Fundraise Smarter

How to Wow a Donor in 15 Minutes: Google Alerts

Posted by Andrew Littlefield on Mar 19, 2015 10:00:00 AM

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You’re busy. Your donors are busy. It’s amazing you even have time to read this blog post.

Wait! Don’t go yet, I’ve got something to help you with all that busyness!

Nurturing donors is all about fostering a personal relationship, which can seem next to impossible in today’s turbo-charged world. How are you supposed to manage relationships with hundreds of donors when you can’t even keep your inbox empty?

This is the problem we’re setting out to solve in our new series: “15 Minutes Donor Relationships.” We’ll look at tools and strategies to help you build relationships with your donors in short, 15-minute sprints.

In today’s installment, we’re going to explore using Google Alerts to discover content to use as a touchpoint opportunity with donors.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a free service offered by Google that will alert you whenever an article is published on the internet related to a search term you specify. For example, I utilize a Google Alert for the term “mobile fundraising,” so that when an interesting news story about mobile fundraising comes along, I can be one of the first people to share it on the WeDidIt Twitter account, write a response article, or link it in our blog.

You can either set up your Alerts to notify you by email or create an RSS feed.

So how do you use these to build a relationship with your donors?

Simple! It’s all about bringing them something valuable.

Your donors are likely hardworking, successful people. And just like you, they enjoy reading things relevant to their industry.

Select some search terms related to their industry or interests, and when you find something relevant, pass it along to them.

Boom! You’ve got yourself a perfect opportunity for a touchpoint that brings them value, rather than just clog their day with small talk and “check-ins.”

Making This Manageable

If you’re like me, you don’t want anything else clogging your inbox, so setting up alerts as an RSS feed is where I find the most value.

And it just so happens that there’s a super simple trick using Google Sheets that can help you organize these alerts so you can scan them in mere minutes.

As an illustration, we’ll create an alert system for an imaginary donor named Linda who runs a car dealership.

Step 1: Set-Up Your Alerts

Head on over to and type in the search term you want to be alerted to. In our example, Linda is likely interested in articles related to her industry: car sales.

However, simply looking for “car sales” will not likely turn up information that’s very interesting to Linda. We’ll need to dig a little deeper and use terms like “concept car,” “auto show,” or “electric cars.” Now we’ve got some unique queries that will turn up interesting stories worthy of sending to Linda.

Type in your search term and select “Create alert.” Next, click the pencil icon next to the alert to edit it. Under “Deliver to,” use the dropdown menu to change it from your email address to “RSS Feed.”

Google Alerts for Donor Relationships

Google Alerts for Donor Relationships

Next, click the RSS icon that now appears next to the alert. You’ll be taken to a web page with a whole lot of text on it. This is the feed’s HTML code. All we need to do is copy the URL for this page.

Step 2: Set-Up an Alerts Spreadsheet

Head over to your Google Drive account and start a new spreadsheet. We’re going to set up 5 columns: Donor, Interests, Search Term, Link, and Title.

Go ahead and fill out the first three columns. For the fourth and fifth columns, we need a Google Sheets formula that will make all the magic happen.

Under link, type “=ImportFeed(“[INSERT YOUR URL HERE]”, "items url", false, 3)”, replacing the part in bold inside the square brackets with the URL you copied from step 1 (don’t forget to wrap it in quotation marks!).

This formula will instruct Google Sheets to bring up the last 3 links your Alert found. Once you hit enter, you should see the links appear in the next three cells in your spreadsheet.

Google Alerts for Donor Relationships

Under Title, type “=ImportFeed(“[INSERT YOUR URL HERE]”, "items title", false, 3)”, once again replacing the bold, square bracketed portion with your alert’s URL. This will pull up the title of the same three stories linked in the column to the left. That way, you can quickly read the titles of the articles and see if they’re worth checking out.

Google Alerts for Donor Relationships

Step 3: Repeat for Each Donor, Scan Daily for 15-Minutes

You’ve now got a quick way to scan tons of stories across multiple industries. Follow the same steps for the donors you want to keep in touch with, then spend 15-minutes each morning browsing this spreadsheet. When you find a story that sounds promising, click the link to give it a quick read. If it still holds up, send it along to your donor along with a “Saw this and thought of you” message.

Now that’s a way to reach out and add value, rather than just pester!

A Quick Warning

This can quickly lead to chasing rabbit holes and reading hundreds of stories and before you know it, you’ve sunk your whole morning into reading links and not actually doing anything productive.

That’s why I limit myself to 15-minutes with this technique. If you don’t find something of value in 15-minutes, move on. Remember, you don’t want to start pestering your donors with marginally interesting content. You want to send something along maybe once a month, just to show that they matter to you. If you don’t find something on a given day, don’t worry about it. Try again the next day and wait until you find something truly interesting.

What quick tips and tricks do you have for building donor relationships? Tell us in the comments, and we might feature it in a future installment!

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Topics: Fundraising, Donors,, Donor Nurturing,

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