For many, the term “automation” conjures up images of Rosie from The Jetsons or computers coming to steal our jobs. In reality, automation just means integrating your cloud apps and is an efficient way to simplify complex tasks and business processes that would otherwise require tedious human effort. For non-profits, automation offers specific benefits in terms of transparency and efficiency. It can simplify your administrative work, allow for a 360-degree view of your organisation, and even help you raise more money.
Here are four reasons your non-profit should consider integrating your apps:
1. More time for your mission
You work at a non-profit because you want to provoke social change, but you spend most of your workday reconciling invoices in your account app. Sound familiar? A non-profit isn’t a business, but it does need to accomplish basic business tasks such as accounting, record keeping, and reporting. Frequently, non-profits dread these tasks because it means devoting less time to work that directly relates to their missions.
With automation, however, you don’t need to worry about checking tedious, repetitive tasks off of your to-do list. Rather than focusing on tasks that keep your organisation running day-to-day, you can focus on tasks that push your organisation further towards its goals.
2. Improved reporting and greater transparency
Running a non-profit involves making strategic choices about your goals. These decisions are more difficult to make when you have inaccurate or inadequate information about your programs or campaigns. In addition to this information block, we already know that non-profits often face unrealistic expectations as written by The Stanford Social Innovation Review:
“The cycle starts with funders’ unrealistic expectations about how much running a charity costs. And results in non-profits’ misrepresenting their costs while skimping on vital systems—acts that feed funders’ skewed beliefs.”
Automation, however, makes aggregating the information non-profits need to make high-level decisions simple, by syncing it between otherwise separate apps. This gives you an instant view of your donations and leads in one place. Automation means you can make better high-level decisions about your goals because at any moment you can view a 360-degree snapshot of the entire organisation.
This 360-degree reporting also means that you can be more transparent with your donors and leadership. By connecting your CRM with your accounting program, it’s much easier to account for every penny spent.
3. Lower cost; higher ROI
Another distinct challenge for non-profits is that, though they aren’t profit-driven, they still need to run efficiently. Donors expect organisations to spend as much of their funding on the mission as possible, minimising other costs. Non-profits are always looking for ways to be both leaner and more efficient – automation can help you accomplish both. Cherrice Browne of Houston, TX based non-profit The R.O.C.K. explains: “The point of having everything integrated and working together is to cut down on the time we spend on activities that don’t help us grow. For example, updating sales reports by hand – it doesn’t make money and it leaves room for error.”
Automation takes tasks that would otherwise require human labour and does them more quickly, more accurately, and more reliably. Instead of paying tens of thousands of pounds per year for a dedicated administrative staff, you can automate many repetitive tasks and allocate resources to new initiatives. By lowering your spending on grunt work and using those funds on higher level tasks, an increase in donations and hitting your KPI’s are sure to follow.
4. More efficient donation campaigns
Non-profits rely heavily on online fundraising campaigns, but raising money can sometimes feel like throwing things at a wall and trying to see what sticks. With automation, you can make sure all your donor information is stored in one place. When you can access donor information more easily, you can craft targeted emails and campaigns that are more likely to result in a donation. This is key for increasing campaign efficiency, as personalised emails deliver six times higher transaction rates.
For example, let’s say an annual donor recently attended a fundraising event for a particular cause. Knowing that she attended the event is valuable information; because she demonstrated an interest in that particular cause, she’s more likely to respond to a campaign about it. With automation, this insight is immediately available in your CRM or Marketing automation tool, and you can use it to craft tailored email campaigns that target donors based on their past behaviours. Additionally, automation enables you to interact with donors at otherwise disparate touchpoints, such as event attendance, membership renewal, and even birthdays.
Automation isn’t just the future of labour; it offers distinct advantages for non-profit organisations. It allows you a 360-degree view of your entire organisation from accounting to lead generation and frees up staff to focus more on your mission and less on administrative work. If you want to run a leaner, more efficient, more accountable organisation, automation is worth considering.
When asked by organisations whether their online fundraising programs should focus on donor acquisition or donor retention, I say, “Yes.”
As fundraisers, we don’t have the option of choosing; we must solicit from existing donors while simultaneously growing prospect lists and converting new leads into first-time donors.
Yet time and resources are limited, so from a strategic, data-driven perspective, we have to prioritise where our efforts should lie. We can see from the 2016 Luminate Online Benchmark Report that non-profits are having success in both areas, but that between the two, efforts are skewed toward donor retention.
- As a whole, the value of an e-mail address is £10.68, down 7% from last year’s £11.49. While a disconcerting drop, this number alone doesn’t speak to retention vs. acquisition efforts. For greater clarity, we must examine the differences and change in giving between first-time donors and repeat donors.
