In my last blog I talked about a segment of your audience that could use a bit more love: non-donors, prospects, casual observers—the usual suspects. Call them what you will, but these are the people that expressed interest in your organization and mission and are waiting to hear more.

The challenge is that organizations typically focus on supporters and this valuable group gets left out because they’ve donated zero on the giving ($) scale.

It’s true, donor retention is still at an all-time low and every organization should spend more time on the stewardship and cultivation of donors  (steward all levels of donors, don’t neglect the bread & butter of your annual fund), but there is this very valuable group of individuals that are waiting for a reason to give. Whether it’s a gift of time, talent or treasure this group of prospects is ripe for conversion and it’s up to you to make it happen.

While I could write blog after blog and do webinars for the next 6 months on the topic of engagement and conversion, let’s get started with 5 tips you can implement this year.

1. Know Your Audience

Figure out who your audience is by surveying your constituents and then creating personas. Donors aren’t just donors. Within that group there is a rich tapestry of people. The same goes for prospects—constituents are drawn to your mission for a reason. If you can identify information like demographics, interests, and the source of their origin to the organization, you can create targeted content.

2. Share More then News

Move beyond the enews/newsletter and send communications that are timely, relevant and most of all interesting. Think outside the box for reasons to communicate with your base. Need ideas for going beyond the news? Check out my presentation from BBCON.

3. Have a Voice Online

Use social media to amplify your messages and stories (not as a bull horn). Ask questions, post content that sparks a conversation, when people like, reply or share your content respond quickly and accordingly, use compelling images and videos and most importantly have a personality, avoid sounding like an institution.

4. Create a Welcome Series

Implement a new subscriber welcome series. Within days of someone signing up to receive communications send them a multi-part email series with information on who you are, what you do, how they can get involved and a story of impact.

5. Pilot an Engagement Campaign

Run an engagement campaign. An engagement campaign is a digital effort utilizing email, social and the web to build a more loyal audience through a compelling CTA (call to action). Check out this very successful campaign from YIVO on yiddish curse words. In less than 48 hours hundreds of people took the quiz! People (your audience) want to be heard and participate in the mission, an engagement campaign gives people that outlet.

To learn more about engagement campaigns join me on August 12 for The Usual Suspects: How to Engage Your Audience at 2 pm ET.


Danielle Johnson-Vermenton, CFRE, is a Principal Consultant at Blackbaud and is often called to present at events like Digital Leap, AFP Planet Philanthropy and BBCON.  Prior to Blackbaud, Danielle worked in the nonprofit industry in roles such as director of individual giving at Boys & Girls Clubs, leadership giving manager at the Red Cross and director of development at HUGS for Kids. Danielle’s passion is inspiring nonprofits to have a plan for today with a grand vision for tomorrow. You can follow Danielle @DJVermenton and find her blogging on npENGAGE.

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