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How (Often) Do You Thank Your Donors?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Sally* made a donation using her son’s name to test her organization’s acknowledgment policy.  The results were disappointing.  The letter took three weeks, his name was misspelled, and the gift was posted to the wrong fund.

“Although it bothered me that we had so many mistakes in one gift, I suppose it was a blessing in disguise,” Sally said.  “This allowed us to find several problem areas all at once – and work to fix them.”  If it hadn’t happened this way, she admits, it likely would have taken much longer to convince all required parties that such sweeping changes were necessary.

Thanking donors is the last, most crucial point of contact, because it is this part of the communication cycle that will likely make or break the chance that the donor will contribute again in the future.  Acknowledging the gift in a timely fashion is important, but more essential than timing is making the donor feel appreciated – and letting them know that their gift matters.

Recent research shows that providing a thank you gift, for example, may lead to lower (or no) future gifts, because donors take this as a sign that organizations are wasting the funds they receive, rather than making the best use of them.

The best way to show donors that their gift matters is to tell a story, or show it working in action, such as giving a tour or testimony of the recipients/beneficiaries.  Of course, not every donor can come to a single location, but with the web and video, your nonprofit can now provide online testimony and include links with thank you letters and emails.

Depending on how many donors you have, a follow up phone call from staff, board or volunteers, thanking them, can speak volumes as well.

Six months later, Sally asked her father-in-law to make a gift and share what he received and when.  Of course, she had given him specific instructions about making a detailed type of gift, to see if her team got it right, and was pleased to learn that they had!

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our donations and retention has increased since we improved our overall system of acknowledgment,” Sally said.  “Better customer service and record keeping has led to fewer people falling through the cracks.  Everyone wants to know that they are appreciated.  We always did appreciate them – we just didn’t demonstrate it very well before putting a thorough system in place.”

What can you do to make your donors feel more appreciated and a part of your organization . . . instead of just receiving statements from you every few months?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Diversity Requires Effort, Not Merely a Posture

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Nonprofits know they need to better diversify their marketing efforts.  New research shows that most companies do a poor job of advertising to ethnic minorities.  (When asked for an effective brand, most respondents couldn’t name one.)

To ensure that your nonprofit is in the forefront of constituents’ minds, what can you do? It will take more than being available for them to contact, donate and volunteer!  You will have to learn how to appeal to the various segments of people in your target markets.  Most likely, they each have their own special wants, needs, likes, dislikes and preferences.

In addition to understanding the ethnic makeup of your supporters, many other demographics are necessary, but it doesn’t stop there – and you shouldn’t presume to know without due diligence.  Many people will make assumptions about age, for example, rather than doing research.

A common misperception has to do with age and technology.  Often, people take for granted that Boomers (and older) are not online, don’t donate online and don’t use cell phones, texting, etc., while Millenials are the primary consumers of all things technical, leaving those in between somewhere in the middle.  This is a dangerous assumption, not to mention full of holes.

Research is showing that smartphone penetration is not only increasing across all markets, but Gen X and Y account for the largest market share.  In addition, all segments donate online, and Convio’s The Wired Wealthy study dispels myths about online gifts only coming from younger, smaller donors.

When looking at differences between the genders, it’s been established that women – particularly wealthy women – drive the philanthropic decisions in most households, so particular attention must be paid here, not only to the type of appeal, but in details such as follow up, acknowledgment, etc.  It’s important to most women donors that they learn about how their donation is being used and what affect it has had.  Not providing personal, meaningful feedback is a sure way to lose women donors.

A subset of Millenials has been identified recently – the Post88s.  GirlApproved has identified this demographic as a separate segment of female consumer/donor who responds differently than her predecessor, and therefore, will require a different marketing pitch.  Would you agree?

Another thing we know is that women spend more time on social networking than men do, while men spend a greater amount of time watching videos online, and the amount of video consumed is increasing substantially.  These are things to keep in mind when preparing your campaigns.

