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Why Nonprofits Need Influencers To Grow (And How To Do It Right)

Have you heard the buzzword “influencer” and wondered what the heck it was? Or if it’s a familiar term, have you struggled with how to find one of these elusive creatures to work with your nonprofit? Well, never fear—today’s post is for you.

While influencers have always existed, the Internet Age has given them new meaning, as well as new ways to capitalize on their popularity. (Cue the Wicked soundtrack!) Social media brought with it a whole host of new job possibilities. I mean, 15 years ago, we all would’ve laughed someone out of the room who said people would pay to watch another person play video games. But, here we are…

So, if getting an influencer to spread the word about your cause is on your To Do List, Kayleigh Alexandra of Micro Startups is going to break it down for you. I’ve seen social impact organizations have great success with this tactic, so I’d encourage you to give it a try and see what happens!

Why Nonprofits Need Influencers To Grow (And How To Do It Right)

Growing your nonprofit can be tough. Aside from competing for attention against so many other worthwhile nonprofits, making donors care about a cause is a big task. Thankfully, influencers are here to make all of that a breeze.

It’s important to make time for your nonprofit marketing, and using influencers doesn’t just save you time—it’s also highly effective. Keep reading to find out how your nonprofit can benefit from an influencer collaboration in 2019.

What are influencers?

While you might not know exactly what influencers are, you’ve probably already encountered them without realizing it. Influencers are social media stars, tastemakers who command significant influence over their followings online.

There are countless examples of online influencers: Kim Kardashian, Marie Kondo, Jake Paul, Huda Kattan, Andrew Bachelor, Gary Vaynerchuk, Joanna Gaines—the list goes on. And for every influencer, there are ten more examples of brands partnering with them for a marketing campaign.

Influencers can be divided into two, broad categories: macro and micro.

Macro-influencers are the A-listers of the influencer world. With social followings in the high hundred-thousands or millions, these individuals are renowned the world over. Consequently, any brand looking to collaborate with them can expect to pay correspondingly high prices.

At the other end of the scale, however, are micro-influencers. These social stars typically have a follower count of around 10-100K.

While they are less well-known than their macro counterparts, micro-influencers enjoy a closer relationship with their followers. They occupy niche areas such as specific beauty subsets (think makeup tips for women with vitiligo), eating gluten-free, or mental health. Their community is intimate and closely-knit, and they’re more affordable as a result of a smaller follower count (though still substantial).

Why do nonprofits need influencers?

We’ve established the difference between macro- and micro-influencers. The former has a large following, so partnering with a macro-influencer for a marketing campaign gets your nonprofit seen by the masses.

But this isn’t the goldmine it first seems. The fact is, while macro-influencers generate more awareness, their campaigns lack engagement.

Research shows that when an influencer’s follower count reaches 1K, the ratio of likes to comments peaks. And when an influencer’s followers exceeds 100K, engagement starts to level out.

Micro-influencers, on the other hand, reach a far smaller audience but with much higher engagement. Their close bond with their followers means their content is received on a deeper, more meaningful level.

And for nonprofits, engagement is crucial. You could create a macro-influencer campaign that reaches 10,000 people. But if those people don’t care about the campaign—if they don’t engage with it—then it will fall flat.

Nonprofits need micro-influencers because the success of their initiative hinges on making people care, and influencers can make that happen.

How do I choose the right micro-influencer?

The key to a successful nonprofit-influencer campaign lies in choosing a micro-influencer who aligns with your nonprofit’s values.

Start with what your nonprofit stands for and the work you do, and go from there. For example, if you work with sufferers of anxiety and depression, a mental health influencer would be an ideal choice for your nonprofit.

You can find micro-influencers in a number of ways. There are plenty of influencer marketplaces that let you easily find influencers, sorted by industry, follower count, social profiles, and more.

But for a quick fix, simply scope out other nonprofits operating within your niche and see who they’ve partnered with. Take a look at their blogs and social media accounts to identify any influencer campaigns, and contact the influencer in question to request a collaboration.

Alternatively, you can search hashtags on social media to see what influencers are already talking about, and what causes might be of interest.

How to launch an influencer campaign for your nonprofit

You know the what and the why. Read on to discover some great influencer collaboration ideas that will grow your nonprofit.

Get your micro-influencer to tell your nonprofit story.

Micro-influencers are characterized by their special relationship with their followers. The interactions influencers have with them are genuine and meaningful—they are real. As a result, they enjoy an honest, trusting follower relationship.

