Annual Promotion Audit

Perform an audit on all promotional material. Consider every communication piece you create as a “face” for your non-profit.  Compare your “face” with the promotional material of alternate providers.images-26

Overall look

  • is the look consistent across all items? (colours, font, type size, graphic design, use of images)
  • does the look portray what you want (youthful, established, controversial, caring, fun, etc)
  • are the key messages clear and concise?
  • strong call to action?

Desktop Website

  • does top half of main page contain key messages, what donors want to hear, donation button, or a call to action?
  • is design uncluttered (2 columns wide)?   Are there compelling visuals that complement the content?
  • Is the navigation easy to use?  Is each drop down list anchored with a placeholder page.  Is there content on the anchor page that readers will miss?
  • how fresh is the content or is it meant to be static? How frequently is the site updated?  Do you desire viewers to keep on coming back and if so, do you give them sufficient reason to return?fresh educational content about the cause (top 10 lists, reprint articles, stats about the cause)?
  • does every page has a unique title? text that contains the key words and tags to optimize search engines?
  • is there one person who writes content to ensure consistency? does the nonprofit have a photo library to draw from?  is there someone to make videos (of events, virtual tour, client stories with actual results, testimonials, speeches by employees)?  a blog that is hosted within the website?
  • is the website platform easy to update?  Are analytics frequently monitored to gain insights into usage?
  • do you include audited financial statements?
  • Donate Now landing page: what value will donations at various levels provide, is the suggested donation amount similar to the average calculated in the Donor Churn report, summary of other ways to give with links to those pages, mailing address

Mobile website

  • does your platform allow for “responsive design” so that it adjusts automatically between mobile and desktop?
  • feature a Donate Now page that is for mobile use?


  • do you have a pipeline, from your frontline staff, about clients who would be willing to have stories written about them?
  • do your stories explain 20% before and 80% after?  Although your clients may be more articulate about their life “before”, their gratitude for the life “after” may be too emotional for them to reveal.  Conversely, donors may find it too disturbing to hear about life “before”.  They want to hear more about life “after” because they want to see the difference their donation made.
  • are the stories short? explain emotions of subject?
  • cover wide range of topics (about an employee, about a client, about a donor, day-in-the-life, this-day-10-years-ago)


  • what is in it for the reader to spend time reading it?  Is it educational and newsworthy or does it contain self-flattery items and donation requests?
  • what is the percentage of fresh content vs repeated content vs curated content from elsewhere?   Is it a struggle for staff to create fresh content?
  • is the text written to be about the nonprofit or about the donors?  Count how many times “you” and “we” are mentioned.  Aim for a 2:1 ratio.  For example, “this is our impact” is less engaging than “because of your donation, you had this impact”.
  • is the design simple (single column, black text on white background, limit patterns and graphics)?
  • copy less than 500 words? short paragraphs with 2-4 sentences? longer articles linked to website with a “Read more” link? subject lines less that 60 characters and in bolder type?
  • Donate Now button?
  • link to new videos on your website?
  • monthly frequency?
  • list management: what marketing activities are done to grow the list (eg sign up sheets are events, mailings to donors, subscribe button on main website)? How quickly are unsubscribers removed?
  • what is the open rate? rate of donations generated? other analytics?
  • is there an editorial calendar and a plan to write the content?
  • what is the reading level of your text?  Aim for a grade 6-8 level.  (You can easily find the reading level in Microsoft Word, after checking the grammar, Word will calculate the statistic for you)

Printed newsletter and annual reports

  • what is the cost in production?  What is the cost in staff time?  What would staff be doing otherwise?
  • What is the return in donations?
  • What is in it for the reader to spend time reading it (eg educational, newsworthy)?
  • What is the percentage of fresh content vs repeated content.  Is it a struggle for staff to create fresh content?
  • what is the percentage of topical news vs donation requests?
  • Would a one-page update suffice?
  • is there an editorial calendar and a plan to write the content?
  • Is it included as a step in the Touch Points?

Social Media

  • How much staff time is spent on social media?
  • What metrics are used to measure success?
  • Is the goal to raise funds?  If so, has social media replaced other fundraising activities?
  • Is the goal advocacy or education?  If so, what advocacy tactics have been replaced (eg press releases?)

