The Secret to Happy Email Subscribers


While festive celebrations dominate our days as 2016 draws to a close, the new year will be here before we know it. Now’s the time to map out a communications strategy that will keep your audience engaged the whole year through!

But as you tackle your communications calendar, don’t fall into this all-too-common trap…


Valleys of Silence

We see a lot of organizations and companies that make the same fatal mistake. They’re so concerned about losing the subscribers they’ve worked so hard to get, they actually UNDER-communicate!

Here’s how it happens.

Most organizations find they spend a lot of time asking their subscribers to take action (ahem, that is, give them money) leading up to pinnacle dates through out the year, whether it’s an event, the final day of a membership drive, the conclusion of a fundraising campaign or the end of a big sale. We call this conversion marketing, and it’s a necessary part of your overall strategy if you’re going to stay afloat.

That’s why, if you look closely, you’ll likely find that your marketing calendar is full of peaks and valleys. And that’s totally normal. There should be active selling time as well as down time.

The danger is when down time becomes dead time.

Once that event’s over or that drive has ended, organizations tend to go on radio silence. Why? People tell us all the time — they’re afraid their readers will unsubscribe if they get too many emails.

But the problem isn’t over-communicating.

It’s over-asking.

In an interview with Anne Samilov on Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast, Anne describes your relationship with your subscribers like a bank — if you keep making withdrawals without making any deposits, you’ll eventually hit zero.


The Solution: Relationship Building

Your subscribers joined your list because they want to hear from you. And people buy from people they know and like.

But when you market only to sell, you miss a critical opportunity to support, educate and bond with your community.

Instead, focus on balancing your conversion marketing with “relationship marketing,” which (you guessed it!) focuses on building a relationship with your subscribers.

You can do this by using your valleys to schedule content that’s fun, interesting, educational and personal — just because.

The key is to keep the heartbeat pulsing, even while at rest.

Here’s your step-by-step:

  1. Map out your peaks.
    These are the key dates you need to lead up to every season — the events, the campaigns, the drives, the seasonal sales.
  2. Chart your inclines.
    These are the communications you ramp up leading toward your peak. When you’re done, there should be some valleys when you’re not really sending much about those big annual goals. If there aren’t any valleys, go back and adjust your ramps to create the valleys.
  3. Fill in the valleys with relationship content.
    Your valleys are the place for your relationship content. Think about what you can share that would delight and amaze your community and keep them glad they’re involved.


Ideas for filling in the valleys

At a loss for ideas to fill in the valleys? Here are six of our favorites:

  1. Offer general gratitude.
    A thank you for buying a ticket, making a donation or completing a purchase DOESN’T COUNT — you should already be sending personal thank you’s for that anyway! In addition, say thank you at Thanksgiving. We love you on Valentine’s Day. Send a random expression of gratitude. And whenever you can, work a thank you into the ideas below.
  2. Demonstrate impact.
    Tell about the child who’s beating her disease because of your subscribers’ support. Invite a customer to talk about how he sees more beauty after taking one of your art classes. Describe the economic improvements in the village you source your product from.
  3. Share progress stories.
    Are you constructing a new building? Working to solve an issue? Trying to eradicate a disease? Share updates on the progress you’re making toward your goal.
  4. Educate your readers.
    Whether you organize conferences, sell a product or work toward the common good, you have first-hand, inside knowledge about some subject or issue. Share some of it! Organize yoga retreats? Describe your latest go-to pose and its benefits (with pictures of course!). Offer catering services? Give tips on pairing wines and cheeses for a great party.
  5. Engage your readers in advocacy.
    Are you an issue-oriented organization? Let people know when they can take action on something that matters to them or when important legislation is on the table.
  6. Reveal your process.
    Do you run a successful school? Explain one of your teachers’ effective teaching methods or walk through a typical day. Make exceptional chocolate? Tell your readers how (without revealing your recipe!). Produce stellar shows? Take people behind the scenes of a rehearsal or explain the way you go about selecting your next production.

Time to go get planning! And, as always, let us know if you want help getting this project off your plate!







Spammers are Creeping in on Fundraising

Like you, I have to weed through a ton of spam every day. Sometimes it seems like the smartest minds in technology are not at Facebook and Google but somewhere I never heard of figuring out how to get into my inbox.

Typically it’s vacations and gadgets and miracle solutions for unmentionable things. But they are smart these spammers and look for any place the money is flowing. So – as we head into fall – it’s no surprise that they’ve discovered fundraising.

Have you seen any of these? I got this one this morning:

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Now, the letter is awful. It’s generic and un-personalized and non-specific.

But sadly, I’ve seen a ton of legitimate fundraising letters that do exactly the same things. The one I got from my college this year wasn’t much warmer.

And even sadder – they do some things BETTER than real fundraisiers. Have you ever thought to provide screen shot directions for how to donate online? That’s actually kind of brilliant.