This is a boon for nonprofits. The general public is numb to marketing, either switching over when an ad comes on TV, or switching off when they see one online. But when micro-influencers extoll the benefits of a nonprofit, their followers pay attention.

Use this special relationship to your own advantage and get your chosen influencer to discuss in depth why they partnered with you. They should outline your various initiatives, highlight the work you do, and even meet and interview someone your nonprofit has helped in the past.

Launch a UGC donation matching campaign.

Most brand-influencer partnerships use a contest, competition, or giveaway to grow their business. And while some nonprofits might benefit from this, an even better, albeit similar, idea is to launch an influencer-led user-generated content (UGC) donation matching campaign.

Donation matching is simple, but effective.

Your chosen influencer gets their followers to share an Instagram photo centered around a theme (e.g. if you’re an animal rights nonprofit, they might share a photo of their favorite animal) with a branded hashtag, following and tagging your account. For every photo shared, your micro-influencer donates $1 (up to a given value).

This strategy doesn’t just give you a quick donation boost. It also invites interaction with your social media followers. It creates a conversation with your followers, involving them with your nonprofit work and making them care.

A UGC donation matching campaign also gives your nonprofit a valuable publicity boost, netting you new followers and growing your Instagram account. Combine this with National Giving Day for an added promotional boost.

Involve your influencer to reach unengaged individuals.

Many nonprofits struggle to make their work seem real to donors. For example, let’s say you’re a nonprofit working with individuals suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. You might find it difficult to make people with no experience of the disease connect with your cause on a meaningful level, simply because it feels too distant.

Micro-influencers are the perfect conduit for breaching that distance. Invite your influencer to see first-hand the vital work you do, and encourage them to share their experience on social media.

Of course, sensitivity and confidentiality is crucial here. But when you and your micro-influencer work together to create a nuanced, insightful social campaign, you turn otherwise indifferent individuals into engaged, committed donors.

Influencer collaborations are an effective and affordable marketing strategy for nonprofits. They drive engagement and get your organization seen, helping you reach a whole new audience of potential donors who might otherwise not know your nonprofit. Use the tips above to create an influencer partnership that grows your nonprofit now and well into the future.


Kayleigh Alexandra of Micro Startups

Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer at Micro Startups, your go-to place for charity news and insight. She loves writing about all the great nonprofits, startups, and entrepreneurs that make waves in their industry. For more of her work, check out the blog today @getmicrostarted.

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Growing your nonprofit can be tough. Aside from competing for attention against so many other worthwhile nonprofits, making  donors   care  about a cause is a big task. Thankfully, influencers are here to make all of that a breeze.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


Your Budget: Go From Cursing to Championing

One of the reasons I love inviting guests to post on this blog is so that they can talk about topics that I probably wouldn’t address myself. And right at the top of that list is budgets! Numbers are something I always struggled with in school (while I excelled in English), so it’s better for both of us that I stick to what I’m good at.

Enter Steve Fredlund. He and I met several months ago in a Facebook Group, and when I saw that one of his areas of focus was budgeting and money management for nonprofits and small businesses, I jumped at the chance to feature his expertise.

I really loved the way Steve talks about “transformational” budgeting in this post, and think it will not only shed some light, but challenge your social impact organization to value money differently in the process.

Your Budget: Go From Cursing to Championing

BUDGET. A 6-letter swear word to many nonprofit leaders and small business owners. It’s about penny-pinching and the restricting of ability to get things done. It’s the mechanism by which a number-crunching, introverted analytic hinders team creativity. Right? 

Yes. Because most of us see it this way, this is precisely what it becomes. Consider how budget discussions and approval are communicated in your organization. For many, it sounds something like, “Well, it’s that exciting time to set the budget again,” or “Sorry, guys and gals, we have to work on the budget,” or “Let’s get the budget stuff done so we can get on to the real stuff we need to talk about.” 

Why You Need to Rethink Budgets

Budget communication both reflects AND creates culture. It gives insight into leadership perspectives on budget, which gives insight into how leaders think about budgeting as a potential tool to move the organization forward. And usually, budget communication is extremely negative or, at minimum, apathetic. But your cash flow is an asset and it is your responsibility to leverage that asset as effectively as possible in support of the overall mission and strategic priorities of your organization. Anything short of that is a suboptimal use of one of your biggest assets, and is a gap in your overall leadership. 

