Person on computer taking a survey

The 1 Tool You Need to Close 2021 On Solid Footing

After 2020 crawled at a snail’s pace, 2021 is flying by. My house is currently filled with my kids’ dirty soccer cleats and muddy biking shoes. Summer is here.

At work we know that many nonprofits are approaching the July 1 start to their fiscal year; others are planning end-of-year appeals. It may seem early, but the best marketers are mapping out the remainder of 2021 today.

Are you ready to look ahead?

The Top Tool to End Your Year

You likely have a few more donor touchpoints to round out the year. My advice for at least one of them: Incorporate a survey. Here’s why a survey is so valuable:

  • It grows your knowledge. Survey results set you up for success. Response data offers an up-to-the-moment assessment of donor demographics as well as current attitudes and habits, cultural hopes and philanthropic intentions.
  • It helps you remain donor centric. A survey reinforces to your donors that their voices, not just their gifts, matter. It shows that you’re listening and want to work together. (Quick side story: Stelter has been researching survey technology providers and we’ve noticed that many call surveys and other response mechanisms “Voice of the Customer” or VoC. They know that you improve your business by focusing on customer needs and expectations. In other words, being donor centric.)
  • It uncovers surprises. Survey results may steer you in a new, more successful direction. A nudge in which audiences you select, a tweak to the messaging…it can all add up to a transformational gift.

An example of how survey results can lead to an “aha!” moment and a shift in planned giving marketing: A large national survey shared by Giving USA found that the biggest opportunity for new estate gifts was from donors in the $75,000-$250,000 annual income group. They reflected, “Usually, most charities go after their most wealthy donors when prioritizing estate gifts prospects. Our survey data shows that if we lower the income bar we will close more estate gifts.”

Where Do I Include a Survey?

Look at your upcoming messaging, plus your marketing calendar to look for any gaps in donor engagement. There are many opportunities to include a survey, including:

  • Incorporate a short, two-to-three-question survey in an already planned appeal.
  • Use social media to ask your survey questions.
  • Serve a pop-up window to ask a question during an extended web session.
  • Add a new donor touchpoint and gather extensive data through a dedicated print or digital survey.

An aside: No one knows what the cultural mood will be in a few months, at year-end. Whatever the prevailing feeling, be sensitive to donors’ mindsets, judicious about expenses and thoughtful about messaging that resonates with current times. Agility remains one of 2021’s differentiators.

3 Tips for a Top-Performing Survey

I have three must-dos for building your survey. (As you’ll notice there are no shortcuts with this important tool.)

  1. Stay focused on the donor, always. Review the survey—including the introduction, questions and close—from your donor’s perspective. Put aside your nonprofit’s motives, such as asking for a gift.
  2. Keep it simple. Ensure that the questions are easy to answer (“Which of the following areas of our mission are most important to you?” versus “Why do you like us?”) and the language easy to understand (no inside-baseball terms, such as “planned giving”). Here’s a great resource for helping you write better survey questions.
  3. Plan for the next step. Data collection, follow-ups and thank yous…they all happen after the survey sends. Ensure that your team has the time and motivation to get value from the survey long after a donor completes it. One Stelter client uncovered 72 undisclosed bequests after sending digital and print surveys. While that’s a big win in itself, the team used those bequest intentions as an entry point to personally connect with their donors. While the planned giving officer allotted 20 to 30 minutes for each phone call, most took 45 minutes or more. Donors were delighted to deepen their partnership with the nonprofit.

Survey responses create a solid foundation of data to end your year on a high note and send you into 2022 armed with knowledge.

Bonus: Eager to learn more about surveys? Check out this webinar recording for tips to implement your survey results into your organization’s marketing communication plans.

Now a survey for you: Have you incorporated a survey this year? Were there any insightful surprises or meaningful confirmations? Share your “aha” below.  

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