When selecting which nonprofit organizations to support and the specific types of support to give—be it for programs or operations, in-kind or cash, one-off employee volunteer events or year-round skills-based service—corporate giving officers have an almost limitless choice. There are, after all, over 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States alone, and each offers a multitude of programs and focus areas that could use some corporate cash, product and employee muscle. Yet, according to some experts, the area of operations most urgently in need of funding is nonprofit communications—and more specifically, electronic communications, an area that could benefit not just from companies’ cash but also the tech-savvy workers they employ.
According to a recent survey conducted by GiveCentral, a Web-based donation tool, the nation’s charities continue to lag when it comes to maximizing their electronic communications. For example:
- Only 3 percent of nonprofits send monthly text messages to donors.
- Just 10 percent of nonprofits send donor e-mails weekly, and only 22 percent send them monthly.
- More than a quarter of nonprofits (27 percent) have no structured e-mail schedule in place.
- Some 89 percent of nonprofits have no organized text messaging communication program at all.
Taken together, these findings “indicate that nonprofits are not taking full advantage of the ability to measure the impact of online donor communication and improve the level of engagement with their donors,” the organization said in the report.
Providing funding specifically for an expanded e-communications campaign accomplishes a lot, according to Patrick Coleman, CEO of GiveCentral.
“The greatest benefit to increased communications is ultimately an increase in overall donor engagement,” Coleman said. “In today’s information-rich environment, you have to really get your message out there and remind people that they are connected to a cause. Simply receiving messages of news and success, even without an ‘ask’ for a donation, reminds donors not only that they cared enough to donate to your organization, but why they should consider donating again.”
While many companies have provided support to traditional communication strategies in the past—telephone campaigns and print mailings, namely—e-communications is a fast-moving field, and new technologies hit the scene and become adopted by the donor public quickly. If nonprofits are to keep up, they need to stay informed of emerging communication trends and be able to adapt their strategies, incorporating the new communication channels quickly and seamlessly.
Security requirements make it even more complicated, as nonprofits that collect donations via the Web, e-mail or text must make sure their systems are compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, Coleman said. These standards apply to any business or organization that accepts credit cards and ensure they maintain a secure environment, whether online or offline. And ensuring the security of general donor data, such as phone numbers and physical and e-mail addresses, is equally important, he said.
According to Coleman, developing an effective e-communications strategy will take an investment of time and staff that many nonprofits—especially smaller ones with tighter budgets—might be hard-pressed to come up with.
But companies with employees whose skills touch upon this area—those involved in information technology, communications, marketing and even sales—can help their nonprofit partners put in place the necessary software, hardware and other resources needed to leverage the many different communications and donor channels in use today, and be prepared for what comes tomorrow as well. Doing so—with or without accompanying cash grant support—is likely to keep paying dividends down the road, as the enhanced communication leads to better donor acquisition and retention in the years ahead.
For more information, visit www.givecentral.org.