This blog will help you win loyal friends for your nonprofit organization. I'm Dennis Fischman, and I approved this message.

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Be Kind, Always, but Especially in December

Be kind always

This is a more personal message than I usually post, and I hope you will take it to heart.

You may have seen the message floating around Facebook.  “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

I can tell you that the message is true, and it’s important…and never more important than during a holiday season.

 And especially in December.
How do I know?

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5 Reasons You Need Great Communications Even If You Don’t Need Donors

I want your opinionOkay, readers, I’m asking your opinion. Who’s right here?

The CEO of a large nonprofit organization recently said to me:

Our agency gets almost all its funding from government, not from donors. We get almost all our clients through referrals, not from publicity. We need good relationships with state and federal officials and with other agencies. We don’t need communications. If the person who does our website and social media were laid off tomorrow, I’d never miss her.

I think the CEO is wrong. Here’s why.

  1. Government funding for human services depends on public support. If you’re a rich industry and can buy influence, you can get government to act in ways that the public doesn’t support. Human services cannot “pay to play.” If the public doesn’t generally approve of what you do, there’s no reason for elected officials or bureaucrats to continue funding you.
  2. Public support can keep the budget axe from falling. At the federal level, the next Congress will probably try to cut whole programs–especially those that help the people who need help the most. Without public support, you’re an easy target.
  3. Public support depends on communications. Opinion leaders have to know, like, and trust your organization. It’s up to you to make sure they do.
  4. Good writing and social media strengthen face-to-face relationships. Even the people you “do business with” regularly may have a hard time explaining what you do. Giving them handouts and newsletters, and keeping your organization on their radar with email, website updates, and social media, helps them make good referrals (and speak well of you to funders).
  5. When you start something new, you need donors.  Most government money is restricted to specific purposes. Your agency may want to try something innovative, or pilot a program you’ve never run before. Getting a grant to do that might take forever. Having unrestricted donations lets you get started now.

What do you think? Are there agencies that don’t need communications, or is a great communications program a “have to have” for every nonprofit?

The One Way to Get Donors to Give Again and Again

59% of donors don't repeatDoes your nonprofit live and die by donations? Chances are you’re dying.

You work so hard to get a donation, especially at the end of the year. By next year, however, more than half those donors–59%–will disappear. You will never hear from them again.

It’s even worse with new donors. Three-quarters of them never repeat.

This is a race nonprofits can’t win.  That’s why your nonprofit will die, maybe even in 2015…unless you find a way to make donors want to give to you again and again.

Fortunately, there is a way.

How can you increase the chance that a person who gave once will give again?

People give their first gift to your organization for a variety of quirky reasons. When they  continue to give, it’s for one reason: because they have come to know, like, and trust you.

People give when you build a relationship with them, and the key to that relationship is great communication.

Great communication begins with the thank-you letter, but it doesn’t end there. A newsletter is a good thing, too, but a newsletter full of what’s happening inside your organization will do nothing to keep your donors.

So what kind of communication does work? A June 2014 survey by nonprofit technology research firm Software Advice found that sixty percent of donors want impact stories to see how their first donation is making a difference.”You must find, recognize, collect, and share those stories in all your communications.

Become a storytelling nonprofit

It takes a team of people to collect and tell your stories.

  1. People with day-to-day experience. They could be your direct service staff or volunteers, your Board members, your customers or clients. Develop them as sources, so they look out for stories you can tell.
  2. Writers. Someone who can take other people’s words and make them sing in print is essential to your team.
  3. Photographers/videographers. A picture may not be worth a thousand words. It may, however, make all the words you write more meaningful and memorable.
  4. Artists. Sometimes a good graphic is more powerful than a photo (and often, easier to produce when you need it).
  5. Tech people. Because your newsletter, blog, email, Facebook post, or video is no good if nobody sees it! Someone has to keep the system up and running and figure out the glitches as they occur.
  6. Editor. You need a consistent tone to your communications, and they must appear regularly so your audience expects them. Put one person in charge.

Get expert help

Most of all, what you need is someone who will look at your organization with the eyes of a donor. It’s all too easy to fall back into “We held this event” or “We hired this new person”–but that’s not what your donors want!

A communications consultant can help you recognize and shape the stories your donors want to hear. There are ways your organization can afford a consultant, even if you don’t have one in the budget yet. And the investment is worth it.

Your donors are waiting to hear what difference their donations are making. They won’t wait forever. Get the help you need to make sure they give again and again.