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Storytelling - What's Your Story?

Influence Donors through Consistent Storytelling

As development professionals, you aim to successfully influence how your audience thinks and feels to get their support for your organization. A key component of reaching and influencing your audience through direct marketing efforts is by storytelling.

Once upon a time in a…

school far away, there lived development professionals who sent appeals after Labor Day.

nonprofit far away, there lived development professionals who were getting appeals ready for their next Giving Day.

healthcare organization far away, there lived development professionals who were starting to think about Giving Tuesday.

No matter what type of organization you’re a part of, having a consistent story for your brand is key.

 No, you don’t have to be Dr. Seuss.

 No, you don’t have to be Nicholas Sparks.

 No, you don’t have to be Stephen King.

 Yes, you do need to have your own story.

One of the first things to ponder is, “How am I going to make sure my story consistently connects through each platform that we send something out?” Well, it all comes back to having a strategic annual giving marketing plan. By having this plan, it’s easy to map out your storyboard and the messages you would like to send throughout the year, the channels you’d like to send them through, and when you plan on sending them.

Storytelling is strategic, especially when it comes to fundraising. It does not simply mean that you must get numerous stories from people saying how the organization had an impact on them and send those out through various channels. This can be a great tactic for some organizations but every organization’s story is different.

Here are some other ideas that might spark your storytelling muse:

Listening: Before developing your story, you need to listen to the stories of your donors. Listening helps you truly understand donors and what parts of your organization are near and dear to their hearts. It can help you align your story with theirs. When crafting an ask with this information in mind, you are more likely to relate to them and convert them to loyal donors. Take the time to listen to a handful of your potential donors and learn about what’s most important to them – you might want to think about incorporating a survey into your campaign, which can allow you to learn a lot more about your donors than you already know.

Values: An organization may have a set of 3-5 values that are core elements that support the vision of the organization. If your focus of the year is on the organization’s core values and mission, think about how you’re going to get that message across throughout the year. An idea could be to feature a different value on each appeal and incorporate a quote or story that correlates with that value. This not only shows how important values are to the organization, but it also enables you to remain consistent throughout the year and strengthen your emotional connection with potential donors.

Photos: One of the most common English idioms is, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Photos can go an extremely long way when storytelling. It gives a visual to the audience of what you want them to see and helps support how you want them to feel. Depending on the type of appeal being sent out, you can incorporate a photo that is indeed worth a thousand words in addition to a powerful message that is consistent with the organization’s story. Photos are a great way of increasing an emotional bond with a potential donor and influencing that person to donate.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Wow, this blog post is quite repetitive using the word, ‘Consistency.’” It is! Consistency is vital to incorporating storytelling into your fundraising efforts. When telling your story, remember these three things:

  1. Listen to your donors and create a story for your organization that your donors want to support.
  2. Build an emotional bond with your donors and make your donors feel a certain way when they receive your appeal.
  3. Tell your story consistently throughout the year through creative direct mail appeals.

…And the storytelling fundraisers lived happily ever after!

To learn more about how BCG Connect can help you consistently deliver your story through direct marketing initiatives, connect with us!

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BCG Staff Writer
8 Fundraising Trends

8 Trends to Spring Your Annual Fund Marketing Forward

There’s something intricate about annual fund marketing – especially if you want to go beyond the basics of annual giving and create actionable strategies that will help you expand your program for long-term success.

It’s our goal to leverage our industry knowledge when working with clients to provide them with optimal marketing solutions for their fundraising program.

With spring around the corner, it’s time to start comprehensively assessing your annual giving program and determining how to take your program to the next level – how do you relate to these 8 trends?

  1. Implement a Strong Multi-Year and Annual Plan. Developing and maintaining a strong annual fund plan provides the opportunity to comprehensively assess your annual giving program, articulate short and long term objectives, and align all objectives with the plan appropriately. This advanced planning offers the opportunity to revisit initiatives regularly and stay up to speed with expectations. As a key step to long term success, effective annual fund planning is built from strategic development, partnerships, and long-term connections with donors.
  2. Stewardship, Stewardship, Stewardship. Annual giving professionals always need to keep at the front of their minds that stewardship is a key element of annual giving. Great stewardship is crucial to high retention and should be encouraged at all levels of the donor pyramid, including thank you notes all the way to donor impact stories in different types of publications.
  3. Have You Implemented #SocialMedia Into Your Campaign? If you haven’t increased your social media presence yet, now is the time to do so. Having a campaign that shows consistent branding, from the direct marketing all the way to social media, increases the engagement of the potential donors. Donors tend to feel more involved and having numerous touchpoints is important to donor relations.
  4. Mobile is King. At the CASE D1 conference, it was stated that 14% of all online donations are made by a mobile device. It is vital that your donation page, along with any corresponding emails, attachments, or graphics on social media, are mobile enabled. Similar to the importance of mobile with the annual fund, convenience is a significant factor in getting donations through the door.
  5. Big Data and Personalized Analytics. Big data and predictive analytics are evolving annual fund giving. By analyzing donor engagement and giving over their time with the organization/institution, engagement with them improves significantly. When you know about what they are passionate about in association with the organization/institution, you can tailor a personalized approach to them that could increase the chances of a donation.
  6. Storytelling is Not Just for Children. Tapping into your donor’s emotions can engage them, connect with them, really show them exactly what you want them to see and how you want them to feel. By providing better stories, you can raise more money because people are more dedicated and proud to support the fund. Storytelling can be incorporated in appeals, giving days, challenges, stewardship, among others. Take a step back and really tell the donors why their donation is impactful, who it has helped, and why they truly make a difference no matter the amount they donated.
  7. “What Was My Impact?” – Respond to Your Donors. It’s important donors know that their donation goes to a larger cause – that it is truly impacting something. Impact reports, case studies, stories, statistics are all vital elements to provide to your potential donors to show how exactly their donation helped. Did it help fund a new building? Did it provide more resources to the organization/institution? Tell them! They want to know their impact and by providing tangible information of what their donation helped, they will be more inclined to donate again.
  8. Change is Constant. Successful annual giving programs effectively adopt the changes that will work, while still maximizing the old tools that continue to work. The saying typically goes, “Out with the old, in with the new.” However, it is rather a delicate balance between using the old with the new. Learning how to adapt the new with the old can improve the likeliness of a successful annual giving program. For example, doing a direct mail piece highlighting a giving day can be complemented with a social media campaign incorporating the branding of the Giving Day.

