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Monthly Donor Engagement: Deconstructing the Stickiest donor content ever

[fa icon="calendar"] Nov 9, 2017 3:18:00 AM / by Mark Hobbs

Most charities understand the importance of building a relationship with their constituents. After all, charities provide high value for anybody who cares about a particular issue. One the key characteristics of good relationship is the ability to have a voice and to be heard, and to listen and to speak.  When we think about the relationship of a donor and a charity in the context of the charities ability to listen and be heard, is hampered compared to what we would expect, mainly because there are very resources to listen and to engage a meaningful conversations. Charities haven’t had to listen to donors traditionally, but now the causes more diverse and demographics that give are shifting. Cashflow is quickly overtaking dollars raised as the single biggest threat facing charities.

These meaningful conversations are critical to the vast majority of monthly donor relationships and reaching enough people to get monthly program to a scale that makes sense requires both investment of capital and willingness to stay the course.

For charities who want to listen to their donors, you have start with prerequisite trust. One easy way to build trust is frequent communications. Do not think of communication as annoying but as valuable to anyone who wants to see the a different world, who cares about your cause. Trust is often accompanied by familiarity. To gain familiarity with potential monthly donors, come up with a regular progress update. Start quarterly and as your programs go, get down to monthly and then weekly.


I recommend using email for this because most of your donors should be donating by credit card and email is frequent. At Fundmetric, we pull the data directly from the constituent profile to the email for a truly relevant communication.  

One tactic to become more relevant to a donor is personalization. Charities misinterpret personalization.

Tip 1: Grabs Attention:

The circled texted uses the constituent name, shows up in preview of the email, suggesting that something special has happened


Blog Breakdown Name and Stats 2.png 


Tip 2: Start every update with 2 personal impact stats and 1 call to action


The next feature of the stickiest emails that they use the actions or engagements of the donor and personal demographic information. It is not necessary to use dollar amounts but it helps. The circled area in this example, praises the donor for engagement while localizing the achievement using the city from the constituent profile. It is simple to segment based on gift level, or any other engagement metric. Each of these is about the personal impact of the donor. Not about, the overall impact of the charity.


Make the third metric, a call to action. In this report, I used an upgrade based on their next ask amount. Fundmetric calculates it automatically based on behavior but you can find plenty of formulas to help.


personal impact charities.png 



Tip 3: Take on the most common objections, head on. Don’t hide.


Often, charities have a great deal of fear that reminding a constituent of their donation will lead to it being cancelled. This assumption is predicated on an assumption that the charity provides less value, than the opportunity cost that a donor gives up by donating. Research clearly shows a personal connection as the leading motivator for donors, so in actuality regular, valuable communication showing progress and dealing with problems directly helps.


personal impact charities problems.png

The most common problem is that monthly donors feel their gift has little impact and later in this post, I’ll share how to counter that using the aggregate weight of giving in this same report, but address in quantifiable terms their gifts and if possible your efforts to ensure they are not alone. Peer pressure works especially if they feel part of a club. Again, I think many charities have greatly misconstrued why giving clubs work. It’s the collective difference that is more compelling than the exclusive feeling of belonging. The most common objection to drop in the bucket could be effectively countered with the number of calls phone-a-thon callers made this quarter to get others to join you and how you played a key role in motivating them. Use the momentum created by problems as the reason people should continue to support.



Tip 4: Donors want their buttons pushed. Give them a choice.  


The three buttons all test for different donor motivations. The buttons are part of the first stage in building a true relationships, it’s about getting to know the donor.

 buttons mean choice for donors.png


If the donor clicks the Learn more button tells me that personal activity and benchmarking may matter to this donor.  One email is not enough, but send this every week and Fundmetric can create a more tailored story after 6 weeks.


If the donor clicks the read their stories button, that text is all about other people and making sure they are included and involved. If this donor consistently wants to read about what other people are doing, the communications will feature more of that. Again, one email solicitation is not enough. Charities create enough value on a weekly basis for an email but two factors must come into play:


  • Do we have tools to tell these stories at scale?
  • Do we have the human resources?

Fundmetric exists to eliminate both those problems, but you can do everything I am recommending with the system


If the donor clicks the Up my Level or call-to-action button, automatically begin stewardship and recognition processes commiserate with the gift-size. It is possible the projected lifetime value may be in jeopardy if the right investment in stewardship. Consider a data-driven video as a cheaper alternative, if you can’t get board buy-in for larger investments.  If they abandon cart, use an email sequence to attempt recovery.


When the donor makes a choice like these buttons, it is our first attempt at listening. If you know what the options are, and Fundmetric tracks each button, than you know something more about them than you did before you sent the email.

If they don’t open your email…well…people love to be asked for their input? Using any mail system but especially Fundmetric, we can automate an email from a senior official that just asks a simple question like “I noticed you don’t open our messages…what would make them more useful for you. You can collect this response in your email and I bet it will provide motivation and empowerment for you or your team.


Tip 5: Finish with the impact and progress when everyone comes together.


This section is designed to show what everyone coming together can do. It is really important to quantify this section to have retention impact. Some organizations think this can be difficult in certain disciplines like research, but engage the people you fund.

aggregate impact of donors on charities.png


They can help you quantify their work. The ROI is proven and substantial. This section of the email is important because donors need to feel like their part of something larger and it is the best opportunity to show donors that their concerns are heard. Especially by recycling their own email statistics back at them, so you can say “In last year’s update 67% of donors enjoyed following Dr. Avery’s progress. He is now has achieved 35% of his phase funding and this quarter, our foundation was approved to sponsor the remaining work, resulting in over 1230 hours of research…”

Once the template is established these emails can become extremely effective emails without being tedious or time consuming.




Mark Hobbs

Written by Mark Hobbs