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If you are relying on email to supplement (or replace) your print campaign it is time to step up your game.

  1. Generic makes you look like a spammer. I don’t know for a fact that this email is a fake organization, but it sure looks and reads like it to me. Don’t let your real organization get confused with spam. Every email system has the ability to personalize emails with the recipients name. Its one of the easiest ways to differentiate your message from spam.
  2. Make sure you are capturing first names as a field in your database. It is impossible to personalize if you don’t have the data.
  3. Use a domain-level email address. Emails from make you look like you are in a basement (or a bunker). Switching to an email that is gives back in trust much more than it costs in time and money.
  4.  Write something real. Include details, stories and images that show you know what your donors care about. That means collecting them in advance. Developing a quality appeal with no content is brutal. I’ve had to do it. If you haven’t started collecting your stories – start now. Get this guide if you need help with the process.
  5. Clean your list. People are terrified of unsubscribes. What you don’t know is low open rates are actually killing your deliverability. Email companies monitor what is happening with your list and if no one is opening it, they start to put ALL your email in the junk bin. Even for the people who want to see it. If you have people on your list that never open and never donate, its time to do a little purge. It will cut your costs and increase the effectiveness of what you do send.
  6.  Familiarity creates trust. People get a a ton of email and read it with one finger over the delete button. If you are relying it to boost your donations, developing a consistent memorable look and using it throughout your campaign will help people remember you. In traditional newspaper advertising, the rule was that it took 6-12 views of an ad for a viewer to take action. If you mail a letter, follow it up with an email series and share some posts on social that have the same story and images.
  7. Spy on the spammers. Take a look at what they are doing. What subject lines can you not resist clicking on? What makes you suspect something is spam? What makes you confident that clicking will be worth it?

You don’t want to be confused for a spammer – but you can study what they do to get your attention and use it for good.  Remember that your audience has a range of people from tech-savvy jaded millennials to my adorable 84 year-old father-in-law who still thinks I can email a physical piece of paper. You need to bring them all to a place of trust in order to win their gift.

If you could use some help building stronger connections with your campaign this year, please get in touch. Take a look at what we’ve been doing for the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind. There is still time to get help with your end of year efforts. If you need some DIY help this season, on Nonprofit Toolkit we have:









The 5 Steps to Building a Nonprofit Brand with Impact

BYBC_HeaderThe Basics of Branding for Nonprofits

Do you know that your organization is special but struggle with communicating it in a way that attracts the support you need?

Branding is a powerful tool that can change the trajectory of your organization. When done well, it can transform how you find and connect with your community.

If you have ever thought your organization needed branding but were not quite sure exactly how to get there then this is the program for you.

You’ll learn

  • The difference between a logo and a brand
  • Why your mission statement may be working against your brand
  • The easiest way to figure out who your audience really is — using information hidden in plain sight
  • The ONE form of research that reveals where you should focus your attention
  • The 5 steps you need to build your brand

Beth Brodovsky, Founder of Nonprofit Toolkit, introduces you to the ways branding will help you build momentum toward your vision.


Tuesday, July 12, 2:30PM EST
Presented by: Beth Brodovsky, Founder, Nonprofit Toolkit




Even if you can’t make it to the live presentation next week, sign up anyway. The program will be recorded, so you can watch when you are available.

You can submit your questions ahead of time, and we’ll do our best to answer them during the Q & A section of the program, so you don’t miss a thing!

See you Tuesday
~ Beth

WORKSHOP: The Infographic Movement

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Wednesday April 27

8:30am — 10:30am

The Montgomery County Foundation, Inc.

 4 Sentry Parkway East, Suite 302
Blue Bell, PA 19422


Registration is FULL. Thank you for your interest. Make sure your are subscribed to hear about our next workshop.

As the Internet grows ever more visual, infographics seem to be everywhere. This tool for turning complex ideas into simple visuals has become a powerhouse for sharing your content across media. For something that looks so effortless when its done, it can be amazingly hard to create one yourself.

This session breaks down the infographic movement to share how you can use this tactic in your marketing. We’ll discuss the ways you can convert content you already have into visual elements as well as how to create new media from scratch. From annotated illustration to data visualization, we’ll explore the ways visual information is changing how people connect with ideas.


Learning Objectives

  • The difference between data visualization and infographics
  • How to incorporate infographics in marketing
  • Where to find opportunities in content you already have
  • What makes a compelling graphic
  • How to create your own


Beth Brodovsky helps organizations drive participation. As the president of Iris Creative Group Inc., founded in 1996, Beth is committed to developing the communication strategies, tactics and tools organizations need to get people take notice — and take action. Beth also hosts the weekly podcast Driving Participation to share ideas on what’s working in marketing and fundraising communications.


