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Archive for December, 2010

Follow Up on Lapsed Donors

Earlier in January, 2012, I wrote about A Revenue Plan to Fit Your Strategic Plan.  I recommended that nonprofit leaders have a revenue generation plan in place that can be executed in a staged way over time to bring in fees, grants and donations that will make the new strategic work accomplishable.

Most nonprofit organizations run their annual appeal late in the calendar year to coincide with Christmas holiday and the wrap up of the tax year. Now that 2012 is underway, it’s a good time to consider a follow-up to former (or lapsed) donors, and to include in your message some good words about the new directions you’re focused on.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most of your Follow Up to Lapsed Donors.

Whom Do We Target for Follow Up? Checking donor history, the folks who have made larger than average gifts each year (top 25 percentile) should be on your radar screen. You’ll want a good return on your investment, so pick lapsed donors who have given most over a period of years (you decide: two?  three? five years?) and design a tasteful yet inexpensive package to get out by late January .

What is the Focus of the Follow Up? Refer to the story you used in your first appeal. The story is always about recipients of your service. The Focus is not about your nonprofit and its needs. You are connecting the donor with people you serve, and how the gift will help.  Please: no whining or “woe-is-me”. This is a very unattractive way to appeal to a donor. And quite unsuccessful. Note: A brief reference to new needs of your clients/customers that came through in your Strategic work will help solidify your case to donors on the fence.

How Long is the Letter? Brief.  If you can get some small stationery; something other than the standard 8″ x 11″ page stuffed in a #10 business envelope. It needs to be in something that looks more personal. Two pages of this small-size sheets is nice. The content needs to be appealing. Hey. This is an “appeal,” after all. there’s nothing worse than an unappealing appeal. Brief and to the point.

Be sure to track your results.  You should be able to add 10% net by doing this.

And also. Please be sure you reach out to your supporters who communicate via e-mail. These are usually younger donors, who give more on average because they’ll use a credit card (hook up with Pay Pal if you don’t have an online credit card account) and that usually means larger average gift.

Give it a go.  Tell me how it works for you.

All the best to you, friends and family for a fabulous New Year.

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Engage the Board in Your Nonprofit Campaign

The majority of the thousands and thousands of nonprofit organizations run their annual fundraising campaign near the Christmas holiday season. Donors to these campaigns receive several appeals from several nonprofit organizations at the same time. It’s not uncommon to find a pile of correspondence from an array of nonprofits on a table or desk, or in a box near the table or desk, awaiting action by the donor. Nonprofit leaders want to move up the priority list of the prospective donors they’ve contacted.

We know that nonprofit organizations use e-mail, frequently with a management tool like Constant Contact, to reach some of their donor prospects in this more cost-effective way.  The data indicates that the donors who respond to an electronic appeal over a delivered mail appeal, trend younger (Generation X or Y) and their average gift is usually bigger than via delivered mail.

Staff and volunteers responsible for managing or overseeing the annual appeal can get a fundraiser’s edge by involving board (and other volunteer) members in the process.  Doing this effectively can bring in more donors, more dollars, and result in engaging more people in your nonprofit mission.

You may already do some or all of these things. It doesn’t hurt to do an inventory of the steps you’re taking to maximize return on your campaign investment.

Thank the donor. Set up a system that provides varying kinds of “thanks” to varying levels and kinds of donors. Ask board members to volunteer to call five-to-ten donors to give a personal thank you. Ask some board members to write thank you notes to some of your donors. If they recognize names on the donor list, it can be most meaningful for that donor to hear from a friend or acquaintance. The thank you should come two but not more than seven days following the gift. This is donor stewardship.

Follow up to non-responders. Cull through the list of people you mailed/e-mailed to. Are there non-responders who should get a follow up note, asking for a gift?  Engage the board in this process. Particularly if there’s a January, 2011 board meeting coming up. A person on staff with good organization skills ( are you using a project management tool?) should have responsibility to handle this including follow up with board members.  Pre-prepared notes, pre-addressed envelopes can be at-the-ready.  Board members scan lists of donors (for thank you duty) and non-responders for personal follow-up.  Individual board members take material with them, agree to follow up in a prescribed time line, and know there’ll be a follow up from staff to see how it’s going.