You still may have a couple of annual or semi-annual appeals that you want to send across the board, but clearly, it will help to really study your constituents and understand how they exist in smaller clusters of people, too.  Have they been long time supporters for years, or are they specifically donors to your XYZ fund?  Do they always attend your spring event?  Are they inclined to volunteer?  What sets them apart from other constituents?  How do they typically respond?

The need for segmentation was recently demonstrated by a Dunham + Company study which showed that email length and relevance were the most important factors compelling donors to either respond or disengage from a campaign.  Surprisingly, frequency of communication was not among the complaints found.  Effective, targeted – and concise – messaging is what’s most desired.

Diversity also includes more than ethnicity, age and gender.  How accessible is your organization to people with various disabilities?  When you hold an event, are you certain that it is wheelchair accessible?  Do you ask on your registration forms if attendees will need interpretive services for the deaf?  What about your website?  You may be planning to make it mobile-friendly in 2012, but what about making it equal access for the blind?

Of course, a nonprofit that does or doesn’t dedicate itself to true diversity in marketing most likely has a parallel situation internally.  Much of the problems an organization has with their prospecting approach begins with internal issues, such as lack of diversity with their staff and board.  This hasn’t changed much over the years.

When all the ideas are coming from one type of perspective, it’s not surprising that there’d be a homogenous approach resulting from the organization.  There’s even a greater danger when all the power is resting with one set of individuals over another, staffing-wise.  This is when power corrupts.  Diversity has many benefits.

Marketing with old stereotypes and assumptions just won’t cut it any longer, even if you do segment.  Consumers and donors are more demanding now.  If you want them to remember you (fondly), you’ll have to work for it.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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How Do You Retain the Donors You Have?

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

A good deal of scrutiny is typically given to total dollars, average gift, as well as new dollars and donors raised, whether from an acquisition appeal or not, but how much time is spent analyzing the existing funds and donors that were retained?

Understanding your churn rate is important, because as most fundraisers realize, it takes a great deal more energy and expense to bring a new donor on board than it does to maintain an existing one.  Also, building the loyalty and consistency of an ongoing supporter leads not just to greater longevity, but often, larger gifts over time, when the donor is properly cultivated.

Consider what you could do – or change, and not do – to make donors feel more appreciated and connected to your organization.  Since your nonprofit is competing with countless others, as well as a tight economy, you need every advantage to convince a contributor to become a loyal, returning donor.

How easy is it to donate?

Regardless of the method of giving, the constituent should feel that the process is virtually effortless.  If the nonprofit places too great a burden upon the donor to the point that they pay more attention to how long it takes to make the gift, then the thought and sentiment behind the organization, its mission, etc., have been lost and replaced with frustration.

The next time this donor is asked to contribute, they are more likely to remember that frustration they previously felt, instead of the altruism that initially stirred them into giving . . . and not donate again.  Instead, they’ll aim their philanthropy in a direction that is more accommodating and continues to remind them of the organization’s mission and feelings of benevolence.

No donor giving to charity wants to come away with the feeling that they just completed a transaction, or that it took five times longer than it should have.

What is your acknowledgment policy?

Perhaps it’s time to review your acknowledgment protocols.  Does everyone involved know precisely what your procedure is, or do some people fall through the cracks?  Which areas could be improved upon?  At what level of giving does a donor receive a personalized acknowledgment?  Is it a phone call, a (direct mail) letter, an email, etc.?  Does it look more like a receipt, or an actual thank you letter?  How soon after making a contribution does the donor receive the acknowledgment?  (Have you tested this to find out?)

Everyone likes to feel appreciated – and in a timely fashion.  Many people cannot afford to give what they once could, so it may be time to reassess your policy and send acknowledgments to giving levels that you previously didn’t.

What do your analytics say?

Check your statistics and find out how many and which donors you do retain, exactly.  What do they have in common?  Do they tend to give during a certain event, time of year or via a particular venue, such as online, direct mail or phonathon?  Do they cluster in certain geographic areas, or have other demographics in commonHow long do you tend to keep your donors renewing before they become lapsed?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you create targeted appeals to keep at least some of your groups from becoming lapsed, but first you have to understand where your various tipping points are.  Adding a “Would you like to make this gift recurring?option to your online eform could be one way to boost retention, for example.

