Whether you’re a nonprofit executive, development director or donor, you’ve likely heard about the latest tax law passed by the US Congress that’s predicted to have a dramatic impact on charitable giving in 2018 and beyond. One study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy predicts it could decrease annual giving by as much as $13 billion!
I’m certainly not an accountant and won’t even attempt to give you financial advice, but as a nonprofit marketing/communications professional, I can safely suggest that effectively communicating your organization’s mission, vision and impact is going to be more important than ever. Now, you not only have to overcome the traditional challenges of breaking through everyday noise and distractions, but also you’ll need to make the case that your organization is the most worthy of support, even when that support is no longer tax deductible.
With this new law and its impact in mind, here are some steps you and your nonprofit can take to ensure you’re effectively communicating with your donors, volunteers, board, and prospects.
1. Get personal – Do you know your constituents? While you can’t personally know each one, you can understand what makes them tick, where they are and how they like to communicate. Being able to personalize your messaging using email, social media and direct mail will make your supporters feel more connected, valued and engaged, which leads to deeper relationships and loyalty. You can leverage surveys, polls and analytics to help you better understand and segment your audiences. Once you know who they are, you can develop messaging that will be more interesting and valuable to them.
2. Invest in marketing communications – Yes, as a marketing agency, this suggestion is a little self-serving. But even if you don’t engage Angel Oak Creative, you should ensure that you’re including funding for at least a minimal amount of marketing efforts in this year’s budget to ensure it’s a priority. At a minimum, your budget should include support for planning and executing a basic marketing plan that would include social media, email and direct mail efforts. Ideally, it would also include funds to develop custom photography and videography to help more effectively tell your story. I can’t stress the importance of this enough in today’s marketing universe. Audiences expect clear, compelling stories told visually. You can even use your smartphone to create this kind of content. (Here are a few tips from Angel Oak’s Seth Crawford on just that subject).
3. Expose people to your mission in action – There’s no better way to engage current and future donors into your cause than to give them the opportunity to experience your mission in action. This not only helps demonstrate your impact, but it also puts a human face on your organization. We’ve worked with nonprofits who have difficult missions to demonstrate, like drilling wells in Africa or supporting women in prison, but they’ve managed to find ways to bring people into their mission with video, demonstrations and simulations. Think creatively. Ask those who work on the front lines to think about how to help others experience the work they do. Use these opportunities as point-of-entry events to capture information, follow up with attendees and invite them to get engaged. Do this consistently and get your board and most loyal supporters involved in planning and leading these events. (Angel Oak’s Cate McLeane offers some tips for acquiring new donors through great point-of-entry events).
4. Build, equip and send out ambassadors – Your biggest assets are your most loyal supporters. These are the folks who show up at every event, volunteer often and give consistently. Always be on the lookout for these ambassadors and develop tools to help them share your story and invite others into your organization. These tools include providing them with resources like photography, videos, social media content, impact reports and statistics and the like. You can utilize a cloud service like Dropbox or Google Drive to provide secure access to these materials. And be sure you’re being intentional about asking your ambassadors to speak out on your behalf. But getting even the most loyal ambassador to post and share about your organization is a challenge at best. You might consider a tool like Angel Oak Connect to help streamline the process and make it easier to leverage these ambassadors and their networks.
While we won’t know the full impact of the new tax laws on nonprofits until the end of this first year, we have to believe it will have a significant influence on donors who give in part because of tax incentives. So if these incentives no longer exist, how can we help increase the possibility of maintaining current supporters and attracting new donors? Communications will be even more important in building relationships, cultivating donors and demonstrating your impact. We’d love to be of assistance, so just let us know how we can help. You can fill out a form here or reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-602-9612.
– David Chatham, Senior Marketing Consultant