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From Paralysis to Print: Write and Publish Your Book

I’ve heard different stats over the years, but it’s staggering that as many as 90% of Americans want to write a book! Now, I’m not entirely sure that I believe the number is that big, but I do think it’s pretty darn high. And with the rise of self-publishing to level the playing field, it’s now easier than ever.

The problem? It’s still really hard to do. Most of us, myself included, may feel like we have a book or two in us, but a much smaller percentage actually gets it done. And then, an even smaller number reaches the publishing process.

It also seems like a complicated industry, doesn’t it? From actually sitting down to write, to the editing process, to finding a publisher (if you want one), to seeing your little labor of love on a shelf—there’s a LOT to do. In fact, you probably have a lot of questions.

So, what’s a girl or guy to do? You can ask my friend, Sara Shelton, who has a few books under her belt as a ghostwriter, editor, and coach. If the process seems intriguing but daunting, Sara will take you from paralysis to print by answering five of your most asked questions about writing and publishing a book.

From Paralysis to Print: 5 Common Questions About Writing and Publishing Your Book

So, you want to write a book? That’s amazing!

As an avid reader myself, let me just go ahead and thank you in advance for sharing another story that I can read and recommend to my friends.

And as a fellow writer, let me stop here and encourage that you no matter how difficult, frustrating, and completely unglamorous the writing process actually is, you can do it. You do, in fact, have a story to share!

The truth is a lot of people do! But standing at the beginning of the writing process, so many writers feel paralyzed by the thought of actually trying to get their stories out on paper and into print.

That’s usually where I come in!

I’ve been working as a freelance writer and editor for five years now, and in that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to come alongside and work with several authors during the writing, editing, and eventual publishing of their books. No matter which hat I’m wearing in the writing process, I love helping my clients cross the finish line to see their words of wisdom, stories, and advice finally on the page in print.

But like I said, the process of moving beyond fear-induced paralysis at the thought of writing a book to actually holding your final printed copy in your hand isn’t an easy one. So to help you move from paralysis to print, here are answers to five of my most frequently asked questions about writing a book.

1)   Where do I start?

There’s no “right” answer to this question. My best advice? Just start! If you have an idea, a vision, a story you think is worth sharing in print, then decide right now that you’re going to share it.

Then, get organized. I can’t stress this enough! Spending time on the front end of the writing process thinking through and organizing your thoughts will save you a lot of time (and maybe even money!) on the back end.

Once you’ve got a clear idea for your book, sit down and create an outline. Think through each main point you hope to hit—the takeaways you want readers to leave with—and organize them into chapters.

Next, write down the details under each chapter that you’re going to use to support those main points or takeaways—the stories, research, anecdotes, history, and more that will reinforce your point. (Pro tip: Index cards spread out on the floor are a great way to see your outline come to life!)

You can dive as deep into the outline as you’d like, but at the very least, start with getting your thoughts into some kind of organized format. Trust me, you’ll be so thankful you did this when you finally sit down to write!

2)   What DOES the writing process like?

Everyone’s writing process is going to look different, but I can almost assure you it won’t be seamless and smooth. Sometimes your writing is done in the back of a crowded coffee shop. Sometimes it’s done in the early morning hours in your bedroom before the sun rises. Sometimes it’s done in the car pickup line, or the benches of basketball practice, or the middle of the night hours when you just can’t sleep.

My best advice for diving into the writing process is to do your best to give it a good mix of structure and grace. Wake up early or stay up late for some uninterrupted hours of writing. You know how much time you have to offer, so offer that to your process.

Don’t look at your phone, don’t answer your email, don’t scroll through social media. Just write.

Maybe even give yourself a word count goal to hit each day. And then, aim for it. Some days you’ll go above and beyond. Other days, you’ll barely get there (which is where the grace comes in). Whatever the writing process looks like for you, go into it with as much structure and dedication to it as you can and give yourself a break on the days it just doesn’t work.

3)   What do I do to get published?

