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Archive for December, 2013

‘Tis the Season to be Thankful

When you get back to work at your nonprofit following the year-end holidays, take a few moments to gather the troops and discuss “Are we doing a good job thanking our donors?”
Talking it over with staff as well as your development committee helps get ideas on the table. Attending a session on “donor acknowledgment” at the next nonprofit conference you attend is time well spent. Learn what others are doing. Apply thanking techniques that feel right, that fit right for you and staff and volunteers who get the relationship part of fundraising.
Here are a few things for pause and reflect:
Thank all your donors.
“Tier” your thank you: post card for small gifts, letter for gifts $25+. Set tiers that make sense for your nonprofit.
Acknowledge online gifts with email.
Use appropriate stationery to acknowledge memorial gifts.
Use special thank you for special gifts from special givers. Organize a board “thankathon” (see Kay Sprinkel Grace in High Impact Philanthropy) for special/major gifts.
The important thing is to let the donor know that s/he is appreciated. That it’s more than the money. Confirm the relationship by letting the person know you remember something about him/her; how the gift will help those you serve in some specific way. Help make a link happen. Cement the bond.
I remember when I worked with the American Lung Association in New Hampshire, board members agreed to thank major donors to the Christmas Seal campaign. They called donors. The first year we did it, some donors thought we were calling for more money. Board members were coached to let donors know, “no, we just want to let you know how much we appreciate your recent gift of ___ to help fight lung disease. We are interested, if you care to share, in what inspires you to give. It helps us to know.” Well. Our donors were pleasantly surprised to get the personal touch and usually had something to tell us.
In this way, the “thank you” helps affirm the relationship.

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Update on Annual Appeal Follow-Up

You are likely tracking response to your Annual Appeal, and have a good idea if this will be a good, fair, or ugly campaign by the results thus far.

Does it look like your 2013 results will exceed 2012? 2011? 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 of course you have a staff member or volunteer 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? There are lots of capable people around who will volunteer for you, or ably consult for you.

Database or no database, it’s time to prepare a follow-up with non-responders. Count on the fact that some of your donors may have overlooked you back in November and early 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 message as “do I want to support a failing organization?”

So…get cracking on that follow up. Be ready to ship it out in the second week of January. Be selective on whom you’ll reach out to.

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!

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What Are We Doing About Homelessness?

To get at the condition of Homelessness, it helps to get to know a story. And recently, the NY Times published a story http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/invisible-child/#/?chapt=0 about an eleven year-old girl and how she makes her life work inside a homeless family. It leaves me with a question: What am I going to do about this? What’s my action step? When will we get our arms around this Unnatural Disaster?

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Speak Up for Those Who Are Not Heard

December is upon us, and nonprofit organizations have lots on their plate. Meanwhile, there are millions among us who have less on their plate this holiday season. Homelessness is on the rise, there are cutbacks in the Food Stamp (SNAP) program, and there will likely be no extension of unemployment benefits for about 1 million people who are chronically unemployed.
While we’re busy scurrying about, often with Board members in tow, asking for gifts for our annual appeal, I think this year requires a special effort. For the moment, I’ll call this #HolidayShare. It’s that extra effort we need to make to restore Food Stamps to their earlier (pre-November, 2013) level. Or, $29 per month for a family of three (single Mom with two kids). Restoring this nationwide won’t be cheap: $5 billion when you add all those in need.
Nonprofit leaders need to speak up for those in need. Illustrate the difference $29/month makes to a person living on the razor’s edge. Here’s an article from last August in Center on Budget & Policy Priorities that helps make the case.
Please help spread the word. Until someone comes up with a better idea, let’s call this #HolidayShare on Twitter and let our Congresspeople know we need to do what’s right.
Thanks. Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving and that you have a joyous, delicious, and caring holiday season.

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