How to Make a Multichannel Fundraising Ask


Guest Post Contributed by: Abby Jarvis, Communications Coordinator at Qgiv

As clichéd as it may sound, no two donors are alike. Each of your nonprofit’s supporters has a different giving preference whether that be check, cash, credit card, or other payment method. Some enjoy giving time over money. And others like giving many small gifts over one larger donation. Just like these preferences matter to your donors, so too do the ways in which you ask for those donations. But if you have more than a few donors, it’s sometimes difficult to know which methods donors like and respond best to.

The best way to alleviate this issue is to use a multichannel fundraising approach. With the multitude of ways for your nonprofit to get in touch with donors and ask them for donations, using a multichannel fundraising approach not only makes the most sense, but is also effective at bringing in more donations for your organization and helping you acquire more supporters.

Check out these best practices for using a multichannel fundraising approach before you start asking for donations:

1. Ask your donors which method they prefer.

Before you start mailing out hundreds or thousands of direct mail appeals or hit the send button on that email campaign, talk to your existing donors and connect with them. Find out which communication methods they have liked in the past.

Your nonprofit should be constantly assessing donor preferences whenever you make donation appeals:

  1. If a donor makes a contribution online, include an option on your online donation form where they can select how they’d like to be contacted.
  2. When talking to donors one-on-one, ask them whether they’d like to receive emails, direct mail, phone calls, or a combination.
  3. Have a table at your fundraising event where donors can indicate their communication preference.
  4. Include a form in your direct mail appeals that donors can fill out expressing how they’d like to stay in touch.

Asking donors how they’d like to be reached is a good first step on the road to making multichannel fundraising asks.

2. Don’t overdo it with email.

There’s nothing worse than ending up on the email list of a company that sends too many emails. It clutters up your inbox and causes needless frustration. Many people wind up unsubscribing from those emails.

Make sure your donors aren’t unsubscribing from your emails. Sending out email appeals makes sense for many nonprofits; it’s a cost-effective and efficient way to connect with donors and ask them for contributions.

But not every email should be a request for more money. Instead, you can:

  • Update donors on current projects they’re funding.
  • Offer volunteering opportunities.
  • Promote your next event.
  • Share success stories.
  • And more!

3. Go mobile.

If you’ve been to a coffee shop, bus station, or really any public place lately, you’ve probably noticed that nearly everyone is on their cell phone. Whether they’re calling their friends to make dinner plans or using an app to find the perfect place for dinner, almost everybody has a smart phone to their ear or in their hand.

How is your nonprofit showing up on donors’ phones?

Make sure that your website is optimized for mobile and tablet use. But even more importantly, have a mobile version of your donation form. This way, donors can give even when they aren’t sitting in front of their laptops or desktops. They can even donate while waiting in line for their coffee! In the past year alone, mobile giving has increased by over 200%! Make sure you aren’t missing out on those donations.

You can also try using text-to-give. Technology has made text giving easier than ever, and your nonprofit can’t afford to miss out on this simple way to bring in donations.Donors like the ease and convenience of giving on the go. Meet that demand and go mobile!

4. Train your staff members to make better asks.

While a lot of fundraising appeals can be made through digital avenues, sometimes a good old fashioned face-to-face donation ask can be the way to go. In fact, for your major gift solicitation, in-person donation appeals are pretty much the only way to go.

But your face-to-face meetings might not go well if you don’t properly train your fundraising staff members.Training your team might mean practicing making donation asks in a group setting. It could also mean sending your staff to a fundraising conference to learn more about the latest trends and techniques.Your staff won’t be properly equipped to make those important in-person donation appeals if you don’t give them the tools they need!

5. Don’t discount direct mail.

Even though email and social media donation appeals are more cost effective, there’s still something to be said for direct mail. Many donors prefer writing out a check, placing it in an envelope, and sending it off to a nonprofit. While not all of your donors will want to go through that process, there is a significant portion of your supporters who like the physical, tangible aspect of direct mail.

Sending out direct mail letters, postcards, and other materials can be a great way to ask for donations from those donors who prefer a more traditional giving method.

6. Do some digging.

Multichannel fundraising asks may seem a bit perplexing at first. How can you determine which communication methods will work best for each donor? You could try using a crystal ball or a psychic, but the surefire way is to simply do some research.Just like past giving is a great indicator of future giving, past success with donation appeals speaks to future success.

Look back at your fundraising asks. Did a particular email campaign bring in more donations than you thought it would? Did a speaker at a fundraising event spur the crowd into action?

Whatever your big-hitting donation appeal strategies were in the past, use them for your future multichannel fundraising asks.

7. Say thank you more than once.

There’s an old proverb that says, “Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot.” This isn’t just good advice for our personal lives; it’s also a good tip for nonprofits!Nonprofit fundraising and multichannel donation appeals aren’t just about asking for money and then walking away. You have to show your gratitude to your donors if you expect to form a lasting relationship with them. Whether your supporters make donations online, over the phone, in person, or with direct mail, you must have a comprehensive acknowledgement plan in place.

