Try Old School Communication Methods Alongside Technology

Whether you are still working from home or working with masks in a socially distanced office, fundraisers are probably not having one-on-one meetings with donors. It is also unlikely we will be hosting those big lavish events with large catering bills anytime soon.

And, while the vaccine is getting out there, we know that process will take a while, perhaps until the fall of 2021. So, how do we keep our donors close to the mission of our organizations without being able to meet with them?

I like to think about this in two main ways: you can go old school, or you can go hightech. Or, you can do both! I recommend you do both. Use all the tools available in your tool kit, because your most powerful tool – in-person meeting time – is unavailable to you right now. There is a joy in experimentation, and your donors will appreciate the new ways in which you seek to reach out.

Here are 7 ways you can keep your donors close to you over the coming months that span the spectrum from old school to high tech. I have utilized all of these since March 2020. I hope you’ll give some of them a try.

Good Old Postcards and Letters

Postcards are super budget-friendly as well as quick and easy to design. You can convey a lot of info in a fun design and save money on postage with postcard stamps. Don’t neglect your direct mail program either. Keep sending those letters.

This year, we did two, year-end giving landing pages (give2020 and 2020give) to see how many folks responded via the website to our direct mail piece. The other webpage was only for social media and email year-end promotions.

Almost no direct mail donors crossed over to the website. We were a bit shocked. But, we are still getting plenty of responses via the mail.

Holiday Cards

The organization I work for usually sends out New Year’s cards to avoid the main winter holiday season. For the past two years, we have commissioned one of our graduates to do original artwork for the card rather than buying something off the shelf.

This year, it was a stylized image of the threshold of our new building, which our constituents haven’t been able to see (except in a few photos) due to Covid restrictions. This was a simple and beautiful way to help our donors envision our new space and imagine gathering there in a post-Covid world.

With Valentine’s Day just behind us, wouldn’t a “We Love our Donors” card have been refreshing?

Phone Calls

I know. I know. You don’t like phone calls. You don’t want people calling you. But, your donors do not necessarily feel that way. Picking up the phone to do an impromptu thank you or check-in is a powerful tool for fundraising.

I’d recommend finding a regular way to make calls and thereby cure your avoidance of the phone. An easy way to start would be thank you calls. Every time you see a $1,000 gift, pick up the phone. Thank the donor and ask them why they gave. You’ll learn so much of value and bring them closer to your mission.

ICYMI Emails

Everyone is inundated with information these days. Email inboxes are enough to make folks feel like they are drowning in data! The messages you are working so hard to craft can easily get lost in the shuffle. For my VIPs (board members, key volunteers, and top donors), I’ve started sending short, little ICYMI “in-case-you-missed-it” emails.

For instance, when the school I work for puts out an important announcement or posts something exciting, I don’t assume that my VIPs will always see it or notice it. I forward that item to them with a note, “Wanted to make sure you saw this.”

Since it’s coming directly from me, it will often beat various spam filters and algorithms. This is a service to them, and they appreciate the extra heads-up. It also brings them deeper into contact with the news of the organization at the same time.

Zoom (Or Other Videoconferencing) Meetings

In the past, it was a fundraising axiom that meeting in person was the gold standard and that major gifts could not be solicited any other way. Well, Covid caused us to be adaptable and innovative and we learned some things.

One of the consequential things we learned was that a Zoom meeting is almost entirely as useful and meaningful as a coffee date, sometimes more so. I can see the donor’s face, body language, parts of their home, etc. I can meet their spouse, pets, or kids. I can have deep conversations about why they support our cause and what it means to them.

Zoom meetings are perhaps the main pillar of Covid donor outreach.

Go Live!

Whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, live videos are becoming more and more popular. This is a fantastic way to give your broader constituency a feeling closer to two-way communication. Obviously, you cannot meet every donor on Zoom, but you can go live and see many folks at once.

The president of my institution went live at the same time each week early in the pandemic and it was a reassuring balm to our donors and graduates to hear from her directly.

The best live videos are authentic and interactive. And often you bypass many of the regular algorithms and end up on folks’ notifications. Bonus: the video replays get a lot of watches even after the live itself is over.

Video

For broader outreach, you just can’t beat video! Your constituents get to hear from you and see your friendly face.

Simple videos can be done with Zoom or on your iPhone. We started sending gift anniversary videos every month this year, and I sent out a video explaining all about charitable IRA-rollovers near the calendar year-end.

Another way we utilized video was a video tour. My organization moved during the pandemic, and thus, it has been a challenge to help our constituents envision the new space. How could we get them excited about this momentous change for the school without being able to be there?

We managed to get permission to send a videographer onto the campus (access is restricted due to Covid) and had them film footage of the interior and outdoor space. We edited this together with beautiful music as a video tour and then premiered it during our Virtual Winter Gala.

A week later, we sent it out via email and promoted it on social media. It truly gave our constituency the feeling that we were moving forward despite our current circumstances.

And remember, even though you might not be able to embed a video in your emails, it’s easy to take a still image and make it look like an embedded video. Then, when your donor clicks on it, it opens the YouTube video in another tab.

If we look at timeless methods of old-school communication while we also leverage technology to fill the gap of not meeting in person, we can bring our donors closer to our mission during this time.

You don’t have to lose contact or momentum, and you don’t have to be victim to the algorithms or spam filters. Try out some of these practical ideas and let me know how they work for your organization.

It All Comes Down to Engagement

We’re such social creatures that connection is so important. While the pandemic has kept us apart, we are fortunate that we’re living in a time in which there are many tools with which we can engage.

Whether your engagement efforts involve old school tactics or utilize new media, as a Supporter Engagement Platform, Humanitru provides you with a platform that allows you to track much of your outreach efforts.

We’d love to show you how. Contact us today to schedule a one-on-one demo.

With over 20 years of fundraising experience, Jessica has worked for the Starr King School for the Ministry, The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation, The University of South Carolina, RuffaloCODY, and the Libertarian National Committee. As a consultant, Jessica provides her fundraising services to nonprofits and higher education organizations. You can find her at Real Deal Fundraising.
Jessica Cloud, CFRE, MA

Fundraising Success Coach

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