NFP’s & Tech Go Together
Donors give to nonprofits and higher ed because they believe in what we do. Our missions and our work matter to them, and they matter to us not just as financial contributors but as people. Repeat donors frequently become genuine friends or our friends, inspired by our enthusiasm, become our donors. This small group feels special and intimately connected to our institution. We know what types of programs and activities interest them and keep our eyes open for fun events, making certain that they know about them well in advance. They feel like an integral part of our organizations and valued as people.
But what about the rest of the donors or alumni/ae who give? They do not know the staff personally. Their primary contact is generally a mass email or mailing during an annual campaign or gift drive. Invitations to special events may fall through the cracks or be blocked by spam filters. Sadly, this group often feels like a checkbook and not valued as a member of a community.
The shift to virtual programs due to the pandemic creates an opportunity to remedy this inequality. A boom in innovation has created online discussions, panel presentations, virtual chats, hands on classes, group dance parties and yoga, allowing organizations to increase offerings and opportunities for engagement exponentially. In the past, geography was sometimes a barrier to program participation. Now, location is no longer a barrier to participation.
How to do it?
Now the 64-thousand-dollar question for development staff is how do we ensure that all our donors learn about the events that interest and excite them?
The goal is robust programming, but that means, especially for a larger institution that the donor base will be swamped with emails inviting them to register to events. Email blast fatigue ensues, and donors stop reading emails. The invitation to the talk given by their favorite professor or by a reclusive expert in the field winds up in the spam inbox and the potential connection is lost.
Keeping track of what events each donor attends is crucial to understanding where their interests lie allowing the sharing of the right information at the right time. A short thoughtful note with a digital flyer goes a long way especially if it is a thank you for attending a recent program and a list of upcoming events that they may be interested in for the future.
Technology Enhances Relationships – If you do it Right
Nonprofit development is about developing relationships. In the museum world it takes at least 3 engagements before someone becomes a member. And with a national average alumni/ae participation rate of around 30% there is a great deal of room for growth. Logistically, it would be overwhelming for staff to reach out manually to every contact or alumni/ae in the database. By integrating event ticketing with your CRM each ticket purchase or event attended will be added to the donor’s record. With that information a widget can be designed that will identify relevant upcoming events and attach them to one of several pre-written emails that is sent directly to the donor, giving a similar sense of care and more personal engagement than had previously been possible.
Using this strategy of tagging a donor’s record with additional information gives the engagement team a clearer idea of their programs’ target audiences allowing for less frequent but more powerful interactions. Additionally, the technology supports ongoing donor engagement and maintains continuity regardless of the staffing situation. Using a CRM in this way with NFP and higher ed donors allows for the right information to be shared with the right audience at the right time. Happy donors are more likely to contribute when asked; making a win for everyone involved in the process.
K. Michelle Hearne Arthur, Ph.D., Began her museum career as a member of the Department of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts at The Morgan Library and Museum in New York City before moving to an ED Role at Saratoga County Historical Society/Brookside Museum. Michelle’s experience spans both the for profit and not-for-profit worlds as well as teaching at several colleges. Her publications include articles and contributions to books on the topics of manuscript studies, material culture, and the use of image in political propaganda. You can follow her on LinkedIn.