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What nonprofits should stop doing now: Advice from experts

Ignoring people who make medium- size gifts
People who give R1 000 to R5 000 annually fall through the cracks at too many charities, says Alia McKee, a principal at Sea Change Strategies, a fundraising consulting company. In general, such donors aren’t big enough to attract the attention of major gift fundraisers.

But because these people give generously, nonprofits often take them off direct mail and e-mail lists out of fear of offending them with too many solicitations.

To do a better job, organisations need to give at least one person in the fundraising department responsibility for concentrating on this category of donors, says Ms. McKee: “The key is to pair substantive mail and electronic appeals with personal interaction.”

Says Ms. McKee: “Investing in this group with a mix of strategies that blend major- giving stewardship with direct marketing tactics can yield big results.”

Hoarding information
A year is too long to wait to tell donors how their gifts made a difference, says Derrick Feldmann, chief executive of Achieve, a consulting company that helps nonprofits reach out to millennials.

Instead of saving up information about the group’s activities for the annual report, he says, charities should communicate to donors one important point about the impact of their contributions each month. Fearing mobile technology

Organisations need to do a better job of adapting their content for mobile technology, says Amy Sample Ward, chief executive of the Nonprofit Technology Network.

The best place for groups to get started, she says, is to make sure that website forms – pages people use to make donations, subscribe to advocacy alerts, or sign up to volunteer – are easy to navigate on a mobile phone’s small screen. The same goes for e-mail messages. Everyone has opened an e-mail that is three times bigger than a smartphone screen, says Ms. Ward. “It makes the whole e-mail unreadable. You’re scrolling back and forth, up and down, trying to read what it is, so you just delete it. Well, it could have been an amazing call to action, but none of us are taking it.”

Shying away from risks Charity leaders need to stop paying lip service to the mantra of “fail fast and move on,” says Ms. McKee. “Most nonprofits want their staff to take big risks and innovate,” she says. “But then they balk whenever a project or a campaign fails.”

Organisations, she says, need to be more thoughtful in the way they experiment with new ideas, defining how they will measure success and planning how they will pivot if the project doesn’t work.

Using generic language
Too many nonprofits use fuzzy language, says Mr. Feldmann. As an example, he points to the generic phrases many groups use to explain their work: We help the community, we help educate, and we empower.

“They should stop using those big, broad words and just be specific,” he says. “If you help fifth graders with financial literacy, just say it.”

Using social media indiscriminately
Nonprofits that jump onto every new online platform that comes along are spreading themselves too thin, says Farra Trompeter, vice president of Big Duck, a communications-consulting company that works with charities. Figuring out where your donors, volunteers, and other supporters are and where they want to hear from you is a much smarter plan, she says: “I’d rather see organisations think about how they can go deeply in two or three channels than try to have a smattering (of posts) on 10 of them and never keep them updated.

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