Nonprofits, on average, keep only 21% of donors after the first gift. This means 8 out of 10 donors will never be seen or heard from again. What a tremendous waste of potential!
The reason why? Most nonprofits traditionally spend more resources on donor acquisition because they view it as a quick and effective way to increase revenue. Let’s face it – we all like new and shiny. It’s more exciting.
But wait. Donor retention, in reality, is often a much faster way to increase fundraising revenues, and a lot easier too. Because you’re picking low-hanging fruit. You’re preaching to the choir.
For-profits know this, which is why they retain closer to 9 out of 10 of their customers. They understand that, on average, retention costs up to seven times less than acquisition.
Businesses simply cannot afford to lose 80% of their customers every year.
Can you imagine folks buying one pair of Nike shoes, then never again? One Coca-Cola, then never again? One box of Tide detergent, then never again. These businesses could not survive.
Neither can your nonprofit.
I know how difficult it can be to persuade the “powers-that-be” to add resources specifically to improve retention. I know you’ve got a lot on your plate, so it’s difficult to imagine adding something else. So… what about adding a relatively inexpensive donor retention strategy into your existing donor development plan?
Let’s talk about social media.
Stay with me.
Even if you think this doesn’t apply to you because you don’t have a lot of Millennial, or even Gen-X, donors. You need to think differently. Everyone is online now. Brian Solis calls this “Generation C” (the “C” is for “connected”). And every one of the 5 distinct generations of donors nonprofits work with falls into this category. All of them use social media. Some, a lot more than you might think.
In fact, 65% of adults now use social networking sites– a nearly tenfold jump in the past decade
Just because the majority of your donors may be in the 50-70 bracket, don’t be lulled into thinking they’re not online. 64% of those ages 50 to 64 and 48% of those 65 and older use Facebook, still the most popular social media site. But you might be surprised that 22% of those age 50 and older use Pinterest and 15% of this demographic uses Instagram. Your donors ages 74+ are the fastest-growing demographic on social networks. 52% of online adults use multiple social media.
By the way, 65% of social networking occurs on a mobile device. So you’d be wise to invest in a tablet and smartphone for your development staff so they can check out how easy (or not) it is for folks to engage with you using mobile devices.
When you look at the data, it becomes clear that people of all generations are online and using social media platforms. So why not use this to your advantage and leverage technology to strengthen relationships with your peeps?
Let’s take a look at a number of ways to do this.
Nonprofit Social Media Strategies to Strengthen Donor Relationships
1. Take Folks Behind the Scenes
One of the best ways to make donors feel special, and more connected to your organization, is to give them an “insider” view.
TIP: Make a behind-the-scenes video of your work in action; then upload to Vimeo or YouTube and share as a link via social media.
TIP: Conduct an intimate interview with your executive director, or a doctor, scientist, principal ballerina or program director; then share via a link.
TIP: Share some personal photos of volunteers helping further your mission
2. Acknowledge, Thank and Delight
Always be thinking of new ways that you can acknowledge donors, sponsors, and supporters on your social media channels. Think from your donor’s perspective. What’s something that might surprise them in a positive way? You want donors to feel like they’re more than just checkbooks to you.
TIP: How about shooting a short video on your smartphone, and then using Vine or Instagram to share with your donors? Or what about uploading a brief video of your staff saying “Thanks, Susie Supporter!” to Vimeo or YouTube, and send this as a Twitter link? (see “You Did It. Thank You” video by One Justice).You can send this to a group of supporters, or even to a single individual. If you want to see how to rock online thank you’s, try making a small donation to Charity: Water. They do an amazing job.
TIP: How about using Canva or PicMonkey to create a cute, funny or inspiring graphic to show your donors how much they’re appreciated? And, of course, make sure you thank them with no strings attached and no further ask. The goal is to show them they mean more to you than they even thought they did – which means giving them little gifts.
3. Recognize and Honor
Praise grows in a group setting. Most folks love it when their friends get to see a compliment that was made about them.
TIP: Fan, follow, friend and favorite your donors – so all the world can see! Ask to connect with them and/or endorse them on LinkedIn. Retweet some of their tweets. Share some of their Facebook posts. Comment on any articles they post.
TIP: Join discussion groups your donors are in (e.g. on LinkedIn). This has the added benefit of creating broader awareness and establishing your authority in your field.
TIP: Create a Pinterest board to which you can “pin” your “Star Supporters,” “Razoo Raisers,” and “Legacy Leaders.” Or simply pin photos you’ve taken of volunteers volunteering (see Habitat for Humanity), Gala goers partying (see San Francisco Symphony) or walkathon participants walking (see Avon Breast Cancer Walk).
