I worked my way through college as a bookkeeper / office manager for small businesses. The company I probably enjoyed working for the most was The Hologram store. At the time they had three locations around Central Florida. I learned a lot there – about the cost of theft for retail stores, about bookkeeping, scheduling, inventory and about the importance of making yourself accessible to people who might want to buy from you. One store would not have been enough. The owners realized that they needed to have several locations to both be in front of more and as a result have more people buying.
So the question is – are you talking to enough people to find the support you need? Here are three tips to think about.
1. Know Your Closing Ratio.
Often, I’ve seen nonprofit leaders get discouraged because they get a few people saying no. I understand that can be frustrating. But recognize that not everyone will say yes. So what we really need to do is determine what our ‘closing’ ratio is. Then, if we find that 5 people out of 10 people say yes, we can focus on having a closing ratio that’s equal to the national average for in-person asks. Not bad, right? On the other hand, a 1% response rate to direct mail is considered a great closing ratio. (As an aside, if you have a list of 10 people who are capable of giving a large gift, and who are connected to your organization, would you rather have 1% of them say yes or 50% of them say yes? Just something to consider as you are trying to decide how to reach out to potential donors.)
2. Build Your List
Once you calculate your closing ratio, you’ll be better able to determine how many people you need to get in front of. Let’s say you realize that you need to reach 5,000 people, but you only have 500 people you are currently connected to. Wow – you have a lot of work to do. Strategies that used to be effective, such as direct mail and telemarketing, are no longer working as well. Start to think of ways that you can get in front of more people. And as you do that, make sure that you’re offering those people a chance to stay connected with your organization. It’s not enough to give your web address and tell them to go sign up, let them sign up with you via a sign-up list or a sign-up card. Capture their contact information (especially email addresses) while you are with them. Related to this, DON’T add people to your list just because your met them at an event and they gave you their business card (unless they ask to be added). In addition to in-person events, make it easy for people to sign up for your email list on your website, use social media to direct people to your site, and consider offering some online educational events that people might be interested in.
3. Keep Your List Engaged
Now that you have a growing list, you’ll want to keep your readers engaged. It’s okay to be sending emails a couple times a month (or even weekly if you have the resources for it). What I don’t want to happen for you is that you grow your list – and then wait so long to send an email that they forget they signed up. Next thing you know, three months have gone by and you think, ‘wow – I need to get an email out!’ Now what happens when they get that email? A few people don’t remember signing up for the list, report you as spam, and bam – now you start to have deliverability issues.
Your emails don’t have to be lengthy. I often recommend that nonprofits just start with an update from the board president or executive director. Just one or two paragraphs to let readers know about someone who has been helped or other developments. The most important thing though, is to provide content that is relevant to the reader.