When life gives you lemons, maximize them!

Flashback to the start of my career in 1990: there is no internet, no email, no VOIP, no online giving to speak of.  Printing is done off of film. You have a home phone number. These are the ancient days before the invention of avocado toast, in an era when newspapers are still relevant.  

As changes in technology, culture and society that swept through the 90s and continued on to the 2000s, businesses were quick to adapt. They did so because it helped them make money; the same money that nonprofits need, too. Yet, here we are in 2017 and nonprofits continue to lag behind in their technological strategies and updates.

Last month, my daughter and her friends ran a lemonade stand to benefit the victims of Hurricane Harvey and decided to give the money to the Houston Food Bank. As I rerouted to their homepage to make our $250 donation, I noticed something strange… their webpage had not prepared in any way for an influx of hurricane relief donations.  

Upon closer inspection (and I mean much closer), I noticed Hurricane Harvey is mentioned both for volunteers and victims below the fold of the page near the bottom, a realm to which only 22% of users scroll. The most topical information was hidden where barely anyone could see it. My automatically generated acknowledgement made no mention the hurricane or thanking me for donating to hurricane relief.

Above all things in fundraising, nonprofits need to focus their energy on maximizing donations. Donations are your income, how you connect with your donors and what allow you to continue to serve and expand your communities.

When a national campaign brings donors (proverbial lemons) your way, take the small steps to make a big impact in the way of donations (you guessed it, lemonade!). Easy implementations like a hurricane-relief-specific donate button can pay off big time. Simple updates to your website, thank you letters, and messaging are also invaluable pieces of a fundraising campaign.

I am sure that Houston Food Bank had a lot on their plate and I do not discredit the amazing work they have done and continue to do in the wake of Harvey. My disappointment is derived from the fact that better systems could have generated more income to support relief efforts. It is especially surprising for an organization on that scale, whose 2015 990 says they brought in $61 million dollars.

Nonprofits need to build in the capacity and foresight to adapt their fundraising strategies, materials and messaging when opportunities present themselves. It is an investment that quite literally pays off in the short term, and most definitely pays off long-term. DSA can help you maximize your nonprofit’s donations this year; email us at ted@dsaboston.com to find out how.

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