4. Share Your Story and Make Your Donor the Hero
Social media provides an amazing way to communicate with donors in real time. Just go to where your donors are hanging out (the online water cooler is remarkably large and easy to locate) and begin to share what’s up at your nonprofit. Make your donors smile when they see the results their gift helped achieve.
Drip bits and pieces of stories throughout the day and week on various channels. Have different characters in your story share their perspectives. Your staff. Your clients. Your volunteers. Paint a vivid picture, using words, images, and video, of the great accomplishments achieved through your donors’ philanthropy.
Stay top of mind with daily Facebook postings, regular tweets, Pinterest “pins” and Instagram photos. Get into the habit of social storytelling.
TIP: Live tweet from your events. This allows folks to feel connected to your story — even if your event is happening halfway around the world.
TIP: Share images in your Twitter feed. Check out the Charity: Water twitter feed. It’s replete with pinnable photos that not only make supporters feel good but also makes them want to share and retweet. So your donor retention strategy can spill over into a donor acquisition strategy! And the story line continues.
TIP: Tell your stories on Facebook. On the Make A Wish Foundation Facebook page, for example, there are videos, pictures, names, and emotionally heartrending stories of children who have been touched by the foundation’s efforts. Supporters are often moved to comment, like and share these posts.
TIP: Upload your story to video; then share as a link (see “The Faces of Opportunity” video by Opportunity Fund).
5. Host an Exclusive Social Media Event
Getting donors involved in “insider” events is a great way to build loyalty and drive positive engagement.
Consider a Google Hangout, a special invitation-only Facebook group or a public event such as a Tweetchat. You can feature a conversation with your Executive Director and/or Board Chair. Or perhaps give folks an opportunity to “Ask the Expert” and feature one of your program professionals.
Online events require minimal planning (as long as you have technology support) and have the benefit of providing your constituents with an opportunity to learn more about areas of particular interest, offer their opinions and advice, and get their questions answered. You’ll also learn a lot, and maybe end up with new content ideas for your website, email newsletter and/or blog.
TIP: Talk with your donors to see what kind of online event they would like to participate in. Would they invite their friends and colleagues? What time of day/day of the week would work best? Would they like to be directly involved?
Who’s in Charge?
Now that you know the facts, and have some ideas, how are you going to connect with folks online? Is this a job for your fundraising staff or your marketing staff?
Ay, there’s the rub. The quick answer is both.
The longer, and better, answer is you absolutely need to integrate marketing and fundraising.
No more silos.
The digital age has put a nail in the coffin of separate marketing strategies for different departments.
Your customer (aka donor) only knows one you.
They want consistent messaging. And they want you to be all about them.
This is why one of the business memes du jour is “customer experience.” And marketing is emerging as the new, integral connection point.
Presenting a united front to the world is essential if you want your vision to be crystal clear and your mission compelling. And if you want to fulfill your brand promise to your constituents. They need to know what to expect from you. They need to get it. Repeatedly.
How do you develop and maintain consistent, ongoing, high-quality experiences for your existing supporters?
You sit down. Together.
Marketing and fundraising. Fundraising and programs. Staff and volunteers. Everyone’s role is appreciated. You’re all partners in driving your mission forward.
You get social.
Social means “relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other.” A social strategy is an engagement strategy. A two-way, not a one-way, street.
WHAT TO DO: If your goal is keeping and upgrading more donors to fulfill your mission, then make a social road map to get yourself there. In addition to the specific tips suggested above, make sure everything is within a larger context. In other words,
- Begin with a social media content plan, keeping in mind that the key is to purposefully and consistently offer the gift of relevant, constituent-centered, actionable content. This means focusing on the message, not the medium.
- Create and stick to a strategic social media routine to strengthen donor relationships.
- Engage broadly; don’t isolate social media use to one person or department.
- Engage with purpose; don’t just randomly post to social channels. It’s got to have purpose (see Why Winging It with Social Media No Longer Works).
- Build a social task force that cuts across departments. Don’t relegate social to a marketing, fundraising or IT silo. Include stakeholders from all relevant functions, including HR, customer service, and programs. This will move your social strategy front and center and ensure it meets your organization’s overall business objectives.
- Develop social media guidelines so messaging is single-minded in tone and purpose.
Leveraging social media won’t help you meet your goals unless you know where you’re going with it. Communication should have a purpose. Remember, yours is to strengthen relationships with existing donors, so your nonprofit survives and thrives. Whenever you engage. Out of context, social media exchanges are just transactions. Ask yourself this question: What am I going to do to make this exchange mean something, now and in the future?
What ideas do you have for using social media to strengthen relationships with donors?