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Posts Tagged ‘direct mail’

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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Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

As you assess which portions of your campaign have been more successful than the others, no doubt you are considering which parts to eliminate or start anew.  It can be tempting to see what the trends are and mimic them.

It’s more important, though, to discern which parts of your campaigns your constituents are most responsive to, and keep those going strong, while adding and/or improving on others.

For example, you may be considering adding Pinterest this coming year, which might be a good fit with your demographic, but first consider carefully if you’re responding to media hype or what your constituents really prefer.  A recent study shows that people would prefer more videos than many other social media channels.

Social Media Sites Used

If you do add videos, make certain they are valuable ones that get searched and viewed . . . otherwise, you’ve spent a great deal of time in production for nothing.

Another social media change you might consider is adding GooglePlus, due to Facebook’s altered analytics and essential demand that you purchase ads, if you want your content to be viewed.  This doesn’t show signs of going away in 2013, since “stock prices” of FB keep making the news.  (Nearly all nonprofits – large and small – have seen a vast drop in their Facebook viewership, likes and shares this year.)

Direct mail is still a crucial part of your overall campaign, but it’s imperative to treat it as a multichannel appeal, which has a better overall response rate:

•     Do you include a direct hyperlink in mailings?
•     Do you include your social media channel logos prominently?

When sending email appeals, do you test your emails on various screens before sending – particularly mobile?  What about the links within the email . . . particularly your online giving form(s)?  How many clicks, scrolling and/or pop-ups is the mobile user subjected to?

It is going to be necessary to enhance and upgrade your mobile features, accessibilities for the coming year – and beyond.  There’s no doubt.  More and more users are accessing the web via mobile.  This figure is only going to increase.

You’ve got five seconds, BTW.  Has it loaded yet?  Oops.  I’ve moved on.  Try again, please.  (Think of the donors you might have gotten if you’d have tested this first.)

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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The Devil is in the Details

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Fundraisers are concerned about 2012 year-end giving. Not only has philanthropic giving been slugging along, but Hurricane Sandy’s impact may well further diminish what is typically the most crucial giving season of the year.

Although everyone hopes for a game changer in their campaigns that will lead to a windfall, it’s more realistic to look for areas that can be tweaked and improved, which can lead to various increases and bumps in appeals over time.

Various annual giving professionals have offered a chance to look over their shoulder at tweaks they’ve made which have bolstered different campaigns for them:

Calvin*

I wanted to highlight a specific suggested ask amount on our reply card with one of those red circles, but it wasn’t in my printing budget.  So, instead, I designed it with that particular ask amount in a font size that was one point larger than the others.  Not grossly obvious, but it stood out a tad more.  Our average gift increased with that campaign.

Daisy*

We were sending more traffic to donate online, via multiple campaigns, and wanted it to be as easy and convenient as possible.  This included redesigning our home page so that there was a [one click] option, which would take donors from the [Donate Now] button, straight to the donation eform.  We still had a page which explained why donors should give, what their donation would accomplish and multiple options of giving (e.g., mail, phone, United Way, etc.), who to contact with questions, but wanted an immediate option to give for those donors in a hurry to do so.  Our online giving – both # of gifts and overall amount – increased in the first year.

Elvis*

Just as we have our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & YouTube icons on our website, we have added these on all direct mail pieces as well, to remind supporters that they can engage with us on the social media channels of their choice.

Even though these are not clickable links via mail, the marketing of the channels is important in all touches, including mail – even solicitations.

Fifi*

We include a direct hyperlink in all mail solicitations, to encourage online giving – and distinguish it from our [Donate Now] eform, for tracking purposes.  We make it memorable & marketable, such as Nonprofit.org/donate

Gunther*

After learning which types of gifts are typically larger (online), we redesigned our reply card to encourage these gifts above others, by promoting an online giving response more prominently, followed by credit card giving via mail, and a donation of check last.  Our average gift, overall income and online giving all increased.

Hortense*

We redesigned – and reprioritized – our reply card, keeping in mind that Annual Giving is focused on the “here and now” of giving.  While other, longer-term investments are important, they don’t make funds for this campaign, and belong on the back of the reply card (while “right now” data belongs on the front).

Among fields we moved to the front of the card:

–     Credit card information
–     Joint donor name
–     Email address

Data we moved to the back of the reply card:

–     Matching gift
–     Gifts of stock
–     Change of address
–     Planned giving options

Igor*

I inherited a bunch of appeals that talked mainly about deadlines and tax deductions, which I found to be very short-lived.  While some donors do care about these things, they aren’t the ones who will keep coming back year after year.

I changed our letters and emails so that they were much more mission related.  We began focusing on telling our supporters what their gifts would accomplish and who will be helped because they gave.  This tactic saw a lot more repeat donors . . . and a lot less focus on fake deadlines, fiscal years – or tax deductions.

Jessie*

I discovered that we didn’t have an account set up with the post office to forward our mail to the newest addresses.  We had been getting too much of it returned, and I was horrified to learn that nobody in the office did anything with the returns.  This meant that we were repeatedly mailing to outdated addresses!

I got us a postal account and marked our third class mail with Address Service Requested, which forwarded most of the mail to their new addresses and notified us with the data . . . which I made certain got entered into our system!

Although this meant extra postage costs in the beginning, after several mailing cycles, management saw that it was worth it.  Only the really older addresses would be returned with the original pieces of mail.  As we consistently updated our records, our mail became much more efficient – and the return on our direct mail costs improved greatly.

