March 30, 2018  |  by Kursten Mitchell

Through the U.S. federal tax reforms, signed into law in November 2017 under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, individual donors will experience changes to their tax incentives for 2018 and beyond that are expected to greatly impact donorship to nonprofit organizations. According to the National Tax Policy Center, charitable giving nationally will decline by between $12 billion and $20 billion in 2018. Though the full impact is currently unknown, many nonprofit organizations have become concerned about their development prospects within these new conditions, and are seeking means to ensure their ability to fulfill their missions and deliver services to those in need is met.

In this environment, it’s more important than ever to attract individual donors who give with their heart and their mind, not just their pocketbook. In fact, most nonprofits are in a position to tell compelling stories that tug at the heartstrings and attract donors on an emotional level. To ensure that you’re doing all you can do to attract precious donor dollars, make certain your organization is addressing these five fundamentals to create a sense of connection between your nonprofit and your potential donors.

Make your mission clear.

To connect with your organization, potential donors must also connect with your mission. Your mission should be focused and narrow, articulated clearly and distinctly. Your mission statement should be short, unique, and easily digestible. Avoid insider terminology and articulate a vision for the future that goes beyond describing impact, but also inspires action.

Illuminate your differentiation.

Typically, multiple nonprofits — both locally and nationally — drive similar missions and serve similar communities. In your nonprofit marketing strategy, ensure that your messaging, communications, and marketing materials articulate the ways in which your organization is different than others. For example, if your differentiation has a local component, your messaging should include data regarding your organization’s direct impact in the community. Alternately, if your organization has a national constituency, ensure donors understand how important it is to have access to a national network, national research, or the collective impact of a national donor base.

Articulate your impact.

Donors want to know where their money is going. Organizations that routinely demonstrate and communicate the impact of donor dollars win more donations than those that simply communicate their mission and services.

Recognize that you do have competition.

 Nonprofits are notorious for assuming that they don’t have competition. And it’s often true that each nonprofit has a specialized and unique differentiation and impact (see #2, above). However, all nonprofits have indirect competition — made up of other organizations where your prospective donors can give their money instead of giving to you. Gain an understanding of your target donor, as well as the other organizations competing for attention within that target population, in order to develop organizational communications that stand out and entice action.  

Make your organization visible.

Despite the undeniable effort involved, articulating a clear mission and delivering community impact are not enough to drive donorship. Unfortunately, just because you’ve built it, does not mean people will come. Therefore, all nonprofits should define their marketing and communications strategy, and ensure a staff member or outside partner is assigned to deliver against that nonprofit marketing strategy, in order to keep the donor dollars flowing. If people have never heard your name, they will never donate — no matter how good you are or how much good you are doing. Brag strategically, loudly and often.

With more and more nonprofits entering our communities to help deliver new services we need, in addition to those services no longer offered via government, the competition for nonprofit donor dollars is more fierce than ever. The five tactics above will help you gain notice and stand out among individual donors who can help you build your organization.