Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) is a frequent social media/marketing commentator teaching at NYU. I’ve followed him on Twitter for several years. I am particularly drawn to his observations on the changing state of communication in the USA and the world. Here is a recent blog post from Jay: http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/02/25/trying-to-keep-a-celebrity-class-of-commenters-happy/?_r=0.
I find it interesting that the NY Times is looking for ways to boost comment opportunities for readers on their stories. In part, the paper/website attracts a sophisticated level of readership. The comments frequently are as interesting (sometimes more) than the writer of the original piece.
What does this topic have to do with us in the nonprofit realm?
Social media give us many new vehicles for discourse with our customers: Primary (those benefiting from the work we do) and Supporting (those who make our work possible through donations and volunteering). To the extent possible, we should encourage this communication. Stimulate it when we can. Because enhanced communication helps firm up the relationship. And this is a good thing.
Granted, we do have haters out there who are disappointed in us and what we’re delivering and what it costs us to make our goals come to fruition.
Sometimes the criticism is justified, and can help us reflect. And maybe even change the way we go about our business. Imagine that!
Communication improves our ability to imagine. And as we move along in our work, it serves to improve the quality of what we’re delivering. Chew on that a bit. Please.
All thanks to some words of wisdom from Jay Rosen. A guy I admire from afar.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston hosts First Friday events. These gatherings starting late afternoon and going ’til 9:00 PM seem designed to draw younger audience to come have a cocktail, listen to music and congregate with folks from a similar age group. They are drawing nice crowds.
The idea is to identify MFA as a nice setting to gather after work on Friday night and socialize.
The hope is that young up-and-comers will see MFA as a “with it” spot to meet others with some similar interests…the basis of an on-going relationship.
Good idea for a nonprofit seeing to attract younger generations who might take an on-going interest in the mission of your nonprofit.
So as I was saying last year about this time, when I wrote my first four posts about “Strategic Thinking,” we need to act in a way that reflects the broader direction we want to go in our fundraising approach. And of course, the fundraising approach we take should dovetail with our nonprofit Mission. So it all works together in a seamless way.
Here we are in February. Most of us have conducted our Annual Appeal. We have our results, we’ve organized follow up activities to lapsed donors who gave in 2013 but we didn’t hear from in 2014.
Most all of our “major” donors (in our case, those who give $1,000 or more each year) have executed their pledge. A few have not, and we’ll be back to those we know might need prompting to write that check.
Now we’ll determine what kind of “thank you” event we’d like to host for our most loyal donors. Cocktails and hors d’hoeuvres? Desserts and coffee? A social gathering at a nice place…maybe an art gallery in our city will accommodate us for a modest fee so we can be surrounded by some beautiful objects. In the Merrimack Valley, maybe at the Western Ave Studios in Lowell. We want the right ambiance so our supporters get the clear message that we do appreciate them.
This is an act of donor stewardship.
It’s part of the Relationship Fundraising approach we want to embed in our nonprofit. The culture we want to establish. So the communication doesn’t end with receipt of the gift. Or our thank you note. We take it a step further.
You have been back in the office now for 3+ weeks since Christmas. This is a good time to 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. This is called “donor stewardship.”
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. You and your team are being good stewards of your most precious asset: Those who provide the wherewithal to make the mission happen.
So the Annual Appeal is over, we’ve opened our returns, deposited the gifts, sent our thank yous to donors.
For the accomplished fundraiser, are we satisfied?
I am not.
Now in the offices of my clients, staff are scanning the donor list for those who received the appeal but have not responded.
The task: Identify lapsed donors who did not respond to our December 2014 appeal who we normally hear from. Who have some history of being steadfast donors.
We send the follow-up.
The outgoing package is a bit different from the initial appeal. You may want the ask to focus a bit differently this time. You may want to re-state the appeal in somewhat different terms. You may want the letter to come from a client who depends on you and your donors to deliver.
Make that follow-up ask.
It should bump up your appeal by about 10% net.