For the most part, publishing still falls into one of two major groups: traditional publishing or self-publishing.

Traditional publishing means your book goes to a professional publishing house and it is printed and distributed under their umbrella. The pros? You’ve got an entire group of people whose time, energy, and resources are devoted to your book. They take care of editing, design, promotion, and more. And depending on your deal, you typically get paid up front for your manuscript as well as in royalties from sales.

The cons? It’s very difficult to get in the door of a traditional publishing house. It requires a lot of work—the research to find the right potential publishing houses or agents for your book, the writing of a query letter to get the editor’s interest, the compiling of a book proposal to pitch your book, and more. Agents and publishers will want to know things like how big your social media following or potential audience is. They want to see how they might be able to sell your book to that audience. And they often get the final say in how your book takes shape and is edited. In a lot of ways, you lose control.

But in self-publishing, the control stays in your hands. You get to decide how you want to edit, promote, and even sell your book. You get the freedom to write the book you want to write! And with programs like Create Space, IngramSpark, and Kindle Direct Publishing, the process is easy for even the most beginner of writers.

The bad news? The expense is all your own. You have to front the money for things like edits, design, promotion, and more. If you want your book to sell, it’s typically up to you. While it is most definitely a great option, writers who choose to self-publish need to know the hustle is real!

KP note: Even with most traditional publishers now, you will still be expected to do a little or a lot of the marketing and promotion. It depends on your existing audience, the publisher, and more. So, don’t just expect to get out of it with a traditional publisher! If you have a particular publishing house in mind, see if one of their existing authors will answer a few questions for you.

4)   Where is it important to invest my money in the process?

A lot of this depends on the publishing route you end up taking with your book. If you’re in a traditional space, those publishing houses and agents will likely have agents, designers, marketing teams, and more already lined up to help you. But if you’re not (or if you just want to turn in the most well-rounded and polished copy of your manuscript), your first expense needs to be a good editor.

By the time you’ve finished your book, it’s become a real labor of love. And that makes seeing it through fresh and unattached eyes a difficult thing to do.

If you’re working with a rough draft and unsure of the direction of your book, a developmental editor is a great investment to help craft a better structure and clearer overall picture for your book. They may do everything from telling you to reorganize your chapters to suggesting you cut some of your content altogether—and that’s okay! They’re reading the book with eyes to make it better!

A copy editor is key for any writer because they’ll read your book with a fine-tooth comb, checking and correcting every single grammatical and mechanical error. Though both types of editors are going to be an investment to your project, it’s one you most definitely want to make so that you walk away with the best possible product ready to print.

Beyond editorial costs, many authors need to look specifically into designers to help them layout their book and even create a professional, eye-catching cover. Others choose to set aside funds to hire a team to help them market the book.

My advice to writers who will have to make any kind of financial investment to get their book published is to choose where you spend your money wisely. What matters most to you in the process? Start there and then see what funds you have left to go elsewhere.

5)   How will people know I wrote a book?

How do people know anything about what’s going on in your life? Because you talk about it!

If you’re going to do the incredibly hard and amazing work of writing a book (something most people only ever dream about doing), then you have officially earned the right to shout this accomplishment from the rooftops! Or at the very least, from your social media, email, blog, website, and any other form of connection you have to your people. You, your family, your friends, the people in your office or on your team—those are the best ways to promote your book from the get go.

If you have the funds, you can of course hire a marketing team or booking agent to help get the word out. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t. Instead, be proud of the work you’ve done and find ways to share that work with the people in your networks through promotion on channels like social media, email, podcasts, and more.

Interested in writing a book? Have a few more questions about how to make the publishing process happen for yourself? Find me online at www.saralshelton.com and let’s get connected!


Sara Shelton

Sara Shelton is a full-time writer and editor working with clients to bring their stories and words to life. When she’s not working on manuscripts, curriculum, website content, magazine articles, and more, you can find Sara sharing a bit of her own work at www.sara-laurence.com.

Connect with on Instagram and Twitter at @saralaurence.  



