriers and build an authentic customer experience.

See how 152+ nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis Explore the Data & See Examples »

Does Gamification Improve Peer-to-Peer Fundraising? (Hint: Yes!)

Published by Abby Jarvis

People in tech circles love throwing around the word “Gamification.” Gamification is the practice of turning something in real life into a game, and it’s everywhere. If you’ve ever added additional information to your LinkedIn account to fill up the progress meter or checked into a location to get a badge, you’ve experienced gamification.

Gamification is popular for a reason – it works! Software engineers and app developers have learned that adding game pieces to a program will increase peoples’ engagement in their product.

But can nonprofits use gamification to boost engagement in fundraising programs?

The answer is yes – and people are already doing it.

Gamification, especially in peer-to-peer fundraising, is an effective way to boost revenue. At Qgiv, we’ve found a few methods that are especially effective. Here’s what gamification pieces are working for our clients and how you can use them, too.

Create a “Welcome Quest” to Teach and Engage Participants

The Concept

To make a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign work, nonprofits must ensure that their participants are well-equipped to raise money. Remember, your participants aren’t professional fundraisers, and they don’t know fundraising best practices (which might actually be a good thing).

That’s where a “welcome quest” comes in.

A welcome quest guides a participant through the basics of online fundraising. Whether your quest is a .PDF, an email with written instructions, or a tool built into your fundraising platform, it’s an important way to help participants start fundraising. The goal of your quest should be to give participants the tools and knowledge they need to confidently raise money for your nonprofit.

Welcome quests are most successful when they’re associated with an award, like a digital badge or progress meter (think about the LinkedIn graphic that shows your profile’s progress). They’re a great way to teach participants the skills they need.

The Stats

When we dug through our data, we discovered some interesting trends:

  • The average peer-to-peer participant waits nearly 5 days between finishing their registration and setting up their personal fundraising pages.
  • 20%-40% of people who start one of Qgiv’s welcome quests stop working on their quests within 24 hours. After the 24 hour mark, they won’t complete any more steps.
  • The people who spend the most time working on their personal fundraising pages and learning about their tools are the ones who raise more money.

The Fundraising Takeaways

The key to a successful peer-to-peer fundraiser is participant engagement, and these statistics emphasize that engagement is most important in the first 5-7 days.

After a participant registers, involve them in setting up their fundraising page and starting to raise money. Try building an automated email campaign that will send them tips or ideas, especially during the 5 days immediately after they register. You can also send emails to participants based on their fundraising activities. If you have a group of participants who haven’t collected their first donation, for example, try emailing them some quick strategies or best practices for making appeals through social posts or emails.

You can also associate an incentive with completing the setup of a personal fundraising page. Remember, incentives don’t have to be tangible. Digital incentives like badges or full progress meters are effective for companies like LinkedIn, and they can be effective for you, too.

Keep Participants Inspired Using Badges

The Concept

Humans are hard-wired to set and meet goals, and we love being rewarded for meeting those goals. Earning a reward causes our brains to release dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that “rewards” us for doing something enjoyable.

This is a simplification, of course, but it explains why gamification is so effective for fundraisers. Imagine your brain rewarding you every time you get a donation or hit a fundraising milestone. Imagine that fundraising for your peer-to-peer event is as mentally stimulating as leveling up in a video game or earning a reward on social media. You’d be unstoppable!

Digital badges are a way to reward your fundraising participants for hitting goals and milestones. Participants who are rewarded for their actions – even if the reward is something intangible – raise more money than those who don’t.

The Stats

We looked at participant behavior in peer-to-peer events that use digital badges as positive reinforcement for engagement, and we found some fascinating patterns:

  • Participants who earned 5-7 badges raised about twice as much as their counterparts who raised fewer badges.
  • 68% of fundraising participants earned at least one badge. Those participants raised an average of $306.51.
  • 32% of users earned 0 badges. Those participants raised an average of $89.54.

The Fundraising Takeaways

There are two major trends here that are useful even if you’re using a system that doesn’t include digital badges. 1) Peer-to-peer fundraisers enjoy reaching goals that are set for them, and 2) reinforcing participant achievements with incentives – digital or tangible – can increase fundraising.

When you’re planning your peer-to-peer fundraising event, set milestones and goals around fundraising activities. Communicate these milestones and goals throughout the event.

