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Future focus: 3 keys to sustainable growth in animal welfare

animal welfare keys to sustainable future 2We all know animal welfare organizations—like so many nonprofits—had to adapt in 2020. We also know that, as the spread of COVID-19 slows, a “new normal” will emerge in the coming years.

With that in mind, RKD Group partnered with The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement to host our Future-Focused Fundraising Series. Across three webinars, we shared some ideas on the three areas that we see as vital to sustainable growth for animal welfare organizations:

  • Donor stewardship
  • Digital optimization
  • Virtual events

I encourage you to take the time to watch these webinars here. In this blog, I’ll share a small sampling of what our experts and colleagues from animal welfare organizations discussed.

We hope this will serve as a road map in your planning for the second half of 2021 and beyond.

1. Stewardship: Breaking free from the ask-and-repeat model

Unlike food banks, hospitals and other organizations on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, animal welfare organizations did not see the pandemic anomaly of a massive surge of new donors. However, their core donors and recaptured donors not only sustained them but also helped make up the lost revenue from events and adoptions.

Organizations that had strong ties to their donors were able to weather the storm. And the key to building those strong ties is stewardship—frequent communication and thanking donors for their impact of saving lives.

As Robin Rowland of Wayside Waifs reminded us in the webinar, “It’s not only important for you to remember your why, but it’s important for you to realize that your donors also have a why.”

It may seem simple, but showing appreciation goes a long way toward donor retention and upgrades. Take a look at the chart below. If this organization had fallen within our animal welfare benchmark rates, they could have seen an additional $88,092 in revenue.

So how do you build a stronger connection with your supporters in a way that you can afford? Here are a few basics to remember:

  • Identify your audience and their needs
  • Examine and enhance what you’re already doing
  • Provide excellent customer service
  • Survey donors to find the answers you need
  • Focus communications on the animals

You can also use new tools and technology—like video and text messages as well as personalized thank-you calls—to boost engagement.

Finally, it’s important to focus on high-value donors.

You should begin by using advanced modeling to identify major donor prospects. Once you know who they are, you can invest more time and effort in reaching them. This method was very effective during the pandemic with the loss of in-person events.

AW prospect modeling

2. Digital revenue: Small changes can make a big impact

Wouldn’t it be nice to have millions of dollars on hand to build a complex, sophisticated digital marketing program?

Most animal welfare organizations don’t have that luxury, but the good news is that there are some easy things we can do to lift digital revenue. This was the focus of our second webinar, led by Jenn Thompson, RKD’s digital expert.

For example, did you know that including a check box asking donors to cover the processing fee on donation forms is a simple way to boost revenue? Alicia Vial of the Louisiana SPCA said they’ve seen an additional $4,400 in less than a year since they began including this option.

AW cover the fee

Simple and easy.

Here are a few other areas we recommend looking at:

  • Offer more giving options on your home page donation button
  • Add an ask array to your website footer
  • Use lightboxes (pop-ups) to promote campaigns
  • Optimize your site for SEO and web accessibility
  • Use email to build monthly giving

3. Virtual events: Lessons learned in a year of chaos

Events are such a critical piece of fundraising for animal welfare organizations. When the world went into lockdown, this revenue source instantly vanished for many nonprofits.

But some organizations took a chance on trying something “new and unknown” by going virtual. A year later, we have a better feel for what works when it comes to virtual events.

AW virtual events

We now know people will show up—honestly, no one knew for sure if they would. We’ve learned that communication and fundraising happen a little differently in the virtual setting. And we’ve learned that these virtual events can actually provide higher net revenue because of lower costs and expanded audience reach.

In our final webinar, Karla Baldelli, our VP of Donor Engagement, shared her thoughts on the four keys to success in virtual events:

  • Finding the right technology
  • Making it fun and engaging
  • Expanding your audience
  • Building a fundraising strategy

As people get more comfortable with the return of large gatherings, we expect to see more hybrid events in the future. These will combine the best of both worlds, with an in-person event that is broadcast to a wider audience at home.

“We did a survey after our first virtual auction, and one of the top responses we got back was that people engaged because they normally wouldn’t go to an in-person event,” KC Routos of Animal Rescue League of Iowa shared in the webinar. “That is why I think hybrid events are here to stay.”

Looking to the future is what we’re all about, and we want to make sure that animal welfare organizations are prepared for the road ahead. By focusing on donor stewardship, digital optimization and virtual events, you can build a strong, sustainable fundraising program.

David Miller

As Senior Vice President at RKD Group, David brings more than two decades of animal welfare experience to help organizations craft their fundraising strategies for success. Prior to joining RKD in 2011, David spent 14 years working at animal welfare organizations, including a stint as CEO at Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League.

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