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The process of moving beyond fear-induced paralysis at the thought of writing a book to actually holding your final printed copy in your hand isn’t an easy one. So to help you move from paralysis to print in your writing, here are my answers to five of my most frequently asked questions about writing a book.

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.


Wordpress: The Pros and Cons

Last week on the blog, my friend Madison tackled all things Squarespace. As you already know, I’m a fan! But, I also realize that Squarespace doesn’t fit the needs of every nonprofit or social enterprise. So, to present you with another popular option, my friend Alison is here today to give you the pros and cons of WordPress.

Alison Chandler is another immensely talented graphic designer and website builder, and WordPress is her fav. In fact, it’s the only platform she designs in. And, I have to admit, she makes quite the case! So, if you need to review WordPress basics, or are on the hunt for the perfect space to show off your cause, take a gander.

(By the way, you can watch us chat about this post and more on Facebook Live.)

Wordpress: The Pros and Cons

I’m a very meticulous person who makes careful, calculated decisions (even when it comes to what to make for dinner). So, for a big decision like choosing the best website platform, I took my time. After much consideration—and some good and bad dinner choices—I chose WordPress.

In fact, I love WordPress so much that I changed my whole career to work with WordPress websites. But is it ideal for everyone? Maybe not. Today I’m going to talk about the pros and cons of using WordPress so you can figure out if it’s right for your needs. As for dinner, one of my easy-to-make favorites is Garlicky Grilled Tilapia with Couscous.

A few fun facts about Wordpress:

  • WordPress started in 2003 as a simple blogging platform, and has evolved into a website-building platform, which essentially means you can use it to create any kind of site.

  • It is an open source, 100% free project created by hundreds of dedicated volunteers that continually improve the code.

  • WordPress powers almost 30% of the entire web, from free styling hobby blogs to some of the biggest corporations.

  • From bigger names like TED, AMC, and Lollapalooza to local brands like Atlanta’s very own Refugee Coffee Company and the Atlanta Tech Village, there are about 75 million WordPress websites.

  • Because it’s open source, WordPress has one of the most awesome and supportive communities anywhere.

 

PROS

Ready to illuminate your cause? WordPress is brilliant because:

  • Updating content is easy. Whether you want to add new blog posts, incorporate a new donor button, update testimonials, or add new products and services, WordPress has a very user-friendly content management system which enables you to log in, update, and publish.

  • The opportunities are endless. You can create any kind of website with WordPress. Whether you’re creating your first site, an online store, or a landing page for a new social impact organization, it’s super-flexible and integrates with so many add-ons.

  • There are themes galore. WordPress.org has more than 3,000 themes available. Additionally, there are thousands more available independently. So, the theme that suits your needs may very well be available . . . it’s just important to choose carefully.

  • It can grow with you. WordPress is extremely customizable and can grow with you as your organization grows, especially if you’ve created a custom website.

CONS

WordPress may not be the best platform for you because:

  • Themes galore can be limiting and overwhelming. While I’ve included the wide selection of themes as a pro, it can also be a con. The right theme might exist, but it might be difficult and time-consuming to find. And if you’re someone who gets overwhelmed by too many choices (Does the cereal aisle make you want to run and hide?), the array of WordPress themes may be a major con. Fortunately, with WordPress, you have the freedom to create a completely custom website, which can eliminate this issue.

  • Maintenance and updates can require some tech-savviness. To keep your site updated, backed up, and protected from viruses, you’ll need to ensure you stay current and updated to the latest version of WordPress. Honestly, this isn’t unique to WordPress because there is ongoing maintenance associated with any website platform.

 

Tips to Maximize the Pros and Minimize the Cons

If the cons I mentioned don’t scare you, here are a few tips to really leverage the pros of WordPress: 

  • Put strategy first. The most important way to maximize all of the benefits of WordPress is to start with a plan—know what you need before you dive in. Begin by establishing the goals for your website and prioritizing the content. Think about what your users are looking for and what kind of user experience they will expect on your site. Determine what features you need. The most beautiful, easiest-to-update site will do you no good if it isn’t serving the needs of your audience and your organization’s bottom line.