If you can, associate different incentives with reaching important milestones. Incentives don’t have to be tangible, though they certainly can be. Experiment with different rewards and recognition for participants who get (and stay!) engaged in the fundraising process. Poll your most dedicated fundraisers for ideas about which rewards will be most effective!

Use Friendly Competition to Spur Fundraisers to New Heights

The Concept

People go wild for sports. We (many of us, anyway) enjoy playing sports, watching sports, or talking about sports. And there’s a reason for that – we enjoy competition, and we like to win.

Friendly competition encourages fundraising. But using the very human desire to win in a peer-to-peer event can be tricky. Friendly competition is constructive and helpful. Hostile competition is toxic and discourages people from staying involved.

The Stats

Does competition in a peer-to-peer fundraiser really result in more money raised? Here’s what we found:

  • Events that included more teams raised more money. The higher the number of teams, the higher the mean donation count.
  • Regardless of the number of teams, each team in any event raised about the same amount of money. Whether there were 4 or 400 teams, all teams were about equal – the teams in larger events just raised more.
  • Events that include individual registrants also see an increase in the mean donation count… to a point. Fundraising decreases after an event reaches 400-500 registrants.
  • Individuals who are not on a team generally raise more money than individual team members.

The Fundraising Takeaways

Competition does seem to inspire fundraisers to get and stay involved. Teams raise more money if there are more teams – the old idiom “a rising tide raises all boats” comes to mind. Individual fundraisers compete with each other and raise more alone than they do even as part of a team. Friendly competition encourages engagement, and that’s wonderful for everyone involved.

Use tools like badges to encourage friendly competition – try rewarding badges to the top fundraiser and top teams. You can also use elements like leaderboards for teams and individuals. Leaderboards are especially effective because donors can find and support their favorite participants who are battling for higher levels on the boards.

But remember – friendly competition is key! Build a sense of camaraderie among all your participants with things like event-wide emails, celebratory social posts, or in-person events to keep it friendly.

This Article is Too Long. Give Me a Summary!

Does gamification work if you add it to peer-to-peer fundraising?

Yes, it does!

Making it fun to learn your fundraising tools makes participants more likely to get and stay involved. Participants who are engaged in a “welcome quest” raise more money than those who don’t.

Letting participants earn badges or other rewards keeps them involved in fundraising and results in more funds.

Encouraging friendly competition between teams or individuals will spur participants to new fundraising heights.

Get creative with how you include these elements in your event! They’ll have a big impact on your fundraisers, your event’s success, and your bottom line.

About the author:

Abby Jarvis

Abby Jarvis

Abby Jarvis is part of the team over at Qgiv, an online fundraising platform that supports year-round fundraising, peer-to-peer fundraising, and more. When she’s not writing about fundraising, you can usually find Abby binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix or reading in her yard.

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Even tests can become fundraising lore — so always go back to the data

Published by Nathaniel Ward

Like all marketers, fundraisers often work on pure instinct. How we solicit gifts and cultivate donors is often guided by assumptions, organization-specific mythology, and industry “best practices” rather than an evidence-based approach.

It’s easy to get trapped by our own assumptions. We humans aren’t very good at discerning what’s true from what’s not, and we often cling to assumptions even in the face of contrary evidence.

But there is a solution. We can use data and testing to constantly check our assumptions about what works with donors and make sure that what we think we know is actually true. That’s one of my chief roles at The Heritage Foundation’s Fundraising Innovation Lab.

When tests become lore

Even marketing tests can themselves become the stuff of myth. A decade ago, Heritage ran a two-year test to a portion of our donors who self-identified as social conservatives. We had an assumption about donor behavior and checked it in the marketplace—great!

The firm conclusion repeated around the office was that our existing practices are most effective. Unfortunately, the results of the test were never properly documented, which led to questions about whether this conclusion was real or simply reflected confirmation bias.

I dove into the data to find out what really happened.

Confirming fundraising lore

After the 2004 election, pundits argued that social conservatives had delivered the election to President Bush. Heritage hypothesized that we could drive more giving from this group by tailoring the message and tone of the fundraising messages we sent them.

Our traditional fundraising message emphasized fiscal issues and the role of government. Could fundraising language focused on questions of morality, family, and the like appeal more to social conservatives?