These are just a few of the annual fund trends that should be on the forefront of your mind when developing your annual fund program. Do you need any help incorporating any of them into your campaign? We’d love to connect with you to share how we can help strengthen your campaign!

P.S. Attending the CASE District II conference in Baltimore? Let us know if you will be attending – we would love the opportunity to connect with you there!

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BCG Staff Writer
Fundraising Appeal Letter Hacks

Stand Out From The Crowd(ed Mailbox): 5 Fundraising Appeal Letter Hacks

Add some muscle to your next appeal letter to help it stand out in a crowded mailbox.

During the holiday season, everything that comes into your mailbox, from bills to credit card offers, are adorned in festive colors and glitter. So, it helps to add something special to an appeal letter to ensure that it will stand out from the colorful crowd.

Have your next appeal letter move into the spotlight, no matter the time of year, by including one or more of these strategies:

1. Include Images in the Letter:

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Adding photos to the body of the letter helps to give a face to the story, to the need, and to the reason a donor is giving. Photos also help engage a reader in the letter by helping them make a personal connection to it.

2. Add a Colorful Buck Slip Alongside the Letter:

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This mailing insert, approximately the size of a dollar bill (which is how it gets its name), provides room for additional graphics, images, and appeal information that can help enumerate the impact of a donation.

3. Use Color and Unique Typography in the Body of the Letter:

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By adding color and typographical emphasis, the reader can easily find the most important parts of your appeal letter. This also helps to break apart larger blocks of text to be easier to read and thus keeps their attention longer.

4. Add Artwork or a Tagline to the Outer Envelope:

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The envelope is an important part of the overall appeal package, but is so often overlooked (both during the design process and once it’s in the mailbox). The design of it helps to encourage the donor to open it.

5. Personalize the letter by including:

  • The recipient’s last gift amount: this helps to remind the donor of how much they previously gave and also gives them a point of reference for another gift.
  • A targeted ask amount: by personalizing the appeal letter with a specific ask for each letter, rather than a general ask, this helps to give the donor an understanding of how they can specifically help.
  • The recipient’s class year: by referencing a specific year, you help remind them of their experiences at the school and the reasons for giving back.
  • Add a P.S. line that repeats the call to action: use this important part of the letter to summarize the entire message – the ask, deadline, and call to action – so that when the reader’s eyes go to the bottom of the page, they have all the information.

What techniques have you used? These 5 ideas are just some of the wonderful strategies available. What have you found to be helpful?

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BCG Staff Writer
Bentley University's Philanthropy Week

Spotlight: Bentley University’s Philanthropy Week

#bentleygives
Bentley created a week of on-campus activities, all centered on philanthropy.

For 2015, this week of events was creatively branded with the slogan, “Bentley Runs on Philanthropy,” a spinoff of the Dunkin’ Donuts “America Runs on Dunkin'” slogan. This played well into the week’s events, which were full of coffee and running.

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Above: Branding the campaign: “Bentley Runs on Philanthropy”

Calling all coffee lovers and do-gooders…
To kick off the giving week, students were given free coffee and donuts. Then, it was their turn to “pay-it-forward” by buying a friend’s coffee. Next, they were asked to donate to Relay for Life with spare, coffee-cup change – every penny counts!

This all led up to the final event – the “Neon Run,” an organized race where students dressed to match the neon theme in glowing garb. It was a chance to show their school spirit, run with friends, and of course enjoy a cup of coffee (waiting for them at the finish line). This was a way to get students involved with supporting the Bentley Annual Fund – their registration fees were donated to the Annual Fund.

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It just goes to show – giving back can be fun too!

Success!
Bentley has had great success with this strategy over the past couple of years. In addition to getting students involved in their annual fund even before they become “young alumni”, Philanthropy Week continually:

  • Raises awareness of the Bentley Annual Fund – teaching students why it’s important to give back
  • Fosters a philanthropic culture among students
  • Provides a fun incentive for students to make a donation

View complete portfolio of event materials (crafted by Boston Color Graphics) here.

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The Current Environment of Annual Giving

The Current Environment of Annual Giving

Recently, the BCG team attended CASE’s Senior Annual Giving Conference, and we want to share some great information we learned on the current fundraising climate, donor retention, acquisition, reactivation, and who to target and when.

5 things you should know:

  • Today, 60% of all schools are making 2 or more asks per year and have success with multiple ask programs.
  • New Donors who give their first gift of $100 or more have a 71% retention rate
  • The longer lapsed the harder to reactivate. Those who are 1-2 years out are the best prospects to reactivate.
  • Parents are great donors and should be the first target for major gift officers.

Download more need-to-know facts from the Senior Annual Giving presentation.

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BCG Staff Writer