Nonprofits are caught in a balancing act between making an impact and funding their impact. It can be difficult to measure up to the reporting requirements imposed by funders while staying up-to-date with the complexities of the underserved communities (or environments) supported, let alone regularly maintaining donor engagement.
The benefits of effective donor relations communication are clear: when donors are well informed as to the impact of their donation, they are more compelled to repeat the generous gesture in the future. If you feel your paper trail of letters is hurting more trees than it is informing donors, let's examine other processes. When thinking about these processes, it might be worth considering our donor outreach from a marketing standpoint. Rather than taking a cold call approach - a guilt-inducing nagging reminder of the world betterment they have not contributed to yet this year, we should consider an inbound marketing approach - a value-generating storytelling of your organization's impact.
Inbound Marketing for Impact Storytelling
The website. For many organizations, this is a touchy subject. We know that the 21st century has left an unavoidable mark of computerization, but adoption of best practices is not equally distributed. For some nonprofits, restricted budgets might mean that website design has taken a back seat. However, when one of your donors is wondering where to put their tax break dollars, and want to reflect on their last engagement with your organization, will they think back to the postcard you sent, or will they turn to Google? Spoiler alert, it's likely Google. As millennials continue to enter into the world of philanthropy - that likelihood will only grow.
Our website becomes the hub for our impact demonstration. So, what can you include on your website to help answer their questions about what their hard-earned dollars will go toward?
1. Make your impact story easy to find. Consider having a tab in your menu dedicated to impact as seen in these organizations' websites (such as Ecology Project International).
2. Share impact fast. Let's say your organization mission is to train low income member financial & operational training in remote part of Mississippi. As soon as beneficiary who registers for training who benefited from generous gift from a donor would get a picture with perhaps option details of training benefit and word from beneficiary! Donor would so inspired to continue with Giftivism as they build trust with a nonprofit!
3. Be transparent and own up to your failures. You don't have to have a tab in your menu dedicated to failure like the Uncharded does, but as they have demonstrated, owning up to your shortcomings is not only ethical, it's a powerful creator of trust.
4. Make it your impact hub. From this page, you can link to your Annual Reports and any supportive material you might have like case studies, reviews, or project synopses.
5. Make conversion simple. You want your audience to be converted into a donor. Make a Call-to-Action (CtA) to "donate" readily available and visible from your impact page.
Let's also spend some time thinking about that postcard - because reminders to donors about how wonderful your organization is can also be powerful. There is only so much a card can say - even if it includes a photo worth 1,000 words. The ability to direct viewers to a dedicated website page on your impact promotes engagement and lands them on a compelling page complete with a 'donate' button.
The beauty of the 'donate' button situated on the alluring page of impact demonstration means that you can send out these nice reminders with no direct guilt-inducing ask, but rather of informative demonstration of impact directed toward a page where they can learn more about your impact. Once there, face-to-face with your impact story, their donation is both well informed and easier to do. By reaching for no other reason than to update, your interactions begin to feel less 'sales-y' and more friendly. The release of an Annual Impact Report is a wonderful excuse for reaching out to your donor base with a value-generating message.
While donors' dollars are charitable donations, what they receive in the transaction is an experience and the association (even if anonymously) with a cause. If that experience leaves them feeling nagged and guilty, that negative feeling now associated with your organization will be lasting. We want donors to feel inspired by their association with our organizations - feeling part of our impact journey. The best way to bring them along for the ride is through effective and accessible impact storytelling that is both honest and informative.
How SoPact can help you tell your impact story
If you're reading this thinking it makes sense, but you feel lost about what to include on that impact webpage, you might want to revisit your impact measurement process. If you need to make a framework for social impact assessment and have to maintain the supporting data, schedule a walkthrough.
Written by Rachel Dodd
Rachel leads the Actionable Impact Management (AIM) framework development from SoPact's side and oversees partnerships.