To test this hypothesis, we identified 70,000 self-described social conservatives among our existing donors. Over the next two years, half this group of social conservatives (the control group) received traditional Heritage messaging in the mail and online, and the other half (the treatment group) a more social-conservative message. The social-conservative messages were crafted by an agency that had successfully raised funds from this audience before.

Donors in the treatment group, receiving social conservative messaging, gave 22% fewer gifts and 26% less revenue compared to those in the control. While a handful of appeals during the two-year test weren’t adjusted in tone, a potential validity threat, it’s reasonable to conclude that adjusting our message and tone caused our donors to give less money less often.

Lesson: brand matters

In simple terms, the conventional wisdom about the test was confirmed: our traditional language worked best. But what could explain this? Why wouldn’t talking to donors based on their interests boost fundraising?

One possibility is that our social conservative appeals simply weren’t very compelling. On the other hand, these messages were crafted by an agency who had done considerable work with similar audiences in the past.

Another compelling possibility: by adjusting our message and tone, we effectively went “off brand” with our social-conservative appeals. We had set an expectation among our members about the message and tone we would use, and the new approach violated that expectation. Our brand, in other words, exists in the mind of the donor.

Testing trumps guessing, and data trumps intuition

At the end of the day, what works in fundraising isn’t a matter of opinion or conventional wisdom. It’s a matter of fact. And testing in the marketplace is the best way to confirm whether our assumptions about what works are true.

Equally important, however, is recording your experiments to make sure the results are properly understood in the future. Given our predilection for confirmation bias, it’s easy for a test result to reinforce the conventional wisdom even if it doesn’t!

About the author:

Nathaniel Ward

Nathaniel Ward

Nathaniel is the Counselor for Fundraising Strategy and Innovation at The Heritage Foundation.

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Is Your Email Fundraising Cannibalizing Your Direct Mail Fundraising? Probably Not.

Published by Nathaniel Ward

Several years back, The Heritage Foundation conducted a substantial test to determine the effect of a multi-channel approach to fundraising overall with a focus on direct mail fundraising.

We sought to definitively answer the question: are we better off sending just a direct mail letter, sending only emails, or sending both?

The real worry — one I’ve heard from other nonprofit fundraisers — was that sending emails alongside a letter would cannibalize the letter and reduce mail response. In other words, people would simply give online instead of through the mail.

So we took one of our best mailings and split it three ways: one segment got just a letter; one got a letter with no ask and an email; and one got both a letter and an email. The emails, which made an ask mirroring the mail piece, were timed to arrive shortly after the letters hit mailboxes.

Unfortunately, this test was never properly documented, and the results became the stuff of Heritage lore.

Until now.

I dug up the data, and the results are astounding:

How follow-up email appeals to direct mail appeals affect donor conversion (Experiment #8386)


Treatment #1

90.62% Decrease to Conversions

Treatment #2

60.5% Increase to Conversions

  1. Donors who got both direct mail and email saw a 60.5% lift in response rate in the mail compared to the mail-only group. The multichannel audience had a 23.9% response rate, compared to 14.9% for mail only.
  2. Donors who got just emails had a 90.6% lower response rate in the mail than the mail-only group. This audience had just a 1.4% response rate.

Not only that, people who got the multichannel treatment were also more likely to give online too. That means the worst option is to send people only email! More on that in another article.

This boost from multi-channel fundraising can be seen across the entire direct mail program. According to another study we ran, donors who receive emails give roughly 25 percent more annually than those who get only direct mail.

While we don’t necessarily expect these exact results in every campaign or for every organization, we can conclude that sending followup emails strengthens rather than cannibalizes direct mail.

This was originally posted on Medium and can be found here.

About the author:

Nathaniel Ward

Nathaniel Ward

Nathaniel is the Counselor for Fundraising Strategy and Innovation at The Heritage Foundation.

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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!

About the author:


Kari Wilson

Kari Wilson is the Inbound Marketing Manager at Kindful. Kindful helps nonprofits grow through powerful fundraising automation technology that is easy to use, accessible, and affordable.

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3 Black Friday Tips to Improve Your #GivingTuesday

Published by Kari Wilson

Giving Tuesday

It’s that time of year again! According to World Atlas, the average American spent $830 on holiday gifts in 2015 – with a large portion of that being spent on #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday.