- Total online revenue from first-time donors in the 2016 report was just about even, down 1%, at £165,586. This made up just over a third (35.92%) of total online giving, which was a decline of 6% from last year. As one might expect, revenue from repeat donors went the opposite direction: up 8% as a total, and up 3% as a share of total online giving.
So we know that repeat donors are giving more dollars, as a subset of donors, than first-time donors, and donate about 2/3 of an organisation’s overall total. But it gets even more interesting when looking at average gift amounts.
- The average transaction amount for a first-time gift was £84.81. The average transaction amount from a repeat giver is lower, at £76.30. So how can repeat donors have a lower average gift than first-timers but still have a higher total revenue amount? Sustainers. The total transaction amount from sustainers was up 14% compared to the 2015 report, and their share of total online fundraising (11.26%) was up 10%.
- Overall, total online revenue in the 2016 report was up just under 5% from the previous year. So we see that sustaining revenue was up a larger percentage than overall online revenue, and revenue from repeat donors up was likewise up more, percentage-wise, than overall revenue.
So what does that tell us about donor retention vs. donor acquisition?
It might possibly leave us with a chicken and egg. What is behind the growth in repeat donor revenue and the drop in first-time donor gifts as a share of total revenue? Are nonprofits being more aggressive with renewing lapsed donors, or engaging in more sustaining giving campaigns? Probably both.
But let’s look at two more numbers that are indicative of the overall online engagement picture.
- Housefile growth was 10%, which is a lower growth rate than years’ past; at the same time, the percentage of constituents on a house-file who are donors was slightly up, to about 14.1%. So a lower rate of house file growth, a smaller percentage of first-time donor revenue of the composite total…yet an increase in the percent of e-mail addresses who give.
It seems clear that it is getting more challenging to bring in new names, and getting these new names to donate. The trends speak to nonprofits doing a better job at renewing donors, taking advantage of the longer-term relationships with existing donors (increases in fundraising appeal open and click-through rates suggest this as well).
Moving forward, it behooves organisations, as they continue to grapple with the donor retention vs. donor acquisition challenge, to better understand the make-up of their own file base. After reviewing the Luminate Benchmark Report data, these are the questions I’d ask of your own organisation:
- What percent of your file are donors?
- Last year, how many made their first online gift, and how many renewed a gift from the previous year?
- Last year, who gave more both in total and average gift, existing donors or first-time donors?
- Of those who joined your file last year, what percent gave?
Once you answer these questions, you can compare your performance to the benchmarks (both overall and to your specific vertical). More importantly, you’ll then be better equipped to properly allocate time, resources and effort in terms of renewing donors and seeking out new ones. If the rate of growing your list continues to slow, it will become more imperative to properly steward and nurture the constituents you’ve already got.
Attracting and retaining new donors to your cause is an essential part of growing any non-profit organisation. Throughout the years, various methods have been employed to acquire new prospects, including direct mail, face-to-face, telephone marketing, advertising, events etc.
— “Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a system for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It often involves using technology to organise, automate and synchronise sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.” —
By Jamie Serino, Director of Marketing @ Microedge, Blackbaud.
One of my core values, both personally and professionally, is to give back to my local community. Because of the nature of my work, I’m lucky to be surrounded by many purpose-driven organisations making a difference for people, animals and the environment. One of those organisations is the YWCA of the City of New York (YW), a nonprofit organisation that offers job training, daycare, and after-school programs to New York City women and their families.
Reading through the 12th Edition of the Small Charity Index I am struck by how loyal small charity supporters are. When it comes to volunteering we have seen consistent rises in the number of volunteers over the past three years, with a 25% increase since June 2016.
So what could we do to move our volunteers to take that extra step and get involved in the governance of our small charities?
I’ve spent many hours working on creating content, on and offline, that you can only hope will be valued and enjoyed by customers, members, donors and the like. It’s great fun to start with a concept and take it right through to completion but most of all I’ve enjoyed producing content to set free online, utilising the new media that is now so readily available at no cost.
Social media can be a confusing beast. Something that many attempt to contain, but many cannot. However, there is no question that Social Media should be used as part of your charities acquisition strategy. Whether you are trying to garner more donors, or recruit fundraisers to take part in that campaign you have thought long and hard about.
Online donors are a key growth segment for social good organisations. Even though giving overall is down in 2016, online giving is 14% from last year (link to UK BBE Giving Index). The average online donor gives more initially and has a higher lifetime value than a conventional donor. Therefore, the importance of online giving as a growing revenue stream and website visitors as a target market worth focusing on cannot be underestimated.