This plan might look something like this:

  1. Immediately thank a donor for their contribution. As soon as you receive the funds, you should be thanking the contributor.
  2. Send follow up information when appropriate. If a donor expressed a desire to volunteer or attend an event, get that info out as soon as possible. Use it as a way to thank the donor a second time.
  3. Acknowledge past donations in your current fundraising asks. If you send out a solicitation to a loyal supporter, mention their past contributions and give examples of how their funds are being used.

Naturally, this plan will need to be tweaked depending on how you ask for donations. The key is to express your gratitude more than once.

Multichannel fundraising asks don’t have to be complicated! By diversifying your donation appeal strategy, you’ll be able to reach more donors via their preferred communication method. Follow these seven tips and you’ll be bringing in more donations than ever!

4 Letters and Emails Your Nonprofit Should Send to Grow Your Matching Gift Revenue



Guest Post Contributed by: Adam Weinger, President of Double the Donation

It doesn’t make much sense for you to walk around with only one shoe, and it certainly doesn’t make sense for your nonprofit not to talk to your donors about matching gifts. Skipping the matching gifts talk is like going out the door with only one sneaker on your foot.

But how exactly should you go about promoting matching gifts to your donors?

You’ve probably got questions, but luckily, we have answers. Read ahead for more information about matching gift communications you should be sending out to help you bring in more matching gifts than ever! Check out these four donor communications your organization needs to send out to boost your matching gift revenue.

Take a look at this article to learn how better writing translates into stronger connections with your supporters.

1. Matching Gift Reminders

Your donors might not remember to submit their matching gift requests unless your organization reminds them to do so!

Mention matching gifts in your various donor communications including:

  • Invitations to your fundraising events like school art auctions, church family fun days, or organizational dinners.
  • Newsletter updates about ongoing or completed projects.
  • Donation appeals.
  • Thank you letters.
  • Emails about volunteering opportunities.
  • And more!

Whenever you communicate with donors via letter or email, make sure that you mention matching gifts at some point. When the opportunity to double their donation is fresh in their minds, they’ll be more likely to submit requests to their employers sooner rather than later.

You can either dedicate an entire email or letter to matching gifts, or you can briefly mention it. However you choose to let donors know about matching gifts, make sure you give them a way to find more information:

  • Include links in your emails to a matching gift tool or database where donors can look up their employers’ programs.
  • Encourage direct mail recipients to talk to their employers or their HR departments to learn more about matching gifts.

The more informed donors are about matching gifts, the more likely they will be to have their donations matched!

2. Matching Gift Acknowledgements to Donors

Everyone likes feeling appreciated, and your donors are no exception! If they’ve submitted a matching gift request to their employer and you’ve verified and received the funds, send out a thank you letter or email as soon as possible.


Well, you’re already thanking donors for their contributions after they make their initial donation. But the process of submitting, verifying, and receiving a matching gift can take weeks or even months. A donor might have completely forgotten that he or she even submitted a matching donation request! By sending out a matching gift acknowledgement after you’ve received a donor’s employer’s contribution shows that you see donors (and their employers!) as more than wallets or ATMs, an important component of donor stewardship.

And if you’re sending out emails on a regular basis, check out these five ideas for increasing your open rates!

3. Matching Gift Acknowledgements to Companies

Let’s not be too quick to forget who sends the second donation to your organization! Companies and businesses deserve recognition and gratitude just like donors do.

In fact, if you’re looking to form long-term partnerships with your donors’ employers, then you absolutely need to acknowledge the donations that they send your way.

This gratitude can take several forms:

  • If one company in particular matches the donations of several of your donors, you can feature the business on your website or in your letters and emails to donors. Thank them and explain what their donations are going toward.
  • Send a formal thank you letter to the companies that match employee donations. Have a senior executive or board member sign the letter to add a personal touch.
  • Send the company email updates on what their donations have helped accomplish (P.S., this will encourage them to give in the future!).

Fundraising with matching gifts wouldn’t be possible without the help of the companies that donate those second contributions. Make sure that you’re including them in your letter and email acknowledgements and follow up communications.

4. Invitations to Special Events

Whether someone had a major gift matched by their employer or they’ve repeatedly had donations doubled, you might consider hosting a special “Matching Gift Donor Day” and sending out invitations via email and direct mail. Sending out personalized invitations is a good way to remind your donors of their past contributions and encourage them to give in the future. Previous giving is the best indicator of future donations, but sometimes your supporters just need an extra reminder.

Your special event can be a fancy, black tie affair, or a more laid back social event. However you plan on thanking your matching gift donors, make sure that their invitations adhere to the following criteria:

  1. The greeting is personalized. No one starts out a party invitation with “Dear Friend,” and your nonprofit shouldn’t begin yours with “Dear Donor.” Get personal with your supporters and take the time to make each letter begin with their preferred name.
  2. The body of the letter makes mention of their previous donations. If you have a good enough relationship with your donors to invite them to a special event, your letter or email should definitely include a reference and acknowledgement of their past support.
  3. The letter doesn’t ask for another contribution. If you send out an invitation to a special event, don’t try to sneak in an extra donation appeal. It will only make donors feel isolated and unlikely to come to your event or donate again!

