Although uncomfortable, the job of any non-profit is to ask supporters for financial support. The work you are doing is extremely important. But to accomplish that work, the non-profit needs financial assistance. Your supporters realize this and want to give. But you have to ask them, and most of us are not asking enough.
That being said, we don't want to fall into the opposite trap of asking too much, too often. Sending 3 Direct Mail packages a week, along with 4 direct ask emails, and 5 Facebook posts about your new fund raising campaign, will begin to wear thin with your supporters. We need some balance in all are fund raising efforts. We want to ask our supporters for financial assistance at certain designated intervals. We also want to keep them informed of past, present, and future projects. We also want to celebrate with us we our projects are a success, and introduce them to the people they have helped.
Simply put, not all content should be a direct asks (although again, you should directly ask for financial support and you are probably not doing enough of it).
You must make a concerted effort to inform your supporters about the progress and goals and accomplishments of your organizations. Your supporters should know who you are, what you are doing, and who they are helping. They are not just donors, they are partners. There is a long list of ways to do this, and a lot of ways to do it - newsletters, updates, stories, videos, pictures all delivered through email, Facebook, direct mail, and twitter are ways to reach your supporters and keep them up-to-date.
One of our favorite ways to do this at LDMI is through newsletters. These can be sent out monthly, quarterly, or bi-yearly. They can be seen via direct mail, or delivered easily though email. You can post article on Facebook, or remind people about them through you twitter updates. You shouldn't feel the need to inject a direct ask into each of these, but do remember to at least give the reader a opportunity if they so desire.
Just last year, we helped a a new organization develop their small list of 1084 supporters to a robust (and growing) 4803 supporters in just under 9-months. One of the key elements in this campaign was the newsletter.
There are 2 important points we noticed from this campaign (click here to see the case study).
The first is that although the Newsletter themselves had a small ROI in the house file, we noticed that the subsequent Direct Mail asks saw a marked increase. The overall donations increased over the course of the year – as was expected, since the size of the House file was increasing throughout the year. But more importantly, the ROI of each Direct Mail package increased steadily. We saw a rise from an ROI of $2.23 in the first package, to $3.46 in the second, to $3.88 in the final. We fully expect this trend to continue into the next year.
Secondly, we included one Newsletter in our prospecting program. (Remember Prospect Packages are a key element in the growth and sustainability of any organization (click here to learn about Prospect Packages)). Not only did this Prospect newsletter actually make money (a rare feat for a prospect package) it actually saw our donor list nearly double.
These donors are now part of your non-profits family for years.
But just sending the newsletter through the mail is not enough. Remember:
send the newsletter via email. We like to send the lead story through email with a link and landing page to the entire newsletter.
Post the newsletter on Facebook. You can do this with an image of the entire newsletter or just the headline and picture
Link to it through all your other social media channels – tweet about a story or the release of the newest newsletter, put a “Newsletter” tab on you website, make sure your blog readers know you have a new one out.
Again, these newsletters (or e-newsletter) need not have a Direct Ask, they are “soft asks”. So make sure your readers have the opportunity to give. Make this easy and clear, but the ask should not drive the newsletter.
The newsletter is primarily a bonding tool. It links your supporters to your organization. It makes them aware of what you are doing together, what they are supporting, and what you are accomplishing.
Also, check out our new ebook on Optimizing Your Facebook Page: