From launching a compelling fundraising campaign, to posting engaging social media, effective messaging is key to the success of your nonprofit’s member & donor engagement, and fundraising efforts. 

What is messaging? Messaging is the content your organization uses to explain what you offer to various demographic groups or target markets, and what differentiates your offering from other nonprofits in your industry and region. Without effective messaging that’s clear, concise, engaging and inspires action, an organization’s marketing and fundraising efforts probably won’t hit the mark. Follow these simple steps for developing compelling messaging that works.

#1. Survey your members, donors, constituents and staff. 

An underutilized resource for developing effective messaging is right within your organization: your members, donors, constituents and staff. An excellent way to begin a messaging audit is to develop a simple survey canvassing ‘ambassadors’ of your organization for their feedback about what makes your offering different and compelling, and why they’re involved with your organization. Ask the group you’re soliciting to define in one or two sentences how they’d describe your offering to others, and why they’re passionate about their involvement with your organization. MailChimp www.mailchimp.com has a simple, widely-used survey tool that will help.

#2: Make a bulleted list of your organization’s core offering. 

Make a bulleted list of what your organization offers to your target market(s). As a service oriented nonprofit, for example, you might offer social services to lower income families, including direct financial assistance through loans and grants, mentoring and job coaching, and access to other social services resources. Be as specific as possible, listing the services in order of those you provide most to various types of constituents by category (members, donors, other constituent groups) to those you provide least.

#3: Make a bulleted list of all those qualities about your nonprofit that are unique, differentiating and compelling–based on results of the survey. 

This is one of the most important elements of developing effective messaging. Here, zero in on what makes your organization’s offering stand out from the competition. It might be your desirable location, or your dedicated membership committee that actively helps members connect in with other members. One area nonprofit differentiates itself as an ‘historic’ nonprofit through its affiliation with a local state park. This provides the organization with a large ‘campus’ of venues for their theatre productions that’s not visible from the street–a definite differentiator they should highlight in their messaging.

#4: Make a bulleted list of your target market(s). 

This is who your organization primarily markets your services to.  It might be other businesses, individual consumers, the elderly, families with children, or Millenials. List target audiences in order of priority, beginning with those your organization serves most frequently to those you serve least frequently.

#5: Review the lists above, and highlight those items that best describe what your organization offers, and what your survey identified as unique and differentiating about your nonprofit.

The next step is to highlight those items in each of the lists you feel best describe your organization’s core offering and differentiate your nonprofit from the competition. You’ll begin to see common themes and attributes emerge as you build your core messaging.

#6: Draft clear, concise copy and content from the summary descriptions you’ve identified as common themes and attributes about your organization and offering.

Draft copy that weaves together items from the highlighted summary list as clearly, concisely and engagingly as possible. Less is more when it comes to copy. Review and make edits to ensure the content is as brief as possible, includes images, bullets, bold faced words and phrases, and overall reads well. This is your core messaging.

#7: Use  your core messaging throughout all your organization’s marketing and fundraising communications, and social media and public relations channels. 

After you develop your core messaging, the next essential component of your organization’s messaging audit is to then review your website, all of your existing marketing and fundraising communications, and social media and public relations channels to be sure that your core message is consistent throughout. It’s this consistency that will create a clear and indelible description of your organization and what it offers that will equip and inspire your current members, donors and other constituents to be better ambassadors for your nonprofit. This approach will also engage and inspire new target audiences to take some kind of desired action: become a member or volunteer, work here and most importantly, donate.

At the heart of launching a successful fundraising drive is an effective email campaign. Be sure that your donor solicitation efforts achieve your revenue goals by following these best practices for your next email fundraising campaign.

#1: Be sure those you’re soliciting know what to expect. Donors and others you’re soliciting don’t like to be surprised by more or less emails than they anticipate. Let email recipients know right from the start what information you’ll be sending them, and how often. This goes for your regular monthly eNewsletters, and other email communications, including fundraising emails.

#2: Don’t Over-Promise Then Under-Deliver. In order to increase open rates, sometimes development marketers promise the moon with deceptive subject lines, then fail to deliver on the promise. Remember, open rates are only one criteria for judging the success of your email fundraising campaign. Conversion rates (or how often your recipients take action as a result of your email) are the real test of the effectiveness of your email solicitations. If you don’t deliver on the promise of your subject line, then your donors and prospective donors might decide to give elsewhere.

#3: Personalize Your Emails, But Vet the Information First. Personalizing emails is an effective strategy; however, it’s counterproductive if the name on the email isn’t right. Be sure to vet the information for accuracy, before doing a blanket SEND to your email marketing list.

#4: Segment Your Mailing List: Email segmenting can be very effective for target marketing to various demographic groups. You can segment your list by age, marital status, income level, when a donor is in the giving cycle, etc., and send content and messages that appeal directly to each specific segment.

#5: Test The Effectiveness of Your Emails Before You Send Them. In addition to testing personalization, you can also test the effectiveness of your emails by testing which pieces of content, calls to action and subject lines have the highest click-through rates. Divide your email list into two equal groups and send an A/B split test of your email to see which performs best.

#6: Focus on Content Versus Donations. When the main topic of your email is ‘Donate Now’ versus content that’s of interest to your supporters, your email fundraising campaign could come up short. Focus the content of your emails on what’s of interest to your supporters from their point of view. Establish trust and make an emotional connection before you close for greater impact and results.

#7: Include a Call to Action (CTA). The key to any effective solicitation is having one or multiple calls to action in your email. A call to action is some actionable, concrete next step for your donor or prospective donor to take that brings them into the fold of your organization, and ultimately, closer to writing a check, or making a donation online. Some examples of calls to action include:

  • Learn How You Can Help
  • Click to Volunteer
  • Sign Up for Our Monthly Newsletter
  • Volunteer Today
  • Donate Now.

#8: Proof and Reproof for Spelling and Grammar Errors. Donors often judge an organization by what’s in the details, i.e., whether or not your marketing and fundraising communications are error-free. If you’re the author of an email or eNewsletter, be sure to proofread your draft multiple times for spelling and grammar errors. Then, ask a colleague that has a keen eye for detail to proofread the copy again, and again.  Online tools such as grammarly.com can also help.

 

Here are suggestions from several nonprofits that recently took a fresh look at their member benefits and are making improvements to differentiate their member offering.

Be Proactive. Noelle Pina, Executive Director of the Orleans Chamber of Commerce, has spent the past year reviewing the Chamber’s member benefits with an eye toward improving the overall member experience. “Our list of tangible member benefits has grown,“ says Pina, “and we’ve created a game plan for members to best use their chamber membership. This includes sending a welcome packet and scheduling one-on-one meetings. We’ve also tried to be proactive by adding new events, online tools and networking opportunities for our members.” In addition to these improvements, the Chamber recently added a new Mini Business Expo this year with several members reporting that they closed business as a result of their involvement. “A future goal of mine,” says Pina, “is to also add New Member Receptions to our calendar, and provide quarterly meetings for new members to learn about their membership and meet other new members.”

Leverage Your Brand Champions. Cultivating champions of their organization and brand is part of the work of every nonprofit and business. “There are champions of your brand who truly appreciate the hard work you do and will support your organization with time, talent or treasure,” says Pina. “Over the years, we’ve cultivated great relationships with our local supporters. In 2017, we plan to deepen our connection by telling the stories of selected member/champions through member spotlights and retail spotlights—leading to an attraction of similar businesses to the Chamber. In this way, we can also cultivate referrals from our current members by publicly thanking them for supporting us.”

Schedule a One-On-One Membership Review Meeting: The best way to engage new members, including other nonprofits and business owners is to have a face-to-face meeting with them annually to review their promotional goals for the organization. With this approach, you can more easily make the case that your organization’s member benefits (or sponsorships) can help members reach many of their promotional goals. This takes a bit of pre-planning before the meeting. However, it but can be very productive for strengthening the member relationship, addressing the member’s promotional goals, and paving the way for potential sponsorships down the road. In addition, as many organizations traditionally spend a significant amount of money on advertising that often yields minimal results, you’ll be helping members by providing a more tailored promotional program through their membership.

Launch a Dedicated Membership Committee. Cape Cod Young Professionals’ Executive Director, Anne Van Vleck, understands the importance of having a dedicated membership committee for their nonprofit. CCYP recently launched a new membership committee that attends the organization’s monthly and annual events, such as the popular, Back to Business Bash, to proactively cultivate new members, and answer membership questions for existing members. This year, CCYP also created an ‘at-a-glance’ membership and sponsorship rack card available at all events. The membership committee uses these to quickly engage potential members, and explain the benefits of membership that relate to their business or nonprofit.

Leverage Your Facility: Lauren Wolk, Assistant Executive Director of The Cultural Center of Cape Cod, is in a unique position to leverage her recently expanded facility that now includes a commercial kitchen, large meeting and performance space, and art, photography and recording studios. With these improvements, Wolk is able to offer creative opportunities for members to gain visibility for their organization and build employee teams. Per Wolk, this year The Cultural Center hosted several team-building events including paint and wine nights for company employees, a variety of business seminars and various client appreciation events. Banks and other Chambers of Commerce and networking groups such as BNI also use The Cultural Center to hold regular monthly meetings.

Think Like a Business Owner. Business owners are always looking for creative ways to gain visibility for their companies through a nonprofit’s network and member benefits. Owners are more likely to become a member of a nonprofit that understands what they’re looking for to promote their business. “Supporting a nonprofit that can help me rally their network of supporters to learn more about my business makes it easier for me to make the investment,” comments Dales Shadbegian, Principal of 118Group, a Cape-based web design and social media firm. Shadbegian says he looks for value in a business membership that includes at a minimum free or reduced passes at events, a link on the organization’s website and social media and e-newsletter mentions or spotlights. “If the organization also sponsors interesting events where I can bring a client, friend, child or close relative, the more likely I am to become a member, and be actively involved,’ concludes Shadbegian. “This way, I can balance a business activity with a more social one.”

 

At this time of Thanksgiving and giving, many Cape nonprofits are reaching out to donors to encourage them to support the good work of their organizations.

One nonprofit that serves the Cape’s young professionals, Cape Cod Young Professionals, (CCYP) recently launched a Giving Circle so that CCYP members and sponsors could pool their donations and fund selected programs throughout the Cape that aid young professionals as they build lives on Cape Cod. These initiatives directly support CCYP’s mission.

CCYP’s take on Giving Circles is unique, however, as their giving circle actually benefits other nonprofits through direct grants, and creates awareness of the community work of these organizations. In 2016, CCYP’s Giving Circle gave back $10,000 during its first year to area nonprofits to fund specific initiatives that directly support CCYP’s mission. These included Cape Cod YMCA, We Can, Housing Assistance Corporation, Community Development Partnership and Cape Cod Community College. “People that become part of CCYP’s Giving Circle learn about many other nonprofits and their programs that may not have heard about these through each organization’s annual fundraising process,” commented Matt Cronin, CCYP Board Chair, and President of Boardwalk Business Group. “Over the past year, the creation of the CCYP Giving Circle has allowed us to collectively have a greater impact in our community. Through the donations of giving circle members, we’ve been able to invest in wonderful nonprofit programs within our community – from assisting women starting their own businesses, to supporting at risk youth to become the first in their families to attend to college, and from free fiscal health programs to online first-time homebuyer programs and the creation of a new community engagement speaker series.”

The impact of giving back to the community and Cape nonprofits has recently caught the attention of an anonymous donor to CCYP’s Giving Circle. CCYP received a $10,000 matching grant–facilitated by The Cape Cod Foundation–from an individual that was impressed by the impact the CCYP Giving Circle has already had in its first year. With this matching grant, CCYP is now actively soliciting donations from other individuals interested in funding causes that support young adults on Cape Cod. Giving Circle members typically commit to donating $10, $20 or $50 per month toward the fund. CCYP’s partnership with The Cape Cod Foundation has provided the necessary administrative infrastructure for CCYP’s Giving Circle, per Cronin. He emphasizes that utilizing a partner such as The Cape Cod Foundation that has the infrastructure in place is essential for CCYP to administer the giving circle.

Dara Gannon, Program Officer for The Cape Cod Foundation, commented about the Foundation’s role in helping CCYP’s giving circle efforts. “The Cape Cod Foundation is thrilled to partner with CCYP on the Giving Circle. This initiative supports CCYP’s mission by engaging members in the community. Through the giving circle process, we are creating informed citizens who are making funding decisions, collectively, on issues that affect them. By building permanent charitable resources and leveraging our community knowledge and grant making expertise, the CCYP Giving Circle is also supporting the Foundation’s mission. Together we are sustaining CCYP now and in the future, as well as growing the next generation of philanthropists and civic leaders on Cape Cod.”

 

 

 

Cape Cod Young Professionals (CCYP)–a nonprofit that recently celebrated its tenth year–was founded to help young professionals live, work and thrive year round on Cape Cod. Through the organization’s Shape the Cape initiative, CCYP offers a variety of programs including mentoring, networking, career and professional development, civic engagement, access to housing that’s affordable–and even scholarships—in response to young professionals’ requests for resources and support so they can build lives here on Cape Cod. Taking on such a groundbreaking mission requires revenue to fund the Shape the Cape initiative’s many programs. To to do this, CCYP launched a Giving Circle.

According to Matt Cronin, CCYP Board Chair and President of Boardwalk Business Group, a Giving Circle is a group of philanthropic individuals who donate money regularly throughout the year into a pool and decide where this money will be invested. The CCYP Giving Circle was launched so that CCYP members and sponsors could pool their donations and fund selected programs throughout the Cape that aid young professionals as they find good jobs, housing that’s affordable, become engaged in their communities, and build lives on Cape Cod. “The Giving Circle is a way to introduce young professionals to philanthropy in a way that’s impactful, but not too difficult on the budget,” offers CCYP Executive Director, Anne Van Vleck.

Per Cronin, the organization’s Giving Circle gave back $10,000 in 2016 during its first year to a host of area nonprofits to fund specific Shape the Cape initiatives. These included:

Career and Professional Development

  • $2,000 to the Cape Cod YMCA for their Teen Achievers Program
  • $2,000 to We Can to fund their GROW (Get Results From Others Wisdom)

Access to Housing That’s Affordable

  • $2,500 to the Housing Assistance Corporation to fund free courses in their Housing Assistance Corporation
  • $2,500 to Community Development Partnership to fund online First Time Homebuyer Education courses

Civic Engagement

  • $1,000 to Cape Cod Community College’s Support Community Engagement Speaker Series.

Cronin and Van Vleck are both members of CCYP’s Giving Circle, with a current initiative underway to add 90 new Giving Circle members in 90 days this fall. “Being part of a Giving Circle is a rewarding, fun, social group of philanthropic individuals that share the process of learning and investing together,” says Cronin enthusiastically. “People that become part of CCYP’s Giving Circle learn about many other nonprofits and their programs that may not have heard about these through each organization’s annual fundraising process. Also, the pooled donations make a much larger impact on the nonprofits receiving the grants than the typical individual donation could ($10-$20 per month). Finally, being part of a Giving Circle is a positive experience that tends to help members feel more empowered and engaged in community issues where they can actually enact change within their communities.” “Many hands make light the work,” adds Van Vleck. “As we grow and recruit friends, neighbors, co-workers and friends of friends to join CCYP’s Giving Circle, we have an even greater impact on our community…We’re on the ground floor of something truly exciting!”

As former Director of Membership for a large nonprofit membership organization, here are a few ‘golden rules’ I learned for turning members into sponsors:

  • Have Membership Ambassadors Make New Members Feel Welcome: Many times I’ve thought about becoming more involved in a nonprofit organization, but there was no one assigned to greet me as a newcomer and make me feel welcome. Breaking the ice for prospective members and new members will be worth its weight in gold (literally) as doing so quickly engages these people in the organization so they’re more approachable as sponsors.
  • Check in With New Members: Every nonprofit knows it takes time to cultivate and engage new members and turn them into potential sponsors. Having a Membership Ambassador check in with new members to get their feedback within a couple of months of joining is a great way to learn what’s working and what’s not. Let members know how much you appreciate their feedback, and stay in touch–especially as you implement their suggestions. This will go a long way toward engaging them as members and cultivating them as future sponsors.
  • Make Profitable Connections for Members: If a nonprofit organization can broker profitable connections for their members during monthly events, they’ll develop more engaged members–and potential sponsors–throughout the life of the organization. Let members know that your nonprofit is proactive about helping them make meaningful connections. Assign Membership Committee volunteers to each event, and let members know before the event that the committee is available to help them connect with others in the organization.
  • Reach Out to Business Owner Members: Small business owners especially appreciate when nonprofits are proactive about helping them market and promote their businesses through the organization. Many nonprofit organizations take great care to develop member benefits; however, oftentimes they don’t do a good job making sure members take advantage of these perks. Business owners understand the value of strategically sponsoring organizations and are ripe for the asking–that is once they feel the organization they support understands what they’re trying to achieve through their membership, and helps them reach their promotional goals.
  • Show Sponsors Measurable Results: There’s nothing that makes a sponsor happier to be invested in a nonprofit than seeing the results of their contributions. Nonprofit organizations that capture data and communicate measurable results periodically throughout the year to members and sponsors have a much easier time of meeting their fundraising goals. Current sponsors are more likely to increase their donations, and prospective sponsors are likely to begin giving–if they feel their dollars are making a meaningful and measurable difference.