The Value of Donor and Fundraiser Onboarding Series

“You never have a second chance to make a first impression.”

It’s a pretty well-worn saying at this point, but it’s true nonetheless. It’s true for business, it’s true for personal relationships, and it’s even true for nonprofits.

As a nonprofit, there’s no better time to focus on making a good first impression than when you acquire a new donor or recruit a new fundraiser into one of your campaigns. Both moments provide natural juncture points that seem to scream out for the organization to provide support and communication to the individual constituent.

For one reason or another, however, a lot of nonprofits fail to take advantage of these opportunities.

Perhaps it’s natural to feel like you are “done” when you reach one of these milestones because it takes a lot of work to get to them in the first place.

Natural or not though, this way of thinking should be avoided at all costs.

Instead of treating these moments like “end points” more nonprofits should treat them like the invitations to establish deeper rapport they really are.

By putting even a little effort into your initial communications with these supporters via donor and fundraiser email onboarding series, you can set the stage for more meaningful relationships and increased financial support.

New Donor Onboarding Series

Ideally all of your new donors would come to your organization armed with the facts and figures, having chosen your organization after carefully evaluating the merits of your programs and approach.

In reality, this is almost never the case.

Most new donors start giving less for intellectual reasons and more for emotional or personal ones, only gradually deepening their understanding of the nuances of the cause with time.

The obvious problem with this situation is that new donors’ commitment to continue giving to your organization is often tenuous at best at the outset. This dynamic is a big reason that some studies show year-over-year retention rates for first time donors as low as 27 percent.

So what’s an easy way to increase new donors’ connection with your mission right off the bat?

You guessed it, donor onboarding emails.

A donor onboarding series is just a sequence of automated messages (generally two or three emails) that helps orient new supporters and draws them a little deeper into your nonprofit’s work.

There are a lot of things you could potentially include in a donor onboarding series, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that you want to educate, inspire, and provide new donors with additional ways to get involved.

Keeping those points in mind, here are some general content ideas:

  • A video message from your executive director welcoming donors into the fold
  • An infographic that shows new donors the impact your programs are creating
  • Inspiring testimonials from the people your organization serves
  • Options to subscribe to regular newsletters or blog updates
  • Links to information about volunteering opportunities and upcoming campaigns or events

Whatever content you decide to feature in your onboarding series, just make sure it’s focused on creating a great first impression.

You want your new donors to take those next few steps and learn more about your organization, increasing the chances that they will stick around long term.

Fundraiser Onboarding Series

While it is less likely to provide an overall first impression of your organization, a fundraiser onboarding series still provides an introduction of sorts (just one that is specific to an individual campaign).

Because of the difference in context, a fundraising onboarding series has a slightly different focus than a new donor series. You’ll still want to educate and inspire, but you’ll also want to share some tactical information as well.

The educational and inspirational material you provide in your new fundraiser series (think impact stats and videos of those helped by your efforts) should be specific to the campaign.

Providing some brief context about the organization’s efforts as a whole is useful, but since your fundraisers are involved in this particular campaign the information should focus on the purpose of the campaign and how it will advance your mission. You want to get supporters excited and ready to fundraise.

In the same vein, providing some quick fundraising tips can be enormously useful. Team Rubicon, an organization with a dual focus on veteran services and disaster relief, conducted a test where they randomly selected 100 fundraisers and provided them with a tip sheet. When compared to a control group, the fundraisers that received the tip sheet raised almost three times as much money.

In other words, a simple onboarding series with tips like these can generate some pretty impressive returns.

How to Get Started

Whether it’s a new donor or a new fundraiser, there’s a lot to gain from putting some simple onboarding series in place. Fortunately there are a lot of tools out there nowadays that can help you get started.

If your online fundraising system is integrated with your email marketing system, like StayClassy and Constant Contact are, your new fundraiser and donor data will automatically sync to your email platform. From there, user-friendly email automation tools like Constant Contact’s Autoresponder can be leveraged to put your email series into action.

If you’re one of the nonprofits that has been letting your communications drop off once you’ve acquired the donor or converted the fundraiser, try implementing these simple steps. You may be surprised at how much of a difference these small tweaks can really make!

Do you have any questions or advice for making a good first impression? Let us know in the comments. 

About the Author: I’m the Director of Marketing at StayClassy; I most enjoy analyzing what separates the standout fundraising efforts from the average ones and then sharing those insights with our community.

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