What challenges are nonprofits facing?

Although times are getting better, many nonprofit organizations (NPOs) are still struggling. Luckily, many savvy NPOs are now leveraging a series of proven strategies that help them overcome today’s fundraising obstacles.

What challenges are nonprofits facing

Budgetary pressures, aging donor files, donor attrition, shrinking prospect files, rising postal costs and little revenue from digital fundraising efforts – these are some of the issues we commonly hear from NPOs.

So how can nonprofits overcome these challenges?

While there is no singular formula for success, the following are some solutions that are proving effective right now for many of the 500+ nonprofits we support.

Seven proven marketing methods for nonprofits today

1. Turn Data into Donations – Prospering nonprofits are now using more data and behavioral characteristics to optimize their prospect targeting, communication frequency and  donor relevancy. Even basic segmentation approaches for NPOs that haven’t leveraged segmentation aggressively in the past have shown improvements of 100 to 200% or better.  On a more progressive basis, we’re finding that marrying demographic, lifestyle and interest information with donor history and their connection with a cause is often driving a step-change in results.

If you haven’t dramatically improved your data strategies in the past 18 months, you are probably leaving donor dollars on the table.

2. Get aggregated answers – Operating in a vacuum is hugely problematic for NPOs. Without a broad body of insights, analytics and creative tests to draw from, NPOs have to formulate their own fundraising hypotheses, implement them, wait an inordinate amount of time to analyze their effectiveness – and then hope they work, so they can be expanded.

Many progressive NPOs are leveraging the services of strategic partners that have a significant depth of current experience on what is working. Leveraging “aggregated answers” enables these nonprofits to expedite their fundraising success and improve the net revenue they derive. A couple of trends that we see working include using tested “Thank You” and “Conversion/Second Gift” strategies. Thanking all donors early and “personally” and/or providing a second gift to new donors quickly have both proven very successful in converting these donors to repeat givers.

Note – if working with a strategic partner isn’t an option for you, you should consider attending events and/or join communities where others are sharing specifics about strategies and results, such as at the Washington Nonprofit Conference.

3. Get Personal – A 2013 Cygnus Study indicated that many donors are limiting the number of organizations they support, opting to have a bigger impact on fewer causes. The implication of this finding is that non-profits must figure out how to efficiently and effectively communicate with their donors. Some approaches that are working for NPOs include using swappable paragraphs, more relevant imagery and previous gift information – all conveyed through integrated direct mail, e-mail and web marketing activities.

4. Do Digital – In this case, we’re talking about digital printing. Direct mail is still the workhorse of many fundraising acquisition and reactivation campaigns, but the rules are changing. The old one-size-fits-all approach is losing effectiveness. New digital print techniques and technology is enabling many NPOs to improve response rates 25% or better, by delivering more relevant messages to donors as indicated above.

5. Retain Rigorously The AFP 2013 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey reported that for every 100 donors gained in 2012, 105 were lost through attrition. This vicious cycle must change. Many successful nonprofits are putting increased emphasis on digital communications for retention marketing activities, leveraging more use of video and emotionally compelling imagery, and balancing these retention activities with smarter use of direct mail for acquisition.

6. Give to Get – Premium mailings are still working for a huge number of NPOs. This includes label and greeting card mailings – and “useful” premiums like tote bags, scarves and garden gloves also continue to get traction. The secret today is combining impactful premium creative with more sophisticated data targeting strategies to maximize response rate and net revenue while minimizing unnecessary expense.

7. Create Captivating Creative – Donor receptivity to more relevant imagery and video continues to grow. More specifically, we are seeing up to 150% improvement in readership, click throughs and conversion from effective use of visuals – and personalized video can improve performance even more. Additionally, donors who are provided with clear evidence of how their previous gift was making an impact also are responding positively.

In closing, fundraising obstacles are incredibly prevalent these days, but hopefully some of the strategies to overcome these obstacles are now apparent.


– Don McKenzie is the President & Chief Growth Officer at Innovairre, which supports more than 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. Don can be reached at DonM@Innovairre.com.