  • If you use a theme, choose wisely. While there are a plethora of themes to choose from, an out-of-the-box theme may limit you, so do your homework. See how often your prospective theme is updated. These updates are important for continued security and functionality. Investigate how customizable the theme is. If you’re not careful, your site will end up looking exactly like the other thousand sites using the same theme. Once you have chosen a theme, I recommend sticking closely to it—things can get tricky when you start customizing an existing theme—especially when it hasn’t been created using best practices.

  • For the most flexibility, opt to build your site from the ground up. Want a website that is totally customized to fit your needs, developed using best practices, and flexible enough to grow with your evolving small business? Hire an expert to build exactly what you need—and you’ll have total freedom and flexibility.

  • If you’re not tech-savvy, hire someone to maintain your site. You can absolutely update the content of your website yourself, but when it comes to the back-end (the stuff you can’t see), it may be best to hire someone. Many web designers, myself included, have packages so you don’t have to worry about web maintenance.  

  • Get involved in the community! The number one thing I love about WordPress is the fun, gracious, and inviting community. When I started using WordPress, I learned through attending meetups, WordCamps, and from people I met along the way. I love to give back by speaking about design at the Atlanta WordCamp. If you start a WordPress website and run into a problem, there are always loads of people willing and able to help. Want to see an example of this awesome community in action? Check out 48 in 48. This amazing initiative mobilizes marketing professionals to build 48 websites for 48 nonprofits in 48 hours. Here’s the site of one local nonprofit that benefitted from this initiative: Fourth Ward Alliance.


Remember, the pros of WordPress can be maximized by having strategy, carefully choosing your theme (or going custom!), keeping the site well-maintained, and getting involved with the community. Your organization may very well be able to handle all of this and build a website on your own.

If not, and you choose to engage outside help, here’s a tip: ensure your chosen designer’s website is well-designed. Like Kristi said in this blog post, Want to Grow Your Business? You Need Help, “before reaching out to an expert, spend time on their website and consider how it resonates with you. If it makes a great first impression, is engaging, and leads you to a clear call to action, you know they can do that for you. “

Choose someone who puts strategy FIRST.


Alison Chandler

Alison Chandler is dedicated to helping mission-driven entrepreneurs attract higher-level clients, make more money, and increase their impact with better brands and websites.

Alison has over 15 years of experience designing for businesses ranging from Fortune 500 corporations, to social entrepreneurs, and everyone in between. She uses that experience, and her MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design, to help business owners create memorable brands and effective websites to help them succeed. 

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WordPress powers almost 30% of the  entire  web, from free styling hobby blogs to some of the biggest corporations. But is it right for you?

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.


Squarespace: The Pros and Cons

Today’s post comes from my friend, Madison Beaulieu, who is a graphic designer and half of the dynamic duo, Mad + Dusty. She and her hubby created not only my logo and branding, but my website as well.

Madison and Dusty only design in Squarespace, and because I wanted to work with them, I went with SS as well. It’s been a great decision, and if re-branding or launching a new website is on your list for 2019, I’d urge you to take a look at this platform as well.

And to get you started on your research, I’ve asked Madison to review the pros and cons of Squarespace. No website platform is perfect, but there are a lot of features she and I both love about SS, and maybe you will, too. Let us know if you have any questions!

(By the way, you can catch Madison and I talking about this post and more on Facebook Live.)

Squarespace: The Pros and Cons

I first discovered Squarespace while working at a marketing agency. We were investigating more, low cost ways to design websites for nonprofits and causes. Before Squarespace, we’d been using a Wordpress template, but found out that we loved the flexibility and freedom Squarespace allows you to have in the design while still creating quickly.

I then started my own site at home to experiment with it, and fell in love further. It was pretty intuitive to learn, and there are tons of tutorials and helpful articles available online as well.

