Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Does your small nonprofit need more cash?

The number one complaint Cloudlancer Writing Services receives from new and smaller nonprofits is that they are largely left out of the grant funding loop.

Either the grantmakers want several years in business, a revenue average of from $100K to $1 million, they aren't taking applications, or all of the above.

News flash…you don't need their grants to stay afloat and even grow.

The second largest source of funding for all nonprofits (after fees paid for services) is funding by individuals.

You say you have a donation button but no one clicks on it?
To increase donations you need to think like a marketer.

Good marketing doesn't initially focus on the product. It focuses on the needs of the audience for the product or service, and maintains a consistent message across all platforms.

In the case of nonprofits, when you need donations, ask yourself what your typical donor wants to see or hear.

To understand that connection, think about the sudden uptick in ads for those copper/ceramic coated cooking pans.

The infomercials don't start out telling you why their skillet or pan is the greatest.

Instead the ad spends well over half the time reminding you why you hate your Teflon™ coated cooking utensils.

The ad overtly capitalizes on your desire for a better cooking experience, while covertly appealing to your interest in new and healthier eating trends.

Learn the difference between grant proposals and donor marketing

Unlike grant applications, which tend to be program-specific, your core mission can work as your product when marketing to individual donors.
Individual donors are far easier to sway to your cause than the grant making institutions, there are a lot more of them and they are a lot easier to reach.

To market to them, think about why they donate. (Hint:  It's not because your organization can't pay the utilities this month.)

What do they get out of donating?

For some it might be personal because they are, or know someone who is, affected by the problem your programs seek to solve.

For others it might be a general sense of responsibility to society or perhaps it just makes them feel good to help.

This can  take a little detective work.  In the business world, it's called market research, in the nonprofit world it's donor outreach research.

Because everyone's circumstances change,  it's something you have to stay on top of to be successful over the long haul.

It's a bit more complicated than having me or anyone else write a boilerplate program narrative, but customization and attention to detail will pay off.

There are a number of approaches that will work under different circumstances. It can be a blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, snail mail, a really well-designed website, or a combination of all of those.

Whatever you use, be sure that your message, your brand if you will, is consistent. That might be a common tagline, the name of your organization, or a visual, but it needs to become something uniquely identified with you.

Speaking of your audience, it pays to know who they are demographically. That allows you to tailor your appeals to their income comfort level.

Conventional wisdom says you should keep your smallest donation request above $25 or even $35 dollars.

I don't agree. One urban agriculture-centered nonprofit found that by starting with a very low minimum donation of five dollars, they were able to grow their donor base and increase their online donation traffic  by 350% the first year. The next year they dropped the $5 category, and 89% of their donors just switched to $10 without a second thought. Another seven percent actually moved up to the $15 level.

The secret for that campaign was the money was tied to what it would buy; seed packets, a hand trowel, a bag of fertilizer and so on. This image-heavy strategy didn't need 1000 words to explain where the money would go…just a picture and maybe five or ten words.

The idea there is that you want to build up a habit of supporting your nonprofit first and work to increase the average donation amount as you go along.   

Need help?  Drop me a line at Let's talk about making your "donate here" button really pay off.