'Tis always the season for raising money

by Farra Trompeter

Are you feeling the magic of year-end fundraising? From the letters and emails your organization is sending out to the requests pouring into your own inbox, solicitations are everywhere. This should come as no surprise given that 73% of contributions come from individuals (Giving USA) and that a third of all online giving occurs in December (Network for Good).

But in the midst of the holiday giving excitement, don't forget that the best fundraising programs build relationships with donors every day. So as you get ready to ring in the New Year, here are four principles to boost your fundraising year-round, and not just during year-end (with slides below from a recent talk on this very topic).

1. Make it easy and compelling for donors to support you online.
As much as we love a good scavenger hunt, finding where to donate on your site should be both clear and compelling. Your donation page should be easy to find, but slapping a "Donate Now" button everywhere isn't the whole answer. The path to the donate page also needs to warm donors up. Your buttons and web copy should quickly explain why they need to give--make donors feel like their donations matter and will help move your organization's mission forward. Once they get to the donation page, intro copy should quickly reinforce the case for giving, then make the process of donating as simple as possible. Ask only for the information you need and remove any unnecessary form fields or distracting links. If you haven't done it in awhile, try making a gift today to your nonprofit and two others your supporters are likely to give to. How do the experiences compare?

2. Build relationships with donors through integrated campaigns.
An integrated campaign is one that features a clear theme or story across multiple communications channels (email, social media, website, video, mail, phone, in-person event, etc.). These campaigns usually engage supporters beyond donating--with actions that range from sharing personal stories to signing petitions to passing the campaign on to personal networks. Sophisticated nonprofits execute these multichannel campaigns several times a year, not just from November to January. If you are looking for ways to do more of these in 2012, take a look at these twelve tips.

3. Find your most passionate donors and turn them into fundraisers.
Pause for a moment and think about what groups you donated to over the past year or two. We'd bet there is at least one organization you supported because a friend, family member, or colleague asked you to. From walkathons and marathons to birthdays and tributes, it's become the norm to give to the causes your friends and family care about (even when that cause may not be as high a priority for yourself). Is your organization making that kind of social giving easy? Have you asked your super donors--the ones who give almost every time you ask, even in small amounts--to enlist the help of their friends via email and social media? There are lots of tools that make this simple and easy to do, including Causes on Facebook, Crowdrise, Razoo, and HelpAttack! Here's a current campaign from the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) that shows how this works.

4. Create community and give donors more ways to support you.
We've been talking about generating financial support in this article, but have you also thought about ways your communications can spark other kinds of support? When you get donors to come to an event, watch a video, share a photo, or even retweet or "like" a status update, they'll be much more motivated to donate in the future. They may even feel good about meeting and interacting with other supporters who also believe in your work. So, make a resolution to be more of a yenta (a.k.a. matchmaker) in 2012 and introduce your donors, activists, and other community members to each other.

Share what you're doing to bring these four principles to life in the comments below.

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