First steps up the Donor Pyramid. Engaging board members in these campaign fundamentals helps prepare them for next steps. Developing a comfort level with helping bring in dollars for the mission and practicing good stewardship are positive experiences that can open the way to personal solicitation. We know many board members who tell us they are uncomfortable asking for donations. It feels like begging. Well, when we form relationships with people who support the mission, and start to find common purpose with individuals on the board, the next steps toward asking can feel much more logical and much less threatening.

It’s not too late to get these actions in motion!

Best wishes to you and those closest to you for the holiday season.

All success in 2011!

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Strategic Fundraising

Does it make sense to you that the fundraising approach that will work best for your nonprofit organization is the one that fits your strategic plan? It does to me, and I’ll tell you why.

A well-thought-out Strategic Plan is rooted in the mission of the nonprofit. When we’re clear on our mission, and we have set out goals that clearly emanate from it, we’re heading on the right track. The goals are about our value proposition: what we deliver to our primary customers (those who benefit from our service) that helps make their lives better.  And this basic rule-of-thumb can apply to an arts organization, a human service agency, a health care provider…you name it, it can work.

So I believe it stands to reason that how you raise money, the messages in your appeal to donors, the way you build your special events, the fundamentals of your major gift campaign all come from what you’re delivering that’s making life better. So when folks make a contribution it’s clear that they’re helping you make a difference.

And I don’t know of any factor more important to forging and maintaining a relationship with your donors than that they get the value.  And want to be a part of it. In my brain, these folks are supporting customers. This terminology comes from what was once called the Peter F Drucker Foundation.  Very market-based.  Which is what I recommend that you, your nonprofit, and your nonprofit’s Strategic Plan all be.

If you follow the blogs of Hildy Gottlieb, Pamela Grow, Bob Cargill, Seth Godin among many others, you’re getting that very very market-based orientation.

There’s great help out there to assist you in tailoring your fundraising/development plan to jibe nicely with your Strategic Plan.

Does that make sense to you?

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Revenue Lagging? Should We Add a Special Event?

Many nonprofit organizations are closing in on the half-way point of the fiscal year. Whether six months in or not, If fundraising revenue is lagging behind your projection for the year, it might be time to consider adding a new event to generate new revenue. Going in, consider the cost of producing an event. Events don’t happen for free. They eat up staff time, can get the development committee off on a course that’s not helpful. So, in short order, if we need to do something to raise new $ that will come in before fiscal year is over, how can we do this and not shoot ourselves in the proverbial foot?

  • We need a plan! Don’t head off into Event Wonderland without a sound plan first. Consider your options: Auction? Luncheon to honor a star in our universe? Allow yourself enough time to prepare that gives you the best possibility of success.
  • Do we need a committee? If we need to engage volunteers to help make this work, we will likely need a committee. Maybe call it a “work group” or a “task force.” This is not a group that necessarily needs to work year-round. Is there a board member in love with the event idea?  Let’s start with that person, and build out from there.
  • Can the new event be a spin off of an existing event? If you can design a spring event that matches something you do in the fall, but won’t require the same supporters to come out twice each year for you, this could be a way to go. Is there an effective committee already doing a solid job in the fall?  Check in with the chair. Does a spin off make sense?
  • Can we revive an oldy but goody? Think back: is there an event we used to do a few years back that worked well for us that’s worthy of revival? Just because it wore out five years ago doesn’t mean it can’t come back now. For example: we used to run a successful Celebrity Waiter Luncheon for years. Then everyone else did it, and it wore itself out. But guess what: we haven’t had one in our community for a few years. Maybe we can breathe new life into an oldy but goody!

It can be a real challenge to build and execute a successful special fundraising event in less than six months. So, proceed with caution. But maybe you’ll get that mojo you need from this new boost of energy!  It might be worth some thought and a thoughtful plan to follow. But don’t push too hard. Remember the other activities on your calendar for spring. Don’t undermine what you have in the pipeline!

Give me a jingle if you want someone with experience in these matters to give you a hand.

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