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How Many Ways Do I Thank Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

Last time we met, I wrote about the art and craft of follow-up: things to keep in mind after a year-end appeal, following up with donors who “lapsed:” who did not give as yet to the fall-winter campaign.
Today, lets consider how we thank our donors. What’s good protocol to follow to express our appreciation for financial support of our nonprofit organization’s mission?
All donors should be thanked. I recommend that you use a post card for donors who contributed modest amounts via mail. If your budget allows, have an attractive card designed with some color and original art work that will get your donor’s attention.
Donors in the $50+ or $100+ range should get a hand-written note. I recommend that the CEO sign these notes, which can be -pre-addressed if there are lots; hand-written is definitely preferred. Most folks, especially those in the baby-boomer cohort or older, appreciate the thought, the personal nature of such a note. Good thing to do.
Those who gave on line might receive an e-mail thank-you note. If you can, have something nicely designed so it’s attention getting. Also, it should be sent from the CEO or a board leader, and not in a group mailing, but individual. You can do this in an economical (time) way by having all recipients appear in the “bcc” field.
Larger gifts ($100+, $250+, $1,000+ depending on how you define it at your organization) should receive a written note and a call. This can be a good way to engage your board of directors in the fundraising process. Some may be reluctant to ask. I hope they would not be reluctant to thank. A telephone thank-you at work during the day, at home in the evening can be very much appreciated. I hope you keep track in your database of the preference of your donors as to how they prefer to hear from you. Please do this in a manner consistent with your donor’s wishes. This can be part of your relationship-building plan: a way to learn something about your donor. Whoever thanks the donor, should listen for cues: is someone sick at home? Are they indicating difficult financial times? Is the donor telling you something about why he or she loves and supports your mission? Are they leaving on vacation? Have a child coming home for college break? Listen for this information. It’s not helpful to pry. It will be very helpful to you when you’re working on a major gift campaign to know things about your donors should they volunteer it.
And don’t be surprised if you’re invited over for a visit. Friendliness invites friendliness. Your tone on the phone, your interest if personal information is offered are generally appreciated, particularly by older donors.
Do you have special techniques you use in thanking your donors? Please tell us. We all appreciate good ideas, things that can become best practice.
If I can be of service in planning, organizing your next fundraising effort, please let me know.
My company is It’s The Results, LLC, based in Lynnfield, MA.
You can reach me via e-mail at Or by phone: 781-334-4915.
And I welcome new folks to follow on Twitter: @STEVENETWORK.
Facebook can be useful, cluttered with what appear to be stickers (are we back in elementary school?), but I haven’t given up on it. How about you?
Steven P Smith, Principal, It’s The Results, LLC

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Follow-Up: Best Fundraising Practice

I hope your 2010 is off to a good start.

Did your holiday season annual appeal do well? Was your 2009 campaign better than 2008? It’s not to soon to start looking at the numbers, comparing your results for the past three years. Hopefully, your results are in a database and you can track particular donors, their response each year, and maybe even trends by age, sex other demographics. This is good information to have…and maybe you have someone on your staff who loves to analyze numbers who will look for trends and bring that information to the team to discuss and figure what the trend is telling you. Don’t have such a geek on your team? Call me!
Database or no database, it’s time to follow-up with non-responders. Count on the fact that some of your donors may have overlooked you back in November and December when they were swamped with appeals from every nonprofit in kingdom come. But please don’t be discouraged! Following up on your year-end appeal is one of the best things you can do to generate additional income.
As you prepare this appeal to donors you haven’t heard from, remember these tips:

  • Remind them about your mission, and what your nonprofit is doing right now to serve the mission
  • Thank them for their past support
  • In a short paragraph, tell your donors about a recipient, or a member, or a subscriber to put a face on the value of your service

In your follow up, please do not make your nonprofit the focus. Shine the spotlight on your clients, the people who benefit from your purpose in life. Generally speaking, donors don’t respond well to “help! we just had our worst deficit!!” nor to “we’ll have to lay off staff”. Even in bad times, donors hear this variety of message as “do I want to support a failing organization?”

So…get cracking on that follow up. And if you’re ahead of the game and your appeal is already out the door, that’s great! Please write a note below, telling us how you do your follow up and the return you get. We’d like to learn from your experience!

Thanks for your attention. If I can be of any help in advising you on your fundraising approach, I’m just an e-mail or phone call away!

Steve Smith, Principal, It’s The Results, LLC. 781-334-4915.

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All Aboard!

OK all you executive directors, board officers, volunteers who care and have a passion for the mission: It’s 2010! Happy New Year! Have you made your New Year’s resolutions? One of your resolutions should be: full steam ahead, we’re bringing new energy to our board of directors.
I think you know exactly what I mean. The board meetings have become dull. Or, they have become painful recitations about declining revenue and cutbacks in program service to our customers. (Do you prefer “clients”? Fine. You have my permission to call them “clients.”)
You may be struggling to get a quorum to attend. And a reason for that may likely be that discussion is about the inconsequential, not the strategic.
Let’s get some pep into the work of the board!
Here are some quick tips to keep in mind. Bring them to your next board meeting and have some open discussion (ixne on the Robers Rules for this):
  • We have a job description for board members that’s up-to-date and reflects where we want to go in the next three to five years
  • Our strategic plan is updated, and our board agendas and discussion tie in to our articulated goals
  • Our governance or nominating committee is tracking attendance and participation of our board, and has candidates-in-waiting to fill vacant slots when terms are over or non-producers rotate off
  • Our senior staff and governance volunteers have learning opportunities for our board coordinated with our meeting schedule that brings us up-to-date on marketing and networking concepts that we can practice that expands the reach of our mission

If you’re getting the kind of energetic and effective performance nonprofit organizations need to advance the mission, the board is in synergy with your work. That’s great, and more power to you. Integrating activities that help ratchet performance up a notch or two is what the doctor ordered.

I welcome your comments: particularly, what you and your board are doing to get some energy in the tank to advance your mission.

You can follow my microblogs on Twitter @STEVENETWORK.

You can contact me to discuss how I can help you with a board development, strategic planning, or fundraising project. I’m good, and the price is right.

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