Your letter and email invitations should be special, just like your matching gift donors!

There are other letters and emails that you should be sending out to all of your donors, but these four examples are a great starting point if you want to start growing your matching gift revenue. Start asking for (and receiving) matching gifts by sending out these four letters and emails as soon as you can!

3 Mission Statement Mistakes that Nonprofits Make


Guest Post Contributed by: Jack Karako, Founding Principal & Strategist at IMPACTism

Whether your organization is saving puppies and kittens, combating inequality, or improving our environment, you need a mission statement to let people know exactly what it is you’re trying to accomplish.

Sure, supporters might spend thirty minutes looking at the “About” section on your website or flipping through a pamphlet they picked up at a fundraising event, but your mission statement will likely be the first indication individuals have of what your organization does and how you accomplish that vision.

In order to acquire new supporters and keep the ones you have, your nonprofit mission statement will need to meet a few requirements.

Take a look at your organization’s mission statement and make sure you aren’t making any of the following mistakes.


1. Your mission statement is too vague.

Consider the following hypothetical mission statement:

“We Help People.”

This sentence fails to address several questions.

  • What demographic of people is being assisted?
  • How is the nonprofit helping them?
  • What kind of support do they need from volunteers or donors?

This fake mission statement is far too vague to pack any sort of punch. Do they provide after school programs for children in under-developed areas, or do they support cancer research? It’s impossilbe to tell!

Instead, take a look at the Harmony Project’s mission statement:

“Building healthier lives and communities through music.”

This mission statement helps supporters understand what the Harmony Project does and how they accomplish that goal. If you want to engage new and existing supporters, make sure that you have a clear and specific mission statement.

For examples, check out this list of forty mission statements from all types of nonprofits.


2. Your mission statement is hiding.

If your supporters visit your website and can’t find your mission statement, you’re doing it wrong.

There are many ways to build your nonprofit’s audience, but having a bold and visible mission statement is one of the easiest and most effective tactics.

After you and your nonprofit staff have crafted a specific and effective mission statement, send it out into the world!

Place it:

  • On your website.
  • Within your emails.
  • On promotional items like t-shirts and water bottles.
  • On your social media pages.
  • On banners and flyers promoting your fundraising events.
  • Anywhere you can!

Your mission statement should be highly visible and remind supporters of the work that you do. Not only will you be able to briefly explain your nonprofit’s goal through your mission statement, but your new supporters will be uplifted knowing that they are contributing or volunteering with an organization that is committed to a specific vision.

You should be connecting with your supporters in a multitude of ways. Having a visible mission statement is just another tactic for making those effective connections.


3. Your mission statement isn’t part of your nonprofit’s culture.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of your organization and completely forget that you even have a mission statement.

If you want to avoid wearing out your nonprofit staff, remind them of the importance of the work they do by making your mission statement part of your organization’s daily culture.

When you consistently make your mission statement a priority at your nonprofit, you help your staff stay focused on what they’re trying to accomplish. Similarly to how you would include your mission statement in your communications to supporters, you should include it:

  • Within internal emails, perhaps in an email signature.
  • On business cards.
  • On letterheads.
  • Within your office space.
  • On company promotional items.
  • Anything else you can think of!

The key is to make your mission statement as visible to everyone as you can. Supporters, employees, and random strangers should read your mission statement, know exactly what you do, and possibly want to be a part of your cause.


If you aren’t sure where to start with your nonprofit’s mission statement, consider attending a nonprofit conference for inspiration. You can gain insight into how to craft an effective mission statement and meet nonprofit professionals who have years of experience in their fields. You’ll also be exposed to plenty of successful mission statements from your colleagues’ organizations. By avoiding these three mission statement mistakes, you’ll be poised for success!

5-Step Guide to Donor Communications After an Event

Guest Post Contributed by: Dan Quirk, Marketing Manager at Salsa

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There are few greater feelings in the world than the sense of accomplishment when you’ve completed a difficult task, such as the moments in the immediate aftermath of a fundraising event.

Your nonprofit has worked hard, gathered a great crowd, and raised money for your cause. Once the night is over, it is time to celebrate and revel in the fruits of your labor. Your team deserves to celebrate, but it’ll have to jump back into action pretty quickly. Post-event communications don’t write themselves.

Follow these five steps as you walk through your post-event donor communications.

Need event inspiration before you check out these donor communications tips? You can read DonorPro’s extensive compilation of fundraising event ideas here.