Test, Test, Test!

Using the analytics that you’ve collected, don’t only send segmented, targeted appeals to retain your donors, but make attempts to test different approaches on portions of your appeals.  With carefully planned tests, you will be better able to gauge what your specific audience(s) responds to and give them more of what they want over time.

The better able you are to serve your constituents, the more likely you are to retain a larger portion of them in the long run.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

Similar Posts:

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Make Acquisition Even MORE Difficult

Under Pressure – REALLY!

Monday, October 18th, 2010

“We really, really, really, REALLY need you to donate THIS year, because . . .”

•    Our goal is –
•    Our budget shortfall is –
•    Our clients’ service needs have increased by –
•    My raise/performance review/job depends on it

(Ok, maybe you wouldn’t put that last item in your appeal, but if you craft it with that type of desperation on your mind, it can come across, nonetheless.)

It’s true that most organizations make the largest amount of their income during the last six to ten weeks of the year, so there is an urgent need to make these appeals particularly compelling – and successful.

Just as desperation doesn’t help the job candidate succeed during an interview, neither will it help the non profit woo a potential donor.  As with any sales pitch, we must always keep in mind:  How will the donor benefit by saying yes?  What do we have of interest that is an asset?

Keep in mind that also, like the job candidate, your organization is competing with many, many others for those year-end dollars.  It’s all the more crucial that you stand out from the crowd with a persuasive campaign.

What, then, can you do to accomplish all of this?  There are no guarantees, certainly, but several things can help tilt the odds in your favor – and these tactics apply throughout the year, not just in the final two months:

Identify Your Advocates/Evangelists

Who are the strongest supporters of your organization’s work and its mission?  Ideally, these people already sit on your board and committees, but perhaps they have recently sent in a note or email with a contribution, feedback to a newsletter article, or they post more frequently than others on your wall?

Determine those who stand out and ask them to tell their stories.  Promoting testimony of people who have been inspired, served, helped, etc. by your organization is one of the most meaningful ways of asking others to contribute in your appeals.  This can mean direct mail, photos, email, video and social media . . . or a combination of several.

Don’t Apologize For Soliciting

•    “I HATE to ask, but . . .”
•    “You probably wouldn’t want to, but . . .”

Do your appeals seem like this?  Is your ask located some place at the bottom – hiding – unlikely even to be noticed?

If you really are accomplishing the fabulous things that your evangelists are bragging about – and are proud to be a part of – then what you are offering is a chance for your supporters to help make MORE of that happen!  Why would you apologize for that?

Your appeal should have a tone of excitement, where you want to share the news and invite them to be a part of the magic!

Make Donating Easy

Once they’ve decided to give, make certain that it’s not a laborious process  to do so.  If the donor gives by mail, does the reply card fit in the envelope?  Does it list various ways to donate (online, credit card, check)?  Is the direct mail package encouraging online giving, to boost the average gift?

If the donor decides to give online, how convenient is the process?  How many clicks does the procedure take?  Does the donor feel that the online donation was philanthropic, or did it resemble a “shopping cart” transaction?

It’s important, of course, to make all donors feel welcome and eased through the donation process, but this is particularly true for new donors, who may never return if they believe that it is too cumbersome.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

EVERY gift, regardless of size, needs to be acknowledged in a timely manner.  If you don’t have an acknowledgment policy, create one.

Various organizations may have gifts of $A and lower receiving an email thank you, while gifts in the $B – $C range get a formal letter, and $D – $E are personally called, then $F and above have scheduled visits, and so on.  Whatever is appropriate for your organization may be different from another, but the policy is essential, so that all donors feel appreciated.

Be certain that your acknowledgment language includes not just how appreciative you are for the gift, but tangible examples of what their gift will help accomplish, or projects that your organization is working on currently, so your donors feel that they are an important part of your mission.

Applying these strategies isn’t foolproof, of course, but they are a means of taking you closer to the donor’s perspective and away from, “Well, what shall we try this year to make goal?”

______________________________________________________________________________
Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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