The end of one year and the start of a new year is the perfect time to reflect on how your non-profit organisation is going, especially since we naturally do it anyway for ourselves. Evaluating how things have gone over the last year is an excellent way to see if you are achieving your goals, or if your non-profit has wandered off course. 2020 presents some new challenges and, of course, there are plenty of opportunities that have been around for a long time but that you might not be taking advantage of. So, let’s get started!
1 – Clean up your database
So often, I see databases that are clogged up with data that doesn’t help the organisation achieve its goals. Have you or someone else in your organisation ever said that you don’t trust the results of your reports or searches? This usually comes down to bad data. Over time, especially with personnel changes, processes can get lost, missed or ignored and it doesn’t take that long before the data going into your database isn’t quite right. As a result, the data you need to get back out of the database doesn’t seem right either.
I’ve seen this get so bad with some non-profits that we’ve worked with that they weren’t even using their CRM reporting tools anymore but rather were spending days manually pulling the data they needed because they just didn’t trust the CRM report accuracy.
Bad data = bad reports. So, start off the year with a clean database. Take the time to dive into it. Here are a few actions you can take to help keep your database in tip-top shape:
- Scan over your constituents, identify any obviously missing or incorrect data and fix it.
- Encourage your constituents to update their details if they haven’t done so recently so that you are more likely to be able to reach them. You could do this by email, mail or phone call depending on their preferences.
- Check your reports to make sure that they are giving you the most important metrics automatically.
2 – Improve and streamline your giving experience
When we are busy working in our own organisation it is easy to miss the little things. Everything tends to make sense internally, but over time software updates, website tweaks, website redesigns, security standard changes, browser updates and so on can all contribute to a degraded giving experience that gets missed if we aren’t regularly testing our own giving systems.
Take the time this new year to go through your entire giving process. Perhaps ask some friends or family to go through the process too and give you feedback on what would make it better. Look for anything that could be improved. Does your browser show a red broken padlock on your website? Perhaps the credit card donation form is displaying weirdly or missing a helpful instruction. Maybe your giving form is overly complex. Does your donation form show a trust badge? Could the thank you email be improved? Is there an opportunity to learn more about a donor after they give that is missing?
Some things can require a lot of work to change, others might be simple, but each little thing you improve could help increase giving and help to improve donor retention as well. It’s just like buying from a store, a bad experience will turn off potential repeat customers and the same goes for potential repeat donors.
Resolve to have a simple, streamlined giving experience that automates as much of the process as possible and builds trust with your donors.
3 – Optimise your website
In Australia, most websites are still poorly optimised, and this goes for both commercial and non-profit organisations. Test your website on different devices with a special focus on mobile devices. Around half of all Internet traffic is now on mobile, so you want to make sure that your website works on mobile devices. To emphasise this even more, Google puts a lot of importance on websites that provide a consistent user experience across devices and it is a ranking factor in search results.
Ensuring your website looks good and performs consistently on mobile devices is just one part of optimisation though. You also want to ensure that it loads fast. Again, Google does consider your website loading time as part of their search algorithms. Why? Because people are for more likely to leave a website without waiting for it to load if it takes more than 2 seconds. This is especially true on mobile.
Combine slow loading with a poor mobile experience and you are looking at a recipe for disaster for half of your website visitors. Chances are, they won’t donate and they probably won’t even come back.
So, resolve to speed up your website and optimise it for mobile. A great place to start is to host your website close to your constituents with an optimised hosting provider. If you are using WordPress and your constituents are mostly in Australia, we recommend Kinsta (our performance tests place it the fastest in Australia for WordPress) or Cloudways (the second-fastest WordPress host we’ve tested in Australia) using their Sydney locations.
4 – Backup, backup, backup
Is all your vital data backed up? Over time automated backup systems can have issues and potentially fail. You should be notified if this happens, but for many reasons you might not have gotten these kinds of notifications, so review your backups and make sure they are running correctly.
Next, double check that everything important is actually being backed up. I’ve seen a lot of entities where important files are only saved on one users desktop. It might seem obvious that this isn’t very safe if that computer fails, yet, it happens all the time. Even systems that are using NAS-based data sharing are often left vulnerable, reliant on RAID related backup systems for vital data. This is definitely a big improvement, but often in favour of more storage, RAID backups are configured with minimal redundancy so in the event of more than one or maybe two drives failing, the whole system goes down.