Your finances carry vast amounts of potential energy, just waiting to get released. Your job as a leader is to recognize the full potential energy and release it to maximize achievement of the vision and strategic priorities. I want to encourage you to shift your paradigm about finances—to recognize that great organizations are able to fully release their power and leverage it for success.


3 Budgeting Exercises for Social Impact Organizations

Here are three things you can do to increase the value of your budgeting process, while also changing your perspective about the role of finances in your nonprofit or social enterprise:

  1. Strategy-based budget.  List out all of your major strategies, goals, or initiatives. Then assign each a percentage (totaling 100%) indicating how you WISH all of your available funds were allocated. Do this without regard to your knowledge of the current budget and only consider non-fixed costs. Basically, you are saying, “This is how I wish all of our discretionary spending was allocated.” Then, take this to your finance team and ask them to complete this exercise with the actual spending; have them include a bucket somewhere for the “fixed costs,” and with all remaining expenses, have them allocate out to the same categories you defined. Compare what you find. Eventually, I encourage organizations to create budgets starting first with developing a desired allocation of resources and then building the budget; but for now, this exercise will provide insight into any major disjoints in spending. It will also help you realize how many of your expenses are fixed, to see if there is any way to move spending into discretionary.

  2. Gain outsider perspectives.  An interesting exercise is to give your current budget (or actual spending) to several people unfamiliar with your organization and ask them what they think your vision and priorities based on your budget. You can get tremendous insight from this exercise. This is similar to having new people to come into your building or office and ask what they think your priorities are based on your environment; it creates fascinating discussions.

  3. External research. It’s amazing to me that very few nonprofits and social enterprises have an understanding of how similar organizations are allocating their budgets. I ask, “How does this compare to your competitors?” or “How does this compare to similar nonprofits?” and rarely do they know. Comparing to others can provide great insights, not only for competitive advantage, but to start the conversations about how you could become more effective in your spending.

 There are many more considerations in maximizing your financial investments, and improving the perception of the role of budgeting, but these three are a good start. How you spend your money is more than just a necessary evil. It is as important as the staff you hire, connections you make, and products or services you provide. Every dollar of your revenue is an asset; are you investing it in a way that maximizes your impact or helps you best reach your goals?

Avoid the 5% Rule

When the next budget cycle comes up, consider avoiding the typical process that simply adds 5% to every budget item from last year. This is the central mistake in budgeting for impact; to start with what has been done in the past and making minor tweaks. Using the prior budget to determine the next budget is akin to starting with current policies and procedures to set next year’s strategies.

If you want a transformational budget, then realize that the budget is an “output” and not an “input.”  The budget process starts with what you are ultimately trying to do (your vision, mission, or purpose). From there, you determine your key focus areas for the next one to three years, which leads to your key strategies and, ultimately, to the execution of those strategies. It is from these decisions that the transformational budget emerges. 

Imagine running a nonprofit helping to alleviate the issue of clean water in which 20% of last year’s budget supported efforts in Rwanda and 10% supported Nepal. There are some significant political and world relief changes resulting in far less need for the organization to continue working in Rwanda. Strategically, the organization decides it needs to move staff and facilities to Nepal, but the budget setting is based on last year and the funding to both Rwanda and Nepal is increased slightly, creating a huge disjoint in strategy and funding.

This may be a ridiculous example that would not actually happen in practice, but it’s only ridiculous because of the dramatic nature of the shift. How many smaller shifts are happening every year without the budget reallocation to support it? Many cause-focused organizations know the areas they need to move focus toward, but most use a “last year plus” method for budgeting. The end result will always be a disjoint between impact and financial support.

As a social impact organization, take time to celebrate every dollar coming in. These funds are more than just “money;” they represent the opportunity to have impact. But the ball is now in your court. What are you going to do with that opportunity? The more impact you can have, the more opportunity you will attract; and conversely, the poorer you manage your opportunity, the less opportunity you will have. 


Get Excited About Budgeting

Get excited about strategizing how those funds can be used to maximize impact or profitability. Have leadership discussions that start first with your vision, mission, priorities, and strategies, considering how to optimize movement toward their achievement using your finances. Think less about budget constraints and think more about budget opportunities.

When you have a budget that is lined up with your overall strategies, it generates creativity among each budget manager to truly optimize those funds to carry out their strategies. Further, having a budget aligned with strategies creates peace of mind for leadership (and all stakeholders), knowing that all assets are working together to carry out the desired impact of the organization.

Start seeing budget and finances differently, and you will be on your way to leveraging it most effectively—to maximizing your impact; to achieving your vision.

If I can be of any assistance, feel free to give me a shout at steve@stevefredlund.com or 651.587.5435. You can find out more about me at stevefredlund.com. 


Steve Fredlund

Steve Fredlund, FSA, MBA, SWP has 30 years of experience in Fortune 500 companies in primarily financial and analytical roles, with another 10 years in nonprofit roles including staff, board, founder, executive, and volunteer. He currently does independent consulting, coaching, and speaking focusing on small businesses and nonprofits. Steve helps individuals and organizations clearly define what success means to them, and then figure out how to get there. More information is available at stevefredlund.com.

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Here are three exercises to increase the value of your budgeting process, while also changing your perspective about the role of finances in your nonprofit or social enterprise.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


Are You Setting Your Development Department Up to Fail?

There is a bit of a double-standard in the nonprofit community that I often see. On one hand, “marketing” is usually treated like it’s a dirty word. It equates to greedy, and not worthy of their cause. A nonprofit is a nonprofit because it doesn’t have to do any marketing, right?

On the other hand, there usually comes a point when nonprofit leaders realize, for better or for worse, that they do need to take a second look at this whole marketing thing, and it becomes more important—or even a necessary evil.

And that’s when it happens. All of these sudden, the poor development staff who have been told to look at marketing one way, suddenly find themselves in charge of it. No training, no resources, just figure it out and start doing it.

This needs to change. Why? If you don’t change your mindset, as well as provide budget and resources for your fundraising staff, you’re setting them up to fail.

Are You Setting Your Development Department Up to Fail?

Remind Me, What’s Marketing Again?

As I stated on this blog almost two years ago, marketing is simply the process that creates a relationship between creator and consumer. It includes the creation, promotion, selling, and distribution of "your thing," whatever that may be. (ex: product, service, ministry, outreach, etc.)

Obviously, this gets slightly more complex with social impact organizations because you have two audiences, the people who support your work and the people who benefit from your work. For the purposes of this post, we’ll just refer to those who make your work possible. If you’re a nonprofit who is also a social enterprise, the term “customer” may still apply. If you’re a more traditional nonprofit, substitute “donor.”

Essentially, marketing is the way people find out about your mission (ex: word-of-mouth, email, social media, website, etc). That’s not so gross, right?

You already know those things have to happen, or are happening right now, so guess what? You’re a marketer. It’s kinda like being a poet when you didn’t even know it. ;)

Now, if we agree on those things, let’s talk about where the breakdown occurs.

Why Development and Marketing Are Two, Different Areas

“Marketing” and “development” aren’t the same words for good reason. Yes, the absolutely have some overlap, but they often require a different mindset and skill set. That’s where nonprofits can easily run into trouble.

According to Wikipedia, a site which I couldn’t live without, “The role of a development director is to develop and implement a strategic plan to raise vital funds for their organization in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner.” Those last two phrases probably made you cringe, roll your eyes, or nod along—perhaps all three. #nopressure

But, if you’re tracking with me, you probably see that, in reality, marketing and development are actually two sides of the same coin. That’s good news! Both roles have the same result: Bring in money for the organization. However, the way that happens can look different.

The problem here is that, once a nonprofit decides marketing is a curiosity or an even an essential part of growth, they might expect their development person or team to either know how to do it or figure out it out for themselves. It’s like being thrown in the deep end of a pool with no life vest. And, worse still, when the marketing “fails,” there may be a determination that marketing is bad, marketing doesn’t work, or this person can’t do their job.

No, no, no. That’s where I want you to help me change things. And together, we can.

From conversations with friends, clients, and my interns, it still seems that you can graduate with a degree in nonprofit management, or something similar, and receive LITTLE TO NO marketing training. Face palm. I think this is a complete injustice and flaw in the education system, if this is true.

Do you know why? Innovation and longevity.

Nonprofits have the benefit of relying on donations and grants, if they want to. That’s a critical distinction for sure. BUT, they don’t have to rely solely on donations and grants. That’s where good marketing comes in.

By being able to figure out the marketing piece of your organization, you open up more opportunities. You can utilize the aspects of the business world, and apply them to your cause. I think this is why the social enterprise model is so exciting. It’s the perfect intersection of commerce and cause.

