Charitable Donations Reach Record LevelsThe numbers are in: In 2014, Americans gave $358B to charity, setting a new record according to Giving USA. This is the fifth straight year where giving levels increased. Individual giving drove much of this success, representing 72% of total donations and a 5.7% increase versus prior year.

Hopefully, any NPO you are associated with did as well – or better. Given Innovairre’s success working with 500+ nonprofits around the world, we have a good handle on what’s working. The following are some generalizations that might help you:

  • Get Personal – Despite years of touting the power of sophisticated data decisioning that drives digital printing, email personalization, social media, and even personalized videos, many NPOs have yet to fully utilize these capabilities. All effective marketing programs start with donor insight built on modeling with associated targeting. The net improvement of improved personalized techniques is frequently around 25% or more.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Personalization matters in little ways, too. Robotic handwriting technology (Genuinely Penned) continues to show significant lifts, often doubling or tripling the response in the mail.
  • Act Fast – Only 1/3 of new donors ever give again. The simple act of acknowledging their gift as soon as possible matters a great deal – both online and offline. Responding with a thank you letter within 24 hours has shown to increase second gift and start to build an engagement with the donor. Time is money.
  • Machine Learning Drives Insight Across Channels – With the availability of new names for acquisition being limited, smart nonprofits have learned that they must mail more strategically. Models that leverage the latest machine learning techniques have proven to be more effective every time we’ve tested them – yes, every time. Ask your modeler about their use of machine learning and success rate – or ask us.
  • Don’t Abandon the Tried-and-True – While digital donations are on the rise, direct mail still reigns as king of fundraising success and donor acquisition. For acquisition, premiums, such as labels, pens, or holiday cards, still work magic. They stand out and serve as wonderful reminders of your cause. NPOs that spend on premium products not only raise more money, they experience higher response rates from their donor base on average. Although premium products can be costly up front, when done smartly, they still pay for themselves many times over.
  • Engage Efficiently – Multichannel engagement with donors can deliver a step-change in success. Tailored social media engagement strategies for each platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) help maximize impact. And coordinating and synchronizing mail, telemarketing, mobile, and other high-touch/high-impact tactics help ensure that the emotional engagement garnered via social is effectively monetized through increased donations.

Connecting with your donors has never been more important to fundraising success. Fast, personal, and meaningful communications can help ensure that your organization gets its share of the donation pie in 2015 and beyond.

Don McKenzie is President & CGO of Innovairre Communications, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. Subscribe to our newsletter here, or contact us at Answers@Innovairre.com. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.