What tactics have you used to improve your fundraising techniques and campaigns – and which new ones will you implement to try and boost your 2012 appeals?

______________________________________________________________________________
Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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This is a Test, This is Only a Test

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Network For Good has dubbed today the first Be Your Donor Day.  It’s a fabulous idea, designed to get nonprofits to test their online giving forms to see how easy – or cumbersome – their process is.  Why stop there, though?

What other aspects of donor interaction could be improved, if only we could get a look at it through our donor’s eyes?

Vanna* is a development officer who wanted to test this theory, so she made an online donation to her organization . . . using her husband’s credit card, during last year’s holiday season.  She wanted to test the data processing department’s speed and accuracy in entering and acknowledging the gift when things were very busy.

“My husband’s last name is different than mine,” Vanna explained, “And, although I entered myself as the joint donor, I thought that this gift might be lost in the shuffle along with many, many others.”

More time went by than Vanna thought should have, and “her husband” still hadn’t received an acknowledgment, so she decided to check in the database, wondering if it had even been entered.  She was surprised to still find nothing under her husband’s name.

“Then, I thought: ‘Perhaps someone did notice my name and gave me some sort of special treatment after all?’” Vanna recounted.  “I checked under my name, and not only was the gift there, but had been for days!  The problem was that it was credited not to my husband, but some other man entirely . . . living in a different state!  Talk about your data entry mistakes!”

It turned out that Vanna’s “false husband” had an ID number close to that of her real husband, and the transaction opened up dialogue for better verification procedures in the processing department, particularly during peak times.

Wyatt* did something similar, but instead of using a spouse’s or child’s name, opted to submit his dead grandfather’s name for mail, email and phonathon lists.  The name was entirely different, and he maintained a separate email account, where he could receive messages for “him.”  It was his way of not only monitoring what his nonprofit was doing, but other nonprofits as well, since he subscribed “grandpa” to multiple lists.

Wyatt was pleasantly surprised when his new mailing went out to discover that his new mail vendor had done a diligent job of running his list through the NCOA database prior to sending it out.  It was obviously a cut above what his previous vendors had done, because “grandpa’s” mail had been returned, marked as nobody living at that address with that name!

“I can’t tell you how many, many pieces ‘grandpa’ has gotten at my address, from dozens of nonprofits!” Wyatt said.  He plans on staying with this new mail vendor.

Checking your website for mobile-friendliness is advisable, too.  Have you tried to make an online donation using your handheld?  Does that ramp up the level of difficulty?  What about other transactions on your site?  How much interaction do you ask of your constituents online?  Registering for events?  Purchasing items?  Signing petitions?

Whenever you are telling constituents to “Go to our website and [take this action]!” try to take that action with your mobile – and encourage the person responsible for that department to do it as well.

The more departments that engage in this activity, the more buy-in you’ll have as an organization to convert your website to a mobile-friendly one!

What other donor/constituent engagement areas can you think of to test that staff rarely uses?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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If Everybody Donated A Dollar…

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

As the campaign launched, Tina* was aghast upon seeing the sponsoring company’s CEO’s blog: “If everyone reading this donated just a dollar, we could raise $XX,000 for charity, to help feed Y,000 people this holiday season!”

“We had had multiple meetings to discuss the strategy, the campaign theme, the schedule,” Tina moaned.  “Who would have dreamed that he’d need it explained to him NOT to suggest a gift amount of a dollar?!”  In the future, Tina resolved to insist on approving all copy associated with her campaigns, regardless of who was writing it.

“I later learned from my gift processors that they resolved to hunt down the CEO and beat him to death if we did in fact receive XX,000 one dollar gifts for them to enter and acknowledge!” Tina shared, laughing.

This is a good example – however disillusioning – of great intentions gone sour.  Clearly, the CEO was on board, fully wanting to cooperate and promote the nonprofit, asking others to donate . . . albeit about as poorly as one can.

It’s not just sponsors or volunteers who unintentionally reduce or sabotage a campaign, either.

Ulysses* asked for my assistance when redesigning his organization’s online giving page, and I noticed that his suggested ask amounts began awfully low – at $25 – and suggested that we raise the minimum amount.

Initially, he was skeptical; however, not only did I point out that, industry-wide, online gifts are typically larger than direct mail gifts, I suggested that we look at his organization’s figures.

Even with the current minimum suggested ask of $25, Ulysses’ average online gift was already higher, at $37, and, of course, we wanted to encourage larger gifts.  I suggested a minimum ask of $50.

“But what about donors who don’t or can’t give at the $50 level?” he challenged.

“That’s what the [other] option is there for,” I explained, “But you also don’t want to start by suggesting that donors give less than what most of them would to begin with.  That’s just bad policy.”

In addition, we listed tangible benefits next to each donation amount – what each gift would help accomplish or achieve for the nonprofit’s recipients of services – to help each donor feel that their contribution had meaning.

Six months after this redesign, Ulysses saw his online average gift approach the $50 mark, so we tackled his direct mail reply card ask amounts, too.

Because his mailings are segmented into non donors, lapsed and current donors, we analyzed the average gifts for each of these groups and based the ask amounts on targets set slightly higher, which paid off as well.

Ulysses is planning to propose that his nonprofit upgrade to a more sophisticated email marketing software system in his upcoming budget, coordinated with a better online giving form, so he can apply the same targeted approach to the non donors, lapsed and current donors with his online appeals in the future, mimicking what his mail appeals are now doing.

What campaigns do you conduct that have similar areas for improvement as you look toward year-end giving?

______________________________________________________________________________
Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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