Donor letters

  • pay attention to the entire package including the envelope, quality of letter paper, response device and return envelope.
  • Although your donor will make their decision based on emotion, they need facts to justify their decision.
  • Include the information your donors want to hear (how efficient you are, what you are accomplishing, how you will use the donation).
  • are there words or phrases that will resonate with your selected donor segments
  • repeat your Unique Selling Proposition
  • review any other criteria in the Brand checklist
  • what you are asking for specifically (donation size, inkind donation, matching program, etc).  Say what you want up front.   Explain what a donation at the size will accomplish.
  • before adding other information, consider whether it is important from the donor’s point of view.  Check page 20 of the research survey Money for Good, from Hope Consulting  which shows the rankings that donors give various topics.  Here is an example.  For foundations which publicly state they fund your cause, you do not need to clutter up your letter explaining the importance of your cause. They get it.  Instead, focus on how your non profit does a great job alleviating the cause.
  • keep your letter simple.  Consider adding details in attachments.  Fewer words increases the chance they will be read.
  • If you choose a formal approach, write with the tone of a business letter.  For inspiration, emulate the tone of a cover letter for a resume.  Break up big paragraphs into bullet points.  Use italics and bold.  Use short sentences and simple words.
  • is there effective use of white space, colour, graphics?
  • if you want a more personal approach (eg a letter from the ED to existing donors), emulate the style of that person.  Write it as if that person is speaking (no quotes, bullet points, business phrases, jargon).  Include emotional words (anger, sadness, hope, duty, love, joy).  Say I, not we.  Confirm her speaking style by reading the letter out loud.  Embrace an emotional approach so that readers can actually care enough to act.
  • focus on the positive (eg treatments) rather than the negative (eg likelihood of getting sick, occurrence % in the population)
  • donors respond to appeals about an individual, rather than to an abstract cause.  Consider including stories.  Suggested reading:  “The Nonprofit Marketing Guide” by Kivi Leroux Miller.  pages 77-90
  • Some studies show that client stories will get the attention of new, uncommitted donors.  However, emotional client stories can backfire with committed donors because they may trigger negative emotions.
  • Suggested reading: “How to write successful fundraising letters” by Mal Warwick suggests three attributes:  (1) an appeal from one person to another, (2) explain how the donation addresses donor needs, (3) specific call to action.
  • Letter topics include: acquisition, welcome package, special appeal, year end appeal, monthly giving program, major giver, upgrade appeal, renewal, thank you, legacy promotion.

Donor Database

  • is it possible to profile donors and rank by profitability
  • predictive modelling
    • what types of new, potential donors should be actively pursued
    • generate leads on existing donors that could be personally solicited into a major giver
    • identify existing annual donors to upsell to monthly
    • identify existing donors most likely to agree to planned giving
    • which existing donors are at highest risk of leaving
    • how to overlay external information (market value of house by postal code, etc)
  • suggest ways to improve data integrity
  • explore any donor anomalies
  • identify donor segments by behaviour indicators on donor database.
  • suggest ways to divide the database to experiment with different marketing programs and track the results.

Thank you letters

Consider multiple versions of the letter, e.g..  whether the donor is a repeat or new to you, whether the donation amount is average or large, etc

Suggested reading: “The Nonprofit Marketing Guide” by Kivi Leroux Miller.  pages 141-150

  • send out thank you letters within a week
  • personalize with the donor name and handwrite an additional note and signature
  • explain how the gift will be used
  • tell them what to expect next

Suggested reading: “How to write successful fundraising letters”, by Mal Warwick page 139-145

  • include a general brochure
  • information on planned giving
  • involvement device, eg a coded survey with return envelope to identify their donor segment

Tax receipt mail and email

  • review inserts (thank you letter, one page update)?
  • Is it possible to email a downloadable tax receipt and therefore obtain donor’s email address?
  • Can this email address be added to the Enewsletter list?

Marketing Calendar

  • Is there an internal schedule to plan activities?  Does the senior management team review it regularly?
  • are the activities spread evenly thoughout the year to manage employee workload?
  • Are activities clustered around the most opportune times for mass donors, corporate/foundation donors, volunteers and clients?
  • is there a constant pipeline of stories?  Is there a selection covering clients, volunteers, donors and board members?  Here are some qualities of a good story, “The Nonprofit Marketing Guide” Kivi Leroux Miller page 77-90
    • short (less than 500 words)
    • focus on one topic
    • about a specific person
    • authentic (including making mistakes and learning  from them)
    • include imperfections and transforming into a new life
    • end with a message

Elevator Speech

  • is it easy to say?  Are the words natural enough that you would say them to a friend?
  • is it easy to read?  Are the words natural enough that you would place them on the top of your Home webpage for everyone to read?

Mail Inserts

ensure the design and messages are consistent with overall brand

Overheads for presentations to major donors

ensure the design and messages are consistent with overall brand

Business Cards

ensure the design and messages are consistent with overall brand