And, whether you choose to take the social enterprise path or not, you can still use marketing to your advantage. Many nonprofits to not have a solid content strategy, for example. They have amazing stories to tell but don’t share them well. They only communicate with donors when they need something. They mean to post on social media, send an email, set a meeting, but, but, but….

There are millions of nonprofits in the world, all competing for money and resources. And, all things being equal, I think marketing separates one from the pack. So, remove celebrity spokespeople, millionaire donors, and some of those other wish list items, and marketing is what great nonprofits do well. We’ve talked about Charity:Water on this blog before, and with good reason. Outside of a large personal network, a marketing ad campaign helped put them on the map.

Thinking through the lens of marketing creates a shift. Communication goes from nice-to-do to need-to-do, and donors take notice. One-time donors can become repeat donors. Tribes increase. Awareness grows. More money can be brought in to help programs and services increase. MORE GOOD CAN BE DONE! Isn’t that worth embracing marketing? I think so.

Let’s talk about how.

DIY Marketing

I’m not naive enough to think that nonprofit leaders will read this post, and immediately begin advertising for a marketing staffer. I know that’s not always an option. In fact, most of my clients only have one or two people dedicated to fundraising. And, for some, the nonprofit leader is also a solopreneur, handling development (and everything else) as well. It takes time and money to grow and scale, but with help, you can get there.

The first step is to actually give your development person a marketing budget. Whether this is $5 or $5,000, it’s important that it exists. This is especially essential if your development staff has no marketing knowledge or experience. You can’t expect them to know what the rest of us took years to learn.

So, DIY resources could include books, blogs (like this one!), courses, events, and the like. It’s a place where they can get the information they need to do their job better. It might even be someone like a mentor.

Also, give them time on your dime to learn. Don’t expect that they learn how to be a great marketer in their evenings or on the weekend.

I would even take this one step further and actually help them find good resources. Take an hour or so of your time to search or ask for recommendations, and then pass them along. Be proactive in making sure they have a quality marketing education, and show them that you’re there to support them.

You work for a cause, after all, so demonstrate that you care and are committed to seeing them succeed. And, if you’re the boss, plan for a bigger marketing budget next year.

Hybrid Marketing

Let’s say you’ve got more than a few bucks in your marketing budget, and you’re willing to bring in some help. Great! You’re in a very good place.

Additional help could look like a one-time, ongoing, or once-in-a-while contractor, coach, or consultant, for example. Evaluate not just your budget, but the return on investment from a person who fits this need. Yes, it could be a sticker shock if you aren’t used to working with these folks, but how will they pay off in the long run? Their expertise may just take your organization or employee to the next level. Plus, you only have so much time on your hands. What if someone else can do a better job faster?

This is obviously where people like me fit in. I started my business to fill a need that I commonly saw as a previous employee of several nonprofits, as well as a long-time volunteer. I was regularly asked marketing and communications questions by friends and staff of nonprofits and social enterprises. They had questions, and I was happy to answer. So, when I was leaving my old job, I asked if the would be willing to pay me for project work so that I could help them grow. Those people, including the organization that I was a long-time volunteer with, all became my first clients. And many of them have become repeat clients.

For you, it might be graphic design help to make your marketing look sharp. It could be a coaching program that teaches your development staff how to also be marketers. It could be a social media manager who takes that responsibility off their plate.

One of the fun things that I love about being a consultant, and why I hire them myself, is that they see everything with fresh eyes. You are in the day-to-day of your work, and sometimes, all it takes is an outside perspective and few tweaks to get you on a better track.

If you’ve got a little more money to work with, give this avenue a shot. If you’re nervous, start with a small project. See how you can make this approach work for you.

Hire a Marketing Person

So, obviously, it takes more of a significant amount of money and commitment to hire a part-time or full-time marketing person. But if you’re determine to make marketing work for your nonprofit, this might be the right choice for you.

If you don’t have it already, I’d encourage you to write out the job description for your development director or staff. Is it more than they can handle? Does it include items they’ve never been trained for, and no resources to equip them? This is often the case. If it is, something needs to change.

I know you don’t intentionally want to set up your development department to fail. But I wouldn’t be addressing it on this blog if this weren’t a common issue. What can you do differently?

Leaders, I cannot tell you how often I see comments about this stuff in Facebook Groups and hear about it in conversations. This kind of thing puts so much pressure and burden on your employees, and will lead to burnout and frustration, which won’t serve you, your organization, or your cause well.

