7 Achievable New Year's Resolutions for Nonprofits

2016 was a doozie of a year and 2017 is shaping up to be a battle for nonprofits on all kinds of levels. Growing and raising even more awareness about the causes you champion is more important than ever, as nonprofits become one of the last lines of defense against a reckless and uber-conservative government.

Fortunately, plenty of people certainly still care about the work that nonprofits do, as evidenced by the massive donations collected by Planned Parenthood, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Civil Liberties Union shortly after the election. However, if your cause doesn’t directly resist against the current political calamity it can be easy to worry that your nonprofit will get overlooked by more high-profile organizations.

Now is the time to remind your stakeholders that your efforts are still essential. The work of sharing your story and honing your fundraising tactics continues in 2017; Here are a few resolutions that can help you do this in an effective way:

7 Achievable New Year's Resolutions for Nonprofits 

1. I will check in with ALL donors personally

Contacting people who have already donated to your cause should be one of your first priorities for the new year. Update them on what their donation helped to achieve and let them know what you’re working on right now.

Actually connecting with donors and their hopes and dreams is not always so easy to do though. Working towards understanding how to share messages that your donors and prospects want to hear is the first step. Mark Phillips, founder and CEO of Bluefrog, diagramed “The Fundraising Paradox.” (see the graphic below) This illustrates really clearly why many of us are failing to communicate with prospects and donors.


2. I will work to build My email list

Actively working to build your email list is something I can’t recommend enough! Unlike your social profiles, your email list is something you own and control. If Facebook changes their algorithm or disappears tomorrow, you’re out of luck, but email is much more likely to remain a valid long-term communication method and can be used across multiple platforms.

Plus, there are many ways to use your email list to tell your nonprofit’s story!

So how do you build your email list? There are a number of effective ways to get started, but above all, I’d recommend setting up a ‘lead magnet’ on your website in lieu of the standard ‘Newsletter Signup’ that NP’s typically have. 

Scott Paley explains what this means:

“If you offer these things in exchange for a name and email address, you’ll see your list growth go into hyperdrive. This technique — offering something of value in exchange for an email address — is what digital marketers refer to as “lead magnets” (or sometimes “content upgrades.”) How well do good lead magnets convert? We’ve seen lead magnets push conversion rates higher than 10%, sometimes significantly so. Why? It’s human nature to want instant gratification. Good lead magnets are short, specific, desirable/valuable, and provide “aha!” moments.”

3. I will communicate more efficiently through social media

Your social media strategy really depends on your nonprofit and what you’re hoping to achieve. Are you trying to nurture conversations within your community? Generate awareness? Increase membership and donors? All of the above and more? 

Re-evaluating your social media strategy early in the New Year is good yearly practice to do. What has been working? What has flopped? Doing more of what has worked well and less of what hasn’t may seem like an obvious solution, but it’s a fundamental that's worth remembering.

Kerri Karvetski has some more advice for communicating more efficiently via social media: 

“This may come as a surprise to some, but you don’t have to create all of your social media content yourself. In fact, the best social media marketers reuse their best content, and share high-performing content from others, in addition to creating original content. So cut yourself some slack and stop beating yourself up over not feeding the social media beast with fresh content every minute.”

4. I will take more pictures and videos

Images and videos are the types of content that get the most engagement online by far. Why? They’re easily consumable and can often communicate a message in a fraction of the time that an article or blog post would. Getting better at frequently posting images and videos about your nonprofit, the work you do, and the people involved will help build an aware and engaged following.

John Haydon suggests working more video into your communications especially because your competition isn’t:

“Here’s the best reason to start publishing video content: Most of your competition ISN’T publishing video content. They’re either scared to, not sure how to, or think it’s too much work. Video is so much more impactful than the words and pictures published by your competition. Your videos will bring your brand to life, and your competition won’t stand a chance.”

5. I will work to engage a younger audience

Focusing on the baby boomer generation right now makes sense. They have free time, disposable income, and understand the traditional nonprofit framework for communicating with stakeholders.

However, for the future of your organization, you’ll need to continue to adapt and understand how to reach millennials

Max Friedman explains,

“A culture that embraces change and encourages innovation is absolutely critical. If you aren’t reaching younger donors now, how will that change if you aren’t willing to try something new? This culture must be a part of the entire organization. Otherwise, individuals will be scared to take on new initiatives because the fear and consequences of failure are too great.”

Millennials value authenticity, embrace emerging social media platforms, require a streamlined online experience. This means that the value of a robust, user-friendly online presence is just going to become more crucial in the future.

6. I will strengthen and improve my storytelling

Storytelling should be  the foundation of ANY nonprofit communication. It’s what draws people to your cause and the work that you do. A story about the former racehorse you saved, the well you engineered, or the stream you cleaned up can communicate so much about your work, and these types of stories stick in people’s minds!

So what stories do you tell?

What is your organization all about? Who or what are you working for? What are you working against? What are your successes and failures (yes failures!)? These are some of the essential elements you can highlight on any platform. 

According to Ali Newman

“The best, most empathetic stories will incorporate a universal truth. Framing your story with a universal truth will better connect your audience to you, your mission, and one another. Think about family bonds, understanding, respect, societal pressures, etc. Incorporating a universal truth shifts the dialogue from you describing why your organization cares about X, to why a single audience can relate to that cause.”

7. I will measure and track my online marketing efforts

Pouring over monthly website stats may not see like a fun use of your time, but it is super valuable and can be much more revealing and empowering than you might think. Looking into Google Analytics to see what website pages people are visiting, how long they stay, where they came from, and what they do after they view your content can give you a ton of useful information.

Furthermore, having a fundraising platform and consistently spending time looking into donation history and trends is critical.

The Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth notes that

“Having better information is important, said Brandi N. Yee, chief program officer at ACT for Alexandria, a community foundation in Alexandria, Va., because with it, charities can become better fundraisers and more effective organizations.

Understanding patterns of giving—“how donors spread out their donations, how micro-donations work, whether people give to the same organization continually”—gives organizations real insight into when and where to focus a fundraising campaign, said Yee.”

Next Steps

Here are a few suggestions about the next steps you can take to bring these resolutions to life!

  1. Make a checklist of donors to contact. You’ll want to call everyone if you have the time, or prioritize who to call and who to email individually. Share a story of a recent success that their time or donation helped with.
  2. Create a lead magnet that you can provide website visitors in exchange for their email. It can be something as simple as a one page how-to manual on something related to your cause. Then set up a form on your website where visitors can enter their email to receive the how-to manual.
  3. Look back at your most popular social posts. You can often either recycle these #TBT (throwback thursday) style, or dream up posts that are similar.
  4. Make a video to share with your following right now! All you really need is a camera with video or a smartphone and an authentic message to share. Take 30 seconds and discuss what your nonprofit is up to. Ask your following what they think about the message you shared.
  5. Interview one of your younger donors. Find out what about your organization, cause, and communication style resonates with them. Find out what’s not working for them; what can you improve?
  6. Send out an email to your list that shares a story. Any story! Give your storytelling chops a test. Write 300-400 words about a recent action, a lesson you learned, or anything relevant to your cause. Do it via video and combine step 4 + 6. Two actions in one! 
  7. Poke around in your website’s Google Analytics account. See if you can determine which are your most popular pages. See if you can find what platforms they’re coming from and what devices they’re viewing your website with.

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