What we learned about fundraising at the American Pets Alive! Conference

DipJar attends American Pets Alive Conference to connect with animal advocates and showcase new features.

March 18, 2020

DipJar recently attended the annual American Pets Alive Conference in Austin, Texas and we enjoyed meeting so many individuals who tirelessly work to help serve animals across the country. It was a pleasure to chat with some of our enthusiastic DipJar users and introduce DipJar to potential new users while we showed off the new features we had on display.

We were stationed at our table through most of the sessions but we stepped away to listen in on the session titled Fundraising for Survival: Lessons for Any Sized Organization by Maggie Lynch, Development Director of Austin Pets Alive! and American Pets Alive!

If you weren’t able to join the session, here are some of our notes!

Fundraising is often painted in a negative light - even in the title of this session! - and donors can be seen as adversaries. Your team can’t be afraid of talking to your donors though, donor engagement is key to building a sustainable income.

Many organizations focus on grants but you can’t rely on grants to keep your organization going; individual giving should be the backbone of your efforts. The problem, in most cases, is a lack of donor retention. Repeat donations are especially slow in small gifts.

You already know you have to build relationships and engage donors but here are the keys: understand your donor’s wants and needs, build trust, then engage consistently and personally.

Understanding the Wants and Needs of Your Donors

People say you can’t please everyone but when you’re asking them to support your cause, you have to try. Give donors every opportunity to contribute in different ways. By diversifying your asks, you minimize the risk of one not working. For example, in addition to multiple DONATE buttons on your website, create an Amazon Wishlist and keep it up to date, set up “chip ins”, set up donation kiosks around your facility or at community events.

What’s a “chip in”? It’s one of the best ways to drive repeat donor engagement! The story and thermometer drive donors to give emotionally and feel compelled to help close the gap. These narrowly focused and time-bound campaigns help build a base that comes back for future causes. Each donor wants to know the status of that particular animal that they donated to.

Bottom line, make it easy for donors to give in their preferred method, and be clear about the value those contributions make.

Build Trust

Trust is super important and transparency is key! Guidestar is a good starting point, it should be filled out for your organization. The items you complete there are a good tutorial to help you complete and communicate the important details. As soon as you receive even a Bronze Seal of Transparency, add it to your website!

Charity Navigator relies on data from Guidestar so once you have 7 years’ worth of 990s, you’re eligible to receive a star rating from Charity Navigator.

Your website is also an important tool to show donors that you value their privacy. Link to your privacy policy - Maggie Lynch says you can borrow theirs - on any donation pages and in the footer of your website (Charity Navigator requires that you have one).

So you’ve show prospective donors that you’re transparent and verified by an outside agency, you show them that you value their privacy, they’ve donated ?, and now you need to bring it full circle to show them how you’ve used their funds. Share your results on your website and email donors about recently completed campaigns or projects.

Engage Consistently and Personally

Donor engagement is key to turn a spontaneous small gift into recurring or future gifts. One thing to remember is that donors want to talk to you! Make it easy for them to connect and ask questions by posting your phone number on your donation page and responding to emails ASAP. Share the load with other members of your team if you have to in order to keep your inbox at zero.

One of Maggie Lynch’s slides said, “Fundraising is building a community of people who want to connect with your cause - who want to play a role in bringing about change that is meaningful to them.” As much as you want to solicit monetary donations, remind your audience that there other ways to give. And better yet, you actually have something to give back to them - invite them for a tour, send stickers, or simply talk to them about the impact their gifts (monetary or otherwise) have for your cause.

Social media is another important piece of communication with your donors. Programming and development should be very closely aligned. Use these highly visual channels to tell the stories that draw them into your cause and help amplify your needs and stories beyond your engaged audience. Use every channel and tell the reality of what’s going on. Telling the story IS fundraising! Just remember, lead with the mission, not money.

As we anxiously wait for these sessions to be posted online, I hope these notes give you some inspiration you can act on and implement in the near future. Need some more ideas? We have lots of customer stories and tips on our blog.


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