Instead, I’d consider a full redundant backup solution. Whether that is a duplicate NAS that mirrors your primary NAS, or whether it is a cloud backup. Synology NAS devices do have a cloud-sync feature for example which can allow you to sync your data with a cloud service like Dropbox, Backblaze and a number of other cloud storage providers.
If you don’t have a centralised backup system, a cloud sync service like Dropbox can be a lifesaver, as long as your users are saving their files in Dropbox. If your team is small and you only have a handful of computers and your users aren’t great at saving things to the appropriate locations, a tool like Backblaze is a very cheap way to maintain a rolling backup of all the computers on your team with no interaction required. It just backs up the entire hard drive constantly. There are a number of other tools that can perform similar functions as well.
That’s just local systems though. What about your website? Your email list? Your CRM data? Is this all backed up safely, securely and redundantly? Losing this data could spell disaster if something happens!
Regardless of how you approach it, resolve to ensure you have an effective backup system in place this year for all your data, both local systems and remote. Don’t leave it to chance.
5 – Take time for professional development
The non-profit space changes rapidly, in large part driven by the lightning-fast changes in technology. This means from year to year and sometimes even month to month, your approach needs to change. We talked earlier about the effect that turnover can have on your data, but it goes beyond just the effect on your data integrity. When people aren’t trained, they typically don’t get the most from your systems, and in worst-case scenario’s they don’t use them at all! I recently met with an entity that was spending over $1,000/month on Salesforce Pardot, but none of their team had been trained on it so they were just using Mailchimp instead. Don’t throw away your hard-earned funds. Instead, invest in your team. It helps build their confidence and doubles as an investment in your organisation.
There are stacks of professional development opportunities available from conferences to e-books, to online courses, masterminds and more traditional learning. Lots of these things are non-profit focused, and of course, many more that aren’t. Regardless though, they all present learning opportunities that tie in with the interests of your team and your organisational goals.
An investment in yourself and your team is an investment in your organisation, so resolve to spend time (and if necessary, money) on professional development this year.
6 – Use your data well
You are collecting a treasure trove of data every day, so put it to good use. Even if you don’t have a super powerful CRM yet, simple email tools like Mailchimp and Google Analytics can help you to identify things that have worked better for you in the past, and the things that haven’t.
Look for positive trends, like particular email subject lines that got higher than average open rates, times of day where people are more likely to make donations on your website, newsletter campaigns that generated a lot of donations, or even regions where many of your donors congregate. Perhaps you run events, who comes to them, wherefrom, and which people give the most as a result?
This data is all valuable and you can use it to inform your decisions and plans this year. At a high level, you might identify things now to help plan your overall fundraising strategy for the year, and then ongoing throughout the year you might analyse your data at a lower level for each campaign as it is implemented.
Regardless of what data you are gathering, resolve to use it well this year!
7 – Retain your constituents
Donor retention is a massive challenge. People often give on a whim, but unless they truly believe in your cause, they are unlikely to give again, and as the pool of givers in Australia continues to shrink, donor retention is more important than ever this year.
There are stacks of different ways to build retention, but in a time where donors are especially concerned about waste, a great place to start is building trust and understanding what motivates your donors to give. Considering implementing planned giving programs, and pay attention to your donor’s capabilities. Asking a low-income donor for a large regular gift just might push them away. That said, Probono Australia reports that Giving Australia found donors who commit to planned giving programs give up to 6 times more than those who don’t.
Segment your communications as much as is practical, automate recurring messages like thank you emails, be sure to always be as personal as you can with your donors, and don’t just ask for donations. Communicate stories with your donors too, call them to say hi and see how they are. Donors are people, just like you, and at the end of the day, people relate to people.
So, resolve to use the data you already have, and your unique outlook on life as a person to connect with your donors and encourage recurring gifts in ways that work for each individual giver. Oh, and don’t be creepy. With great data comes great responsibility. Use it wisely.
So that is my new years resolutions that I believe every non-profit can benefit from as we enter the new year, 2020. What new years resolutions are you going to implement in your non-profit this year? Let me know in the comment section below!