The first site I designed for a client was for Paint Love, and they have been updating it as needed ever since. It’s been great to see the site evolve and change to fit their needs. Another good, nonprofit example would be Miles4Major because it’s such a beautiful, simple site. And if I remember correctly, that one came together in less than a month!

Squarespace Pros

Effective, Beautiful Sites Fast

If you need a great-looking website fast, Squarespace is the right place to start. It’s is the best “drag and drop” website builder around, and they can be created relatively quickly, especially when working with a designer. And all templates are mobile-ready, meaning they can be viewed just as well on small screens like smartphones and tablets. No pinch and zoom necessary! These features also generally make them less expensive than your typical Wordpress site, which is often made by a designer/developer duo.

Customer Support

One of the reasons I initially fell in love with Squarespace, and stayed for good, is their customer service. I’ve solved many technical issues with their team on chat. Wait times are not too bad, and they are always helpful and kind. I feel so much better designing sites for clients knowing there is an added level of help available after I’ve finished.

Easy Edits and Extensive Resource Library

Another reason I stuck with Squarespace is that it’s fairly easy to edit when the initial frame is built out. Most of my clients are startups, and they rest a bit easier knowing that they have the keys to their web city. They can often make any changes needed on their own without my help. And, when needed, there’s also an extensive resource library with a how-to on just about everything.

Integrations

Squarespace has so many integrations, such as Mailchimp, Acuity Scheduling, SoundCloud, and OpenTable, to name a few. You can even set up your Gmail through Squarespace. Because these are true, approved integrations, everything looks seamless and beautiful. Having all of your tools talk to each other is a #blessing.

Pricing

Squarespace pricing is about what you can expect for a website these days. But here’s a quick rundown on pricing so that we’re on the same page: When you pay for a site, you’re typically paying for hosting and a domain. Squarespace’s pricing is for hosting—basically renting space in servers around the world so that your site will be able to arrive in web browsers everywhere. Domains are like a forwarding address, directing any requests to the right rented space.

Yes, there are “free” hosting options, but honestly the “free” options are doing you more harm than good. At this point, we’ve probably all been to a Wix site and seen the banner announcing, “This site was designed on Wix!” front and center. Or a Wordpress site with clickbait links and ads hiding out. No! Please resist! Get out of there, friend. I promise it’s worth the investment.

If you want to be taken seriously, and especially if you’re trying to sell something or collect donations, you need a professional-looking website—and, yes, that costs a few bucks.

Squarespace Cons

Not Enough Options

In Squarespace, you are limited by templates, yet have an overwhelming amount of options. You do have to design within the template, and this means that initial template choice is a MAJOR part of the web design process. I spend a lot of time working with clients on what functions they need from a site before even talking about what it will look like. Form has to follow function with Squarespace.

Too Many Options

Hopping into Squarespace for the first time can feel like diving into an Olympic-sized pool. Or maybe the ocean. There are a lot of choices to be made once you get in there. If you go in without a plan, you can get lost in options, a whirlpool of minutia. Again, form has to follow function.

Photo-Based Design

Photo-based design should be totally great, right?! Well, if you have the photography to back it up, then yes, it’s a huge perk. But many brands struggle with photography. It’s a little tougher, but not impossible to create a pleasant text-based site. Fortunately, though, Squarespace has recently added a few, text-focused templates as well as an Unsplash integration to make finding free stock photography easier.

Requires (A Little) Training and Web Proficiency

You really do need to watch some videos or do some reading to get the most out of the platform. Every one of my website projects ends with a training session for that very reason.

Once you understand the building blocks of the site, it is pretty easy to navigate, but I’ll admit there can be a learning curve. The best place to go to learn is their Getting Started Guide. Then look into page types, followed by design. And one of my favorite resources is the template comparison chart from Using My Head. I’ve used chart that countless times to nail down the right template for my clients.

Glitches

Squarespace has only improved over the years, but it’s still a web-based editor and has some web-based hiccups. I’ve designed a few pages only to click save and realize that not going to happen. So, save often. And in case you didn’t catch that—save often.