It’s a new year, so it’s a great time to make the shift. Set your development staff up to succeed. And make marketing an intentional part of your communication process. I don’t think you’ll regret it.



PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

“Marketing” and “development” aren’t the same words for good reason. Yes, the absolutely have some overlap, but they often require a different mindset and skill set. That’s where nonprofits can easily run into trouble.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


How to Communicate with Year-End Donors in the New Year

Whew—you made it! It was a crazy, busy season, but you crossed the threshold into the New Year. Congratulations!

So, once you’ve wrapped up your year-end giving, you can sit back and relax come January, right? Welllll, not quite. I realize you could probably already use a vacation, but one of your best bets for building momentum and donor retention in the first quarter is to build on your efforts in the last one.

And while I sincerely hope that your nonprofit reached or surpassed your end of year giving goals, these strategies can be implemented even if you didn’t. Either way, they’ll set you up for better months ahead.

How to Communicate with Year-End Donors in the New Year

Make Good on Your Promises

First of all, it’s incredibly important to make good on any promises from last year. Leftovers tend to start stinking, am I right?

This could include reports, updates, or any other documentation that you owe your donor base. For example, I’ve seen annual gala sponsorship levels that include quarterly reports to major sponsors and donors. If you’ve got something like that on your plate, take action now before another, “more important” task comes along.

And if you didn’t release an annual report as part of your year-end fundraising campaign, this can be another great tool to start the New Year. Show off the impact your work is having, while highlighting opportunities for growth and engagement.

Keeping and fulfilling any promises you made to donors, sponsors, and partners is just one more way you can prove that you’re trustworthy, responsible, and deserving of their time and investment.

(Tip: If at all possible, never let them have to ask you for this information. That looks bad. Do everything you can to put the information or resources in their hands first. If there’s going to be a delay, communicate that so they don’t have to wonder or, worse, think you forgot.)

Send Those Shout Out’s, High Five’s, and Horray’s

Don’t forget to celebrate those victories! As someone who can easily dismiss an achievement, especially a small one, and move on to the next thing, I encourage you to take the win every time.

Better yet—share it with your fan base! If you met your fundraising goal and are now able to provide more products and/or services to those who benefit from your work, let everyone know! Send out an email blast, post it on social media, host a Facebook Live, release carrier pigeons, shout it from the rooftops, or do whatever you need to do to let your fans and followers know they played a part in getting you there.

This is your chance to say, “We did it!” And when you tell them exactly how those funds will be used, you not only instill a sense of pride in your contributors, but you’ll subconsciously encourage them to give again!

But let’s say you didn’t meet you goals. What then? Well, don’t take that as your cue to forego any updates. You still need to do that, but you’ll obviously need to tailor the message. You can send out a thank you, and tell people what’s on the horizon. Remind them of what’s at stake, and how you plan on serving people this year. Get them excited for the future, and state how they can be a part of your incredible work.

Keeping your fans in the loop is one sure-fire step toward donor retention. When people don’t know how their money is used, don’t know who is being served, and don’t know what’s going on, they are far more likely to take their hard-earned money to someone who can check those boxes for them. So, stay in touch!

(Tip: If you’ve been lax on your marketing and communication in the past, use these kinds of updates to get you back on track in the New Year. Update, rinse, and repeat. Make it a habit you’ll keep going forward. And if you’re not sure what to send them, I’ve got a few ideas.)

Pencil In Your VIPs

Always strike while the iron is hot, as they say, but particularly when it comes to your largest contributors. Take a look back at the previous year (or years), and identify who gave the most, either in dollars or in-kind. Then, get these people on your calendar.

If they’re local, take them to coffee or lunch. If they’re not, opt for a phone call, or even better, a video chat where you can look them in the eye. But make these interactions personal on some level, and don’t just lump them in to a mass email.

Use the opportunities to say thank you, and let them know what’s been going on, especially if it’s been a while. Ask for their input, or get them involved in a deeper level with your organization. If they gave a substantial amount, it’s likely they are very moved by your mission and would be thrilled to hear how they can further meet your needs.

(Tip 1: Don’t leave the conversation without what we in the marketing biz refer to as a call to action. This just means you’ll be asking them to do something. It could be very simple or a bigger ask, depending on the relationship, conversation, or needs. Examples could include setting up a follow up appointment, making an introduction, becoming a larger donor, or a spot on the board. The point is to make the most of the interaction.)