1. Gather necessary contact information before the attendees leave.

Okay, I know. Technically this step does not take place in the post-event world. This is something you’ll need to accomplish before and during the fundraiser. But, hey, the early bird gets the worm.

You can’t send out excellent post-event communications if you are missing the names, emails, phone numbers, and addresses of your attendees.

Yes, fundraising events are focused on fundraising. However, they are also an opportune chance for your organization to deepen its relationship with supporters. You will not be able to build on your time with those supporters if you have no means of reaching them afterwards.

To ensure that you gather the necessary contact information:

  • Request those details during the event registration and store the data in your CRM. With the right donor database software, you should be able to set up registration and ticketing pages online and seamlessly collect all the requisite information.
  • Actively seek out those details while the event is occurring. This method of data collection is going to vary from event to event. For some, this might mean putting contact cards on dinner tables, while for others it might include asking everyone to put their details down to be entered into a raffle. Find creative ways to get the necessary donor data for post-event follow-up.

If you didn’t get enough information to move forward with, there’s an option for you. *Hint* It’s step two!


2. Prospect screen to fill in any blanks.

Now we’re officially on to post-event donor communication tips. Maybe your gala attendees brought plus ones that you didn’t have details on or your walk-a-thon walkers invited friends to watch you weren’t expecting. With the influx of new people, you collected some complete contact cards, but, for many, you only secured a name and maybe one other detail.

Worry not! Let prospect research fill in the personal data blanks. The more details you have, the better you’ll be able to research, but even with limited information, prospect research can fill in enough blanks for your nonprofit to be able to effectively communicate.

Once you have the right details to be able to reach out to your event attendees, prospect research can also assist you in getting to know them better so that you can customize your communications and stewardship.

Your screening could reveal that a few of your guests are high-quality major gift or planned giving prospects. You won’t know until you look, though.


3. Segment your attendees into communication groups.

Now that you know a little more about each of your guests, it is time to segment them. You could send them all the same emails and series of follow-ups, but that doesn’t serve you, your mission, or, most importantly, your supporters in the ideal way.

When it comes to doing the actual work of segmenting, you have options depending on your nonprofit’s need, such as grouping guests according to:

  • Expected giving level. That way, you can funnel monthly giving prospects down one communication path and major giving prospects down another.
  • Future event interest. Take your list of guests and compare it to your events calendar. Find the right events for the right supporters and send invites accordingly.
  • Preferred communication channel. Through careful tracking of donor preferences in your CRM and potentially a post-event survey, you should be able to ascertain how each attendee likes to be contacted. Within your organization’s resources and budget, try to cater to donor preference as much as possible.

There are plenty of other ways to segment your attendee list. You can personalize your segmentation efforts according to the needs and resources of your nonprofit.


4. Start with your thank yous.

Immediate gratitude is the first step in donor retention. As such, it has to be a step in your post-event donor communications.

The first communication an attendee should receive from you following an event is a thank you.

Your thank you should include:

  • A salutation with the donor’s name .
  • A direct, genuine thank you for attending.
  • An acknowledgement of any additional donations the guest made during the event with further instructions if needed.
  • A summary of what the event was able to accomplish thanks to the generous participation of the guests.
  • A signature from one of the more prominent event organizers, whether that’s a development officer at your organization or the event chair or both.

Your supporters offer so much more than money. Show them that you value the relationship you’re building before diving into solicitation mode.


5. Move attendees into your email list.

The heading here says email list, but it doesn’t necessary have to be email. If a donor feels like email is a source of spam, you’re not going to be able to connect with the donor that way, so it isn’t worth your time.

The point of this step is to emphasize that after an event, the ball is in your organization’s court. It is up to you continue the relationship. Adding guests to an email list is one way of doing so. You don’t want to fade from their memory, so sending email newsletters is the perfect, cost effective way to stay in touch without overwhelming them. Make sure your newsletter includes calls-to-action and is donor-centric, not organization-centric.

There’s a right way and there’s a wrong way to manage email, so check out this advice to avoid giving subscribers email fatigue.

Once you’ve gone through this process with your next few events, your team will be able to follow the steps in their sleep. At a certain point in the not-too-distant future, study your communication performance using fundraising success metrics. You’ll find out your strengths and weaknesses and account for them after your next fundraising event. Happy hosting!

French Lessons in Donor & Visitor Engagement

How is your summer? I am just back from Paris, the beautiful Loire Valley and sunny Provence in France. It was my first trip to Europe. When you have babies in your 20s and start a business at 30 there isn’t much time for travel.

I went with my brother to celebrate his 50th birthday. We figured going someplace where everything was half a millennium old would make being half a century old seem young. And clearly I have spent too much of my life catering to children. I kept looking at quaint French villages and thinking they look just like Disney.

Every day was filled with visits to museums and historical monuments and sites. Somehow it was all so much more interesting than when I had to take Art History in college. I was supposed to be on vacation, but kept seeing examples of visitors and donors more deeply connected so I thought I’d share a bit with you.