I’ve also noticed that when uploading multiple photos or doing a lot of work in galleries, the upload time can be quite long. Squarespace processes each photo you upload to save space and help with site load time, but that can take a bit more time on the editing side.

To wrap up, if you don’t have a massive amount of content, and are looking for a lower-cost and beautiful way to get your cause on the web, Squarespace all the way! But if you’ll need to have archives of information on your site or will need special functionality, then WordPress might be a better option for you. The best way to know for sure would be to talk with a designer!

Most of us design folk take free introductory meetings. We also want to find out if we’d be a good fit, and you’d get to learn some new stuff—and maybe even get some free advice! Why not take advantage of that? You’ll walk away having learned something, and possibly also gain a great partner moving forward.


KP note: And if you’d like another Squarespace review, check out this podcast episode from Femtrepreneur. They also have a free Squarespace course, or you can catch one the Squarespace webinars as well.

Next week we’ll learn the
pros and cons of Wordpress, so stay tuned!


Madison and Dusty Beaulieu

Mad & Dusty is a creative team for nonprofits and purpose-driven brands. Starting in 2015, Madison and Dusty Beaulieu have worked with over 40 purpose driven organizations to tell important stories through art and design.

Find them online at www.madanddusty.com.



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No platform is perfect, but here’s one website designer’s review of the pros and cons of Squarespace.

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.


My Gift to You: Freebies

I think 2018 has already cost you enough.

Between your business expenses and your personal ones, you’ve probably reached the end of the year fed up with whipping out your debit or credit card. You’re ready to give your swiping muscle the slip.

So, while I can’t do a lot about your personal expenses, I’d like to help supply your nonprofit or social enterprises with a few freebies that will help you get noticed and grow. Consider them my gift to you.

My Gift to You: Freebies For Your Nonprofit or Social Enterprise

As much as I’d love to believe you read every word of my website with wrapped attention, I know that’s not the case. Some things are more important to you than others, and some information is more urgent. So, even though you can find these links on other parts of my site, I’ll make it easy to find by listing below for your convenience. Simply choose what matters most to you right now.

I hope this helps you succeed in 2019!

E-COURSE

5 Things To Stop Doing This Week To Jumpstart Your Marketing and Communications

LISTS

Make Your Next Launch Your Best Yet Marketing Checklist

21 Simple Yet Powerful Marketing Ideas That Are Free or Cheap

100 Content Ideas for Your Emails, Blogs, and Social Media Posts

My Favorite Resources List (books, podcasts, events, links, etc.)

10 Common Website Mistakes (And How to Fix Them!)

TOOLS

Marketing Plan Template

Know Your Audience Guide

10 Tools to Make Your Small Business Look More Professional

Social Media Scheduler Tool Comparison (13 popular softwares!)

Independent Contractor Hiring Checklist

What You Need to Convince Potential Sponsors and Partners Presentation Cheat Sheet

FACEBOOK GROUP

Join the Signifiers Facebook Group!

FOR MORE TRADITIONAL SMALL BUSINESSES

35 Creative Ways to Give Back With Your Business

PSST: Don't forget that you only have a couple more days to enter the Communications Strategy Session holiday giveaway, valued at $500! Details here. Resolve to improve your marketing in 2019!



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Free gifts for nonprofits and social enterprises

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.


11 Simple Options to Increase Your Year-End Giving

You’ll notice the title of this post is “SIMPLE Options to Increase Your Year-End Giving,” not “EASY Options . . .” Because we all know there’s a big difference between simple and easy! Simple is focused, minimal, and uncluttered. Easy is typically done in a short time period and with little work.

Simple is Joanna Gaines decorating a room effortlessly and beautifully. Easy is me picking up her decor at Target rather than me trying to design a room on my own. (Thanks, Jo!)

And I’m not trying to pull a bait-and-switch on you here. You’re too smart for that. So, while some of these ideas will take more time and effort than others, all of them will help you improve your nonprofit’s fundraising campaign this season.