(Tip 2: Create reminders to follow up with these people throughout the year. Whether you’re just personally emailing to say hello or sending them some sort of update, check in with them at least once a quarter to let them know your nonprofit values their relationship. This will also take some of the stress and pressure off of having to squeeze everyone in at the end of the year—bonus!)

How will you communicate with year-end donors in the New Year?



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One of your best bets for building momentum and donor retention in the first quarter is to build on your efforts in the last one.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


How to Build a Team of Dedicated Volunteers

Volunteers are an essential part of any cause-focused organization. They’re often the extra hands and feet that nonprofits and social enterprises need to make their mission succeed, especially in the early stages.

But building a team of dedicated volunteers isn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work and a steady flow of communication to ensure that you’re getting what you need, while giving what they need in return.

This week’s post comes to us from Faitth Brooks, who manages social media for one of my clients, Be the Bridge, as well as serves as the Director of Women’s Empowerment for Legacy Collective. Both organizations have not only relied on volunteers to make their work happen, but entrusted volunteers with being ambassadors for their brand with great success.

Faitth knows a lot about organizing, engaging, and empowering volunteers, and I hope her wisdom will help you build your team as well.

How to Build a Team of Dedicated Volunteers

In the nonprofit world there are numerous tasks that often cause employees to wear several “hats.” And if you’ve worked in the nonprofit sector, you know all about the hustle to save money and raise money in order to fulfill the mission and vision of your organization.

I've worked for nonprofits most of my career and I've learned that volunteers are invaluable to any organization. They give of their time and energy to work alongside staff members and help make everyone's job easier. It’s also common for nonprofits not to have the funds to hire a robust staff, especially small ones, so volunteers help fill in the gaps.

Many of you may be thinking, “Faitth, that’s nice, but how do I build a dedicated team of volunteers for my organization?” Well, I’m glad you asked because I’m going to tell you all about how I’ve done it over the years.

In order to maximize your time and energy, it’s essential that you build a committed team of volunteers. There are three important steps I’ve implemented in organizing volunteer teams, and I am going to share them with you today.

Step 1: Share The Vision

First, know the vision for your organization and articulate it to your volunteers. It’s important that the volunteers begin to embody the organizational culture and values in the same way the staff does. Your volunteers should be able to share the mission and vision of the organization to anyone who asks.

Hosting a training for the volunteers is essential, as well as developing a volunteer manual that states the mission and vision, expectations, and assigned tasks. The volunteer manual offers people a clear road map for how they will be utilized by your organization. When volunteers do not have direction, it’s easy to chart their own path away from the mission and vision of your organization.

Once training is complete, volunteers should shadow a staff member. It is important for the staff to model how to serve clients, respond to correspondence, and answer the phones. If your staff works remotely, the volunteer can be cc’d on correspondence, shadow you during video conference calls, and join collaborative projects to watch how the team operates together.

Step 2: Assign Specific Tasks

Second, assign your volunteers specific tasks. Have a list of the particular areas you need help with and instructions on how to accomplish those tasks. Volunteers need direction and they need to feel like they are making a valuable contribution to your organization. It's important to know what your volunteers have experience in so you can assign them to areas where they will thrive. You want your volunteers to feel empowered and excited to work with your organization!

Avoid making something up for them to do simply because you do not want to lose their help. If nothing is immediately available that is suited for them, honor their time and let them know that you will reach out again when you need help with another project.

Step 3: Communicate Regularly

Third, maintain open lines of communication and remain available to answer questions. Your availability as a leader will develop trust between you and the volunteer.

Also, establish regular meetings with your volunteers. They want to stay in the loop and feel included. Make sure you ask about their experience volunteering for your organization and what you could do better. Feedback from your volunteers is priceless because they have nothing to lose, and are more likely to tell you the truth about their experience working with your organization. This can go a long way in building and scaling your organization in the future.

Now, it's your turn to go and build a team of volunteers! Write your vision, create the manual, mobilize the people.


Faitth Brooks

Faitth Brooks is the Director of Women’s Empowerment for Legacy Collective. She engages in community organizing and activism. Her passion makes her a relentless spokesperson for racial reconciliation.

Faitth is also a social media strategist for Be The Bridge, and a blogger who writes at Faitthbrooks.com. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @FaitthB.



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Building a team of dedicated volunteers isn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work and a steady flow of communication to ensure that you’re getting what you need, while giving what they need in return.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing and consulting services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I also teach solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. I believe that cause-focused organizations are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.