We started out in Paris where my friend Katia Blanchard Lapeyre, Private Events Manager at la chez Musee de Louvre was able to give us a guided tour.

Did I mention it was on Tuesday when the Louvre was closed! We got to see the Mona Lisa all by ourselves.  I am still pinching myself. 

Katia said the Louvre has only recently begun individual giving. Despite it’s size, even they cannot afford to acquire everything the want so they decided to experiment to find other ways to fund acquisitions. They created a very focused campaign to buy a piece of furniture. Initially, individuals could contribute as little as 1 euro to become part of the effort. They hung a huge banner in the museum about the campaign and have some simple temporary banners listing the donor names. It was hugely successful in getting new people involved and really ended up working like an internal crowdfunding campaign.

The Louvre is also using their brand very effectively in their events to create really individualized experiences for donors. Katia shared the work she has been doing to create enticing major giving packages that include allowing the donor to hold an event in the museum as part of the opportunity.  Luckily for you I recorded our conversation and it will be coming out as a podcast in a few weeks. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes to be sure to catch it.

Next we headed southwest to Chartres Cathedral. Cathedrals were my favorite part of Art History. I am fascinated by the fact that people could imagine and construct something so massive and enduring so long ago. This version of Chartres was begun in 1194. It has these crazy mismatched spires that I love. One got struck by lightning in 1506 and that architect decided rebuild it in the High Gothic flamboyant style. You know what its like when the new boss comes along and wants to chase the latest trends…Noah_IMG_1833

On this trip I got to see the inside and hear the story of the windows. Back in the 12th century, the cathedral was the place for education and the center of the community. The windows each tell a story. Most people couldn’t read so they translated the stories into pictures so all the people could participate. A critical part of storytelling is making sure your intended audience understands. That is often missed in all the talk about the importance of storytelling. This one is the story of Noah.  Click here for  a key to reading the panel. My favorite is scene #33 — Noah getting drunk. Nice to know they had a sense of humor in the dark ages.

The other interesting fact about these windows is that they were donated by groups of craftsmen and merchants. Colored glass windows were expensive.  Specific windows were donated by the butchers, the farriers, the shoemakers, etc. Just like putting your name on a building, the donors are showcased in the panels.

For more than 800 years people have come together to contribute to creating something greater than themselves. To literally become part of the story. It was really inspiring.

On Creating Experiences

Further south we stopped to visit Chambord Castle. We had to see it. My parents used to give us Chambord Liqueur when we had a cough as kids. My parents are awesome.

The Chateaus are now mostly state run organizations. Who else could afford to heat them? Here we saw some interesting things in visitor engagement.   Many places only have tours and signage in French, which I can’t speak at all. I came here knowing the art terms trompe l’oeil and papier-mâché. Not the most helpful travel words. I have since picked up the much more useful “toilette”.

Many sites had what looked like great apps that gave you an enhanced experience of the site. The Eiffel Tower, Versailles, the Chateaus all had them. But we found out about them on a sign at the site which, if we were lucky, had some English. I now appreciate the design and accessibility challenge of deciding when to offer translation. They provided a QR code to download the app, but I had removed the reader to save space for pictures. And, as foreigners, we didn’t have cell service to download it on site. This is where a wifi hub would have been brilliant.

At Chambord, they offered a rented ipad with a virtual reality tour and a treasure hunt for kids. There were cute icons all over and clues that families could search together. It was a perfect choice for that specific space since it was cavernous and had almost no furniture. Running kids were no problem and no one was whining or crying. I’ve dragged my kids on educational excursions so I know how rare and blessed that is.

Technology has been growing as an engagement enhancer to onsite experiences. One of my staff was at Universal Studios the same week. She bought her son a magic wand in Harry Potter World. Throughout the park there were medallions in the ground that showed a wand movement and spell to say that would trigger some action around them.

The worlds of education and entertainment draw closer together every day.  It will be interesting to see if the new beacon technology will take hold and add something valuable. I could see this working well at museums, conferences, city, garden and college tours. Have you tried it in your organization? I’d love to hear from you so we can share it on the podcast.

Lifting Your Head Up

I’m not known as a good vacationer. I haven’t had a lot of practice and, as you can see, I’m still squeezing in a little work. This year I am trying to learn that stepping away from the day-to-day is important. I can’t tell you how many times I have sent a designer or a writer home because they were fighting the problem only to come in the next morning and nail it.

Stepping away and thinking about other things can really spark creativity. I need to remind myself of this. You may too.

I hope you took some time this summer to change gears, and do something that re-energizes you and shifts your perspective.

Being in Europe was a rare treat for me. Its totally different, and I was mostly without my beloved technology.  I left my laptop in the care of my staff. I couldn’t look things up on Google, research restaurants on the go or check directions. I had to actually look around and live in the moment, make uninformed choices, wander, get lost and not ask Siri for help. It was unsettling and disruptive. That probably means I need to do it more.