#GivingTuesday is a way for people to create some balance with their consumer spending by giving to charities. It’s a movement that inspires people to give to the causes they love. And it’s an opportunity for people to remember your mission in the midst of their holiday shopping.

So how can you leverage some of the successful tactics used on Black Friday and Cyber Monday to improve your #GivingTuesday? Let’s take a look at some common marketing practices that make those two of the biggest revenue generating days of the year.  

Product Curation + Personalization

Consumer brands are experts at product curation and personalization. And for good reason. According to Experian, personalized emails generate 6x higher transaction rates.

Ever noticed how you get emails from Amazon showing you special promotions on products you clicked on last week? They know that by tailoring their messaging to your habits and behavior, you’re much more likely to buy.

Giving Tuesday - Amazon Example

How does this translate to #GivingTuesday for your nonprofit? Glad you asked.

Tip 1: Curating your offer

You can curate your asks to specific programs based on what you know about your donors. It’s great if a donor gives $50 to a broad #GivingTuesday campaign, but what if they would have given $100 to a a program they are especially passionate about? The more you know about your donors and their levels of engagement across your programs, the more specific you can be when asking them to give.

For example, let’s say that 15 donors clicked on a link to a video about construction on your new facility in your last email update. Send those 15 people an email asking them to give to your New Building Capital Campaign on #GivingTuesday.  

Personalizing your messaging shows your donors that you know them. And as a result they are more likely to give. Plus, leveraging the media buzz of #GivingTuesday gives you a reason to reach out to them.

Tip 2: Personalization

Take your revenue goals up a notch by challenging each donor to give a little more on #GivingTuesday. Here’s how you can easily do this.

  • Run a quick report in your CRM that includes last donation amount.
  • Send the list to your email marketing system. (hopefully it’s integrated!)
  • Use your email system’s personalization or dynamic content feature to add the last donation amount into each donor’s personalized email.
  • Include messaging around challenging them to give above and beyond their most recent gift.  
  • Hit send.

If personalization in the consumer messaging produces 6x higher transaction rates, let’s shoot for the moon on #GivingTuesday.

Promotions and Affiliates

Big consumer retailers leverage affiliate networks – people outside of their company who will promote their brands –  to reach new consumers. In 2015, it’s estimated that Amazon’s affiliate program generated 10% of its total revenue.

Most affiliate programs provide an incentive for every purchase the affiliate drives to the brand. On big days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, big retailers not only provide the affiliate with an incentive (typically a commission on purchases), they also provide special promotions on products to make the messaging more compelling.

So how does this translate to #GivingTuesday you ask? Great question.

Tip 3: Utilizing your network

Let’s call your “affiliate network” your evangelist network. These are the people who already support your cause. On #GivingTuesday, ask them to help promote your mission and recruit new donors.

One way you can do this on #GivingTuesday is through a challenge grant. Here’s how it works.

  • Ask one of your corporate sponsors or biggest donors to contribute a $5,000 challenge grant for #GivingTuesday.
  • Set a goal for how to unlock the grant – number of new donors, amount of money raised etc.
  • Challenge your evangelist network to help you “unlock” the challenge grant on #GivingTuesday.

Make sure to give your evangelist network the tools they need to promote this challenge. Write social media copy, include images, and provide links to your donation page.

A challenge like this builds momentum, creates a sense of community, and gets people excited about supporting your mission.

Giving Tuesday - Challenge Accepted

Follow Up

Once you’ve acquired your new donors make sure you have a follow through plan in place after they donate. You shouldn’t just throw them into your current email stream. An immediate acknowledgement letter and a triggered automated welcome email series will do the trick.

If this sounds overwhelming to you, it may be time to invest in an automated tool which can do all of this – and more – for you. Integrated nonprofit CRM solutions include the ability to create custom donor receipts that send automatically every time someone makes an online donation as well as trigger an automated welcome series.

Let’s make the most of #GivingTuesday by using these three proven tactics from #BlackFriday to impact the world for good.  


About the author:


Kari Wilson

Kari Wilson is the Inbound Marketing Manager at Kindful. Kindful helps nonprofits grow through powerful fundraising automation technology that is easy to use, accessible, and affordable.