People are feeling charitable (and tax-deductible) this time of year, so let’s make sure your cause gets their attention.

11 Simple Options to Increase Your Year-End Giving

1. Ask For Only One Thing

Chances are, you’re going to be asking for donations. If that’s the case, ask your tribe to show you the money. Don’t also ask them to follow you on social media, watch your latest video, join your Facebook Group (<— Oh, hey! I have one of those!), sign up for something . . . and, well, you get the point. Keep your emails and communication focused on the one, main thing you want them to do.

The exceptions to this rule would be something like a contest where they have to take multiple actions for an entry. Additionally, you can still leave some of these smaller asks in secondary spaces like footers. You can also still make some of these requests occasionally on your platforms.

However, when you are sending an email, posting about your campaign, or presenting to a group of people, keep it simple. Ask for only one thing. Don’t clutter your message.

Let’s look at the facts. According to Nonprofits Source, “30% of annual giving occurs in December.” So, this is no time to confuse people on what you want them to do! Giving them too many options or actions may even result in them taking no action at all. Yikes.

2. Evaluate Your Website For Optimal Giving

Even if people typically donate to your nonprofit through social media, text, or an app, get your website’s house in order to optimize year-end giving. Many people still give through websites, and if someone is new to you or your cause, they may check out your site before giving through another avenue like texting.

Make sure your campaign is front-and-center on your homepage, your donate button is easy to see and ideally in the top right corner, and evaluate any other pages where giving should be mentioned.

You don’t have to only designate one or two pages for fundraising efforts. Don’t bombard people, of course, but it may be appropriate to create an “event” for your campaign on your calendar page or add it to your About page. Additionally, you can create a banner at the top of your site that will display on all pages. (See mine in red at the top?) This is done through the “Hello Bar” plug-in on Wordpress and the “Announcement Bar” in Squarespace.

Want more of an explanation? Take a look at my video on how your website is less like IKEA and more like a mall.

3. Increase Your Promotion Frequency

There’s a tricky balance to this, and I explain it more in this video, but you definitely want to increase your email/social media/video/promotion frequency leading into year-end giving. This practice holds true with any launch, but especially because you’ll be dealing with a lot of competition during the holidays. Other nonprofits will be combing the interwebs for more donations, too, and lest we forget about all of those unbelievable sales at your favorite retail stores.

The takeaway here is that you shouldn’t send an email in November and December, post the campaign on social media a couple of times, and call it a day. You are going to have to work hard for that money, as the song goes. And you’re going to have to see it through until the end. Give Back Nation states that 12% of annual giving occurs during the last three days of December!

The caveat here is for my friends who’ve been so busy working that they let all their marketing and communications efforts fall by the wayside. Is that you? No judgement, but now’s the time to rev up those engines. Start now by sending your audience an email on what’s been happening, posting the latest on social media, and having general update conversations with people. This way you aren’t only going to send them a bunch of requests for money. That’s no bueno.

4. Offer Multiple Ways to Give

Give your people multiple ways to give. This goes back to the basics of knowing your audience. If you have a younger audience, consider adding the ability to donate via text. Check out these compelling stats from Mobile Cause, including the one that says, “96% of donors use a mobile phone as their primary device.”

If you have an older audience, you might want to consider hopping back on the snail mail wagon. There is no perfect answer here. There is only the answer that works for your tribe. Again, you always want to make it easy for them to give by removing any barriers in their path.

5. Add a Bonus

If you’ve got merchandise on your hands, you may want to give donors a gift in exchange for their contribution. You could even have something created just for this purpose, like a mug, tumbler, t-shirt, or jewelry.

People who are invested in your organization and your cause will be delighted to receive swag for their support. Plus, then they’re carrying your message around with them in public.

6. Get Up Close and Personal

I don’t need to go in-depth on this one, but a face-to-face interaction will always be your best bet. It works better than any sponsor presentation, email, video, or social media post. Get on the calendar of your biggest donors to date, or potential big givers, and make your case over lunch or coffee. Maybe even pay for it!