Next summer I’ll head to Spain with my youngest son to celebrate his college graduation. He speaks the language so I’m basically trading translation for transportation.  I’m looking for new friends with connections for private tours there now…call me!

3 Ways Prospect Research Can Help You Market to Your Donor Population


Guest Post by Sarah Tedesco, Executive Vice President at DonorSearch


Donors are savvy. They know when they are being ‘handled’ and when they are being connected with.

It doesn’t take much, but donors want to feel appreciated and seen by the organizations they give to.

With the ongoing challenges of donor acquisition and retention, nonprofits should use every tool at their disposal to take their marketing strategies to the next level.

Prospect research should be a part of every nonprofit’s tool belt.

A well-executed prospect screening can unveil a treasure trove of information about both prospects and donors. With those details revealed, fundraisers can cater their marketing efforts to the donors in an accurate and highly personalized manner.

Once a development office knows the potential of specific donors, that team can adjust its marketing strategy to best solicit maximum funding from those key supporters.

Donor-centric marketing should be a top focus of fundraising organizations, and prospect research can help fundraisers zero in on what makes their donors tick.

To help get your prospect research-enabled marketing going, here’s a list of 3 ways that screening can aid in the marketing process.


#1 Uncovering Major Gift Prospects Hiding in Plain Sight


We often think of prospect research in terms of what it can reveal about potential donors, but it can also provide a wealth of game changing data on your current donor population.

With a prospect screening, you can learn who of your annual fund donors has the potential to be a major gift donor. Annual fund donors are already loyal to your cause, so making the switch to a major gift is easier than starting from scratch.

For example, a donor who has given numerous $150 contributions to your cause over five years could be revealed as someone who gave an $8,000 gift to another organization.

The opportunity is there, exposed by prospect research, and ready to be acquired through marketing.

Once you know who your existing major gifts prospects are, your development staff can put in the extra effort help encourage the transition to major gift donor.

This more targeted marketing can be anything from highly personalized acknowledgements to additional check-in phone calls from staff to meeting for a meal out.

The good news is that with prospect research information, your staff can spend additional time marketing to potential high quality donors and know their time is being well spent.


#2 Identifying Planned or Deferred Giving Prospects


In a similar vein to number 1 on our list, prospect research can identify who among your donor population is a likely candidate for planned or deferred giving.

Most organizations don’t know where to begin when looking for planned or deferred giving prospects, even though 78% of planned giving donors gave 15 or more gifts to the nonprofits named in their wills during their lifetimes.

Given that statistic, there clearly are predictive behaviors of planned givers, and prospect research will help your nonprofit make those predictions.

Once your staff has a group to focus on, they can begin the rather unique marketing courtship of planned donations.


#3 Singling Out High Quality Prospects Before or After Events


Events are can be major sources of funds for nonprofits. Whether it’s a gala or a golf tournament, an event can render a huge financial boost.

With such a high value event, marketing before and afterwards needs to be catered towards soliciting big donations.

In order to secure big donations, your organization is going to need to have:

  • a great guest list
  • superior donor service during the event
  • an excellent method of post-event follow up

Prospect research during the planning of, for example, a gala, can help define the guest list.

If the guest list is already defined, you can screen that to isolate who your staff needs to spend invaluable face-to-face time with during the event.

The experience during the event is also a great promotional opportunity for your cause in general, and any specific campaigns you’re running.

Let’s consider a push for matching gifts, for instance. At a gala you hopefully have a large subsection of your high quality donors in attendance. Sometime during the gala, either by an announcer or via pamphlets on tables, bring up the topic of matching gifts and how easy it is for donors to increase their donations with help from their companies.

Starting a dialogue about matching gifts deliberately in the presence of pre-screened high quality donors could yield massive donations for your organization.

Once the gala is finished, the attendees can be screened to determine how best to approach acknowledgement and continued engagement.

The goal with all three of these prospect research benefits is to better enhance the marketing relationship between donor and fundraiser.

Development staff are usually stretched very thin. Money is tight and always in demand. Employees need to be able to make the most of their efforts. Prospect research is a great way to maximize fundraising efforts.

Prospect research can focus a campaign by prioritizing donation targets.

Customized marketing can only happen when organizations have a specific sense of who is being solicited, what they should be solicited for, and what the organization has the chance to gain.

Prospect research answers those questions.



“Sarah Tedesco is the Executive Vice President at DonorSearch, a prospect research and wealth screening company that focuses on proven philanthropy. Sarah is responsible for managing the production and customer support department concerning client contract fulfillment, increasing client retention, and customer satisfaction. She collaborates with other team members on a variety of issues including sales, marketing and product development ideas.”

Iris Creative Group Inc. • 451 S. Bethlehem Pike, Suite 310 • Fort Washington, PA 19034 • P: 267.468.7949
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