Jun 17 2022

Classy Collaborative 2022: Tactics to Boost Donor Engagement

Strong optimization, mixed with a digital-first approach to giving, is paying dividends for nonprofits.

Fundraising is simply fundamental to the work that nonprofits do, the bedrock of many charities’ work, and organizations looking to excel at giving are looking for both new tactics and validation that the tactics they’re using are a perfect match for their model.

This week’s Classy Collaborative highlighted a number of these trends, including high-level data points and fundraising case studies that nonprofits can learn from.

Nonprofit Fundraising Stats: What the Data Says

As a major fundraising software provider, Classy is large enough that it can look at broader trends just by aggregating its internal data. This was highlighted by a session titled “What We Learned from Analyzing Over 54,000 Fundraising Campaigns.”

“We are so uniquely positioned in the sense that we serve thousands of nonprofits across the world, and we were able to use that scale to identify learnings across campaigns that many of you have launched, and distilled them in a way that's really tangible and tactical,” said Hannah Durbin, a content strategist at Classy.

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Among those trends, according to Classy Data Analytics Manager Brett Vanderblock:

Small Changes Make a Big Impact

At the scale at which many nonprofits work, even a modest shift of the needle can create a big impact, according to Vanderblock.

“Going from 10 percent to 11 percent sounds kind of small, but that's actually a 10 percent increase in the donation volume that you're getting from that campaign,” he noted.

This creates fresh opportunities in terms of timing and optimization.

(In case you were wondering, the best time to send an appeal is Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.; the second best time is on a Friday.)

Payment Models Can Define the Relationship

Classy, reflecting a donor emphasis on mobile, has put a lot of focus on bringing in mobile-friendly payment options such as PayPal and Venmo. But for donors who want to sign up for a recurring gift, the best option may be direct bank transfers through ACH, rather than payments with a credit card. (Another benefit of ACH: People switch checking accounts less often than they do credit cards.)

“We see the average one-time gift through ACH is twice as large as through credit cards,” Vanderblock said. “And we see the average recurring gift is 29 percent higher.”

BUILD YOUR STRATEGY: Learn how the right IT team can help strengthen your digital strategy.

Give New Donors a “Nudge” to Recur

Vanderblock noted that recurring gifts are important, in part because donors are likely to donate more in small increments over time than they are in one-time donations. But there is room for optimization that can turn first-time donors into recurring donors. Shifting the language of the donation landing page, he said, can lead up to 30 percent of new donors to make recurring gifts.

“What this tells us that I think is so cool is that donors are open to being instructed or informed about how you want them to give, and we have this ability to really nudge their behavior into this recurring giving,” he added.

Plan for the Churn

One downside of recurring giving, however, is that churn is baked into the model. Because recurring gifts that begin during the holiday season most likely kick off in January, the odds of churn rise to 40 percent during that month — higher than any other time of the year.

“January is a great opportunity to think about how you are going to engage all these new donors that you've gotten, and specifically to think about building a proactive nurturing strategy to have in place come January,” Vanderblock said.

Classy highlighted these points in its State of Modern Philanthropy 2022 report, released in May. (It’s worth noting that the right business intelligence framework can make this slicing and dicing of data easier for nonprofits.)

Peer-to-Peer Is Powerful, Even During a Pandemic

One of Classy’s strengths traditionally has been in facilitating peer-to-peer campaigns — an area that is increasingly important, according to Vanderblock — and one of the sessions highlighted two peer-to-peer success stories that couldn’t be more different.

In the throes of the pandemic, both organizations had to look for digital help in managing their peer-to-peer donations as the global crisis complicated their respective missions.

Barbells for Boobs, a fitness-themed charity supporting women that have been diagnosed with breast cancer, has long been driven by peer-to-peer fundraising (though much of its work was managed through a large network of CrossFit facilities that support its efforts) as well as fashionable gear, earned through fundraising, that supports the nonprofit’s message.

“Make sure it's cool stuff that will be rotational, and they’ll wear it because your work matters,” said Zionna Hanson, founder and CEO.

The YMCA of San Diego County, meanwhile, has a more traditional approach to reaching its donors, who represent a wide swath of the Southern California community. But even the YMCA is learning new peer-to-peer fundraising tricks, according to Courtney Cordero, the group’s senior director of development.

“Each year, we're seeing more and more fundraising happen online, and more and more people engaging their networks, their friends, their family members, their swim team leaders, their work, and making sure that everyone has the opportunity so we can raise those funds, so that they can appreciate and be a part of YMCA programs,” Cordero said.

READ MORE: Learn why nonprofits should consider restructuring to support recurring donations.

During the pandemic, each organization had to shift their peer-to-peer strategy. For example, Cordero’s organization found an opportunity using group chats — a trend her boss’s daughter uncovered.

“Now, we're using the same strategy with our volunteers,” she said. “We are telling them to use a group message because then, they keep getting reminded over and over and over.”

And with the pandemic shutting down many gyms that had proved to be consistent partners, Barbells for Boobs came to embrace the idea of offering digital peer-to-peer programs for superfan donors. They sweetened the deal with company partnerships, such as one with barbell manufacturer Eleiko — a hot commodity at a time when gyms were closed.

“We had almost 200 people raise $1,200 because they wanted a bar in their garage,” Hanson said.

Supply chain disruptions created a new challenge for the group, but the nonprofit found serendipity in the moment that will inform future strategies: The barbells shipped during the week of Christmas, which made the rewards all the sweeter.

Keep this page bookmarked for coverage of the event, and follow us on Twitter @BizTechMagazine and the official conference Twitter feed, @ConnectAtCollab.

Photography by Ernie Smith

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