Another option here is to at least email people personally and start a conversation. Don’t rely on the mass emails that come from your organization. Write specifically to them, and make sure they know it’s coming straight from you. (For the right people, phone calls or video chats are also a good option here.)

Don’t have time? This is potentially the most powerful of all the ideas you’ll read here today, so if you don’t have time, I suggest you make it.

7. Get Everyone on Board

Year-end fundraising is an all hands on deck situation! Make sure your board, employees, volunteers, and any other key stakeholders are carrying the banner.

I talk about this topic a lot on the blog and elsewhere as it relates to launching, but this is a big deal, so it shouldn’t be left to the development or communications department. Everyone needs to be involved!

(For more, read this post.)

8. Go Outside

Yes, it’s getting chilly outside, but this may be the prime time to get out there and start cultivating more donors at events, whether you’re hosting them or not. There’s already plenty happening this season!

It’s easy to leave all of the fundraising to your digital marketing strategy, but shaking hands has a powerful impact on people. In fact, this study shows that “a handshake preceding social interaction enhanced the positive impact of approach and diminished the negative impact of avoidance behavior on the evaluation of social interaction.”

A handshake and a smile can put people at ease, and give you an open door for talking about your cause. Someone may not be ready to give during that first interaction, but you’re paving the way to a future relationship, which is a big win overall.

9. Participate in #GivingTuesday (At Least to Some Extent)

Some of you probably love #GivingTuesday, and some of you don’t. Some of you may even be new to the “holiday” as a whole, since it’s been around less than a decade.

Now in its seventh year, this unofficial holiday occurs the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and celebrates ways people can contribute to causes, whether monetary, through volunteering, or some other type of involvement.

A few of my clients have participated in #GivingTuesday in the past, but most haven’t. What I suggest to them all, however, is to jump into the mix in some way or another. There are tens of thousands of charities participating each year, so why not be a part of the conversation?

You don’t have to come up with a specific campaign for this purpose, but I think it’s a great idea to send an email on this day, post on social media about your campaign, and anything else that keeps you in front of your audience while numerous other nonprofits are out there seeking for donations.

Even the most generous of us still only have so much money to go around, so make sure you’re getting a piece of that pie.

10. Ask Partners to Promote

If you are lucky enough to have influencers, partners, sponsors, and the like who rally around your cause, it may be time to call in a favor. You may, of course, need to do something for them in return (or at least offer), but if there’s someone who can help you get your message out in the world, this could be a great time to rally the troops.

Let me sing my song again, though: Make it easy for them. Don’t just say thanks, and leave them to put together their own social promotions and emails. It’s less likely to get done, or the messaging may not be what you want. Always offer to create whatever resources they may need. If they don’t need you, great! But if they do, you’ll be the hero!

11. Recruit Someone to Match Gifts

I’ve left this one for last because it’s potentially the hardest. In fact, because we’ve crossed the line into November, it may even be too late. But depending on your resources, maybe not! I’d certainly give it a try. If it’s an option you need to table for now, make it one of your 2019 priorities.

And let me clarify. This section could include workplace charitable giving with a matching option, or one of those, “Give by December 1st and all donations will be matched up to $50,000” kind of campaigns that is instigated by one generous donor.

According to Double the Donation, “Mentioning matching gifts in fundraising appeals results in a 71% increase in the response rate and a 51% increase in the average donation amount (and that’s prior to receiving matching gift funds).” That stat makes it a big deal!

So, determine your heavy-hitters as well as your corporate partners, and see what it will take to move the needle in your direction. This could be a huge win for your nonprofit!

(Not sure where to start? We have a resource that may be a huge help to you, and it’s releasing in a couple of weeks! Stay tuned!)

What else has helped you haul in those end of year donations?



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People are feeling charitable (and tax-deductible) this time of year, so let’s make sure your cause gets their attention.

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.