Donors respond to both traditional and new communication channels

Ministry nonprofits’ engagement efforts are adapting as new communication channels emerge. With countless outlets available, it’s hard to know which ones to use. Its effectiveness often depends on the audience, frequency and time of day. From direct mail to social media, communication tools each have their pros and cons.

Snail mail and email are both valuable

There’s a reason nonprofits use traditional communications tools to engage donors. It works! According to The Fundraising Authority, direct mail is seen as more credible and professional. Unlike email, snail mail doesn’t come with a “delete” button. It takes a little bit of time for people to open up a stamped envelope and read the contents inside. To engage donors with the content, nonprofit organizations should use section headlines, pictures and bolded words. People can skim the piece and still understand the organization’s mission and reason for the “ask.”

However, The Fundraising Authority warns to send fundraising letters no more than three or four times a year. Stuffing homeowners’ mailboxes with frequent solicitation letters gets old. Additionally, snail mail isn’t the most cost efficient form of communication – a stamp costs 49 cents.

That’s where email comes in. It’s modern, quick and doesn’t cost a penny. Organizations can also track how many donors open their email and how long they spent reading the message, according to The Fundraising Authority. When it comes to emails, keep it short and ask for smaller amounts. Always mention how the donation supports your nonprofit’s mission.

What it comes down to is an organization’s audience. Both young and old donors are interested in supporting religious nonprofits. Tailor the message to the audience and cater to the audience’s preferred method of communication. Senior citizens flock to snail mail, while younger audiences lean more toward email solicitations.

Social media and texting gets donors talking

Nonprofit organizations are embracing social media channels with frequent tweets, likes and YouTube uploads. It is a perfect way to engage donors, as it fosters a conversation. That’s the most important part about these channels – they’re social. A big component of social media is just listening, finding out what supporters care about and mentioning others.

According to Tech Impact, 56 percent of people donated after reading a story found through social media, and 59 percent gave after becoming a follower on an organization’s social network. Not only are people more likely to donate, but 53 percent of people volunteered for a group after engaging with a social media channel, according to Nonprofit Tech for Good. Pictures are effective engagement tools, as nearly half of social media supporters wanted to be more involved after seeing a photo.

J Campbell Social Marketing recommends nonprofit organizations participate in #GivingTuesday, the national day of giving, by becoming a partner. It’s beneficial for religious organizations, specifically. In fact, the United Methodist Church raised approximately $6.5 million from donors in 24 countries in 2013. In terms of Twitter, there are certain times of day that are most effective. Beth Kanter, a popular nonprofit blogger, recommends tweeting when people are commuting, eating lunch and right before bedtime.

It always comes back to the audience. According to Nonprofit MarCommunity, a texting campaign is effective for the younger crowd. While there are pros and cons, texts have an open rate of 98 percent versus a 22-percent rate for emails. It’s important to send promotional text messages at appropriate times and no more than once a week. Nonprofit MarCommunity suggests sending a text in the afternoon.

Nonprofit organizations should use a mix of traditional and innovative communication tools. However, before tweeting, liking or placing a stamp on an envelope, always consider the audience.