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The Thank-You: Key to Effective Donor Stewardship

For most nonprofits, January is an important month. For the majority, the annual appeal for donor support was mailed in November, gifts began arriving in December, and for some, a respectable portion of donations come during January.
Each nonprofit organizes its “thank you” process at the same time the appeal hits the street. Some will get a note via card or letter, some will get an email, some will get a phone call, and in some cases, a board member will visit the donor to express thanks in person.
Some nonprofits conduct a board “thankathon” (see Kay Sprinkel Grace in High Impact Philanthropy) for special/major gifts.
The important thing is to let each 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. Log this information in your database. It’ll come in handy for your next appeal.
In this way, the “thank you” helps affirm the relationship.

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Follow Up Lapsed Donors Early in 2017

The New Year will soon be upon us. Our Annual Campaign has been sent to all donors and some warm prospects. Their gifts have begun to come in. We will know soon if this campaign is a success. For the accomplished fundraiser, are we satisfied?
Maybe not quite yet.
Early January will be a good time for staff to scan 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 2016 fall appeal. Particularly those with a history of being (to this point) steadfast donors.
Time to send a follow up appeal to lapsed contributors.
The outgoing package is a bit different from the initial appeal. You may want the ask to focus a bit differently. For example, consider re-stating the appeal in 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.

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What Are Our Donors Telling Us?

We are in peak season for appeals from nonprofits to our donors. And many of our supporters are hearing from several nonprofits they follow and support. How do we attract attention of our donors when they are getting so many appeals from so many nonprofits?

Our Initial Appeal Message needs to be distinctive, and…appealing. The message inside needs to be unique and an attention grabber. The email transmittal or outer envelope if snail mail needs to get the donor’s attention.

We must listen. There may be a message or a phone call from some donors with a question or a comment about the appeal…or, about what we’re doing for our clients and how we’re doing it. We need to collect this feedback and every couple of weeks sit a few folks down to review these messages to us and hear what’s on donors’ minds. We need to pay attention.

It’s not just about what we’re communicating. It’s about what our donors are communicating back to us.

Hear it. Take it into account. Respond.

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Nonprofit Readiness: Preparation for the 2016 Annual Campaign

Time to get the plan organized for your 2016 annual campaign. Many nonprofits make their appeal to donors and prospective donors in November-December…the peak of the holiday season. This is the time of year when most funds are raised by nonprofits.
It’s a good idea to get ready for action now.
Review the donor list. Which donors will get a personal visit? Any changes from 2015?
Is the mailing list up-to-date? Do we have winter addresses for the snow-birds who head South in late fall? Are we ready to reach out to those supporters who won’t be at the customary address we have on file?
What has been our practice in thanking donors? Communicating with our donors? Any changes we want to make?
Getting this organized now will save time and get updates accomplished in a timely fashion.

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Developing Fundraising Skill in the CEO

Today, most nonprofits seek a CEO with fundraising experience. Generally, that experience is in the annual campaign and major gift fundraising.
But at times, the nonprofit Board hires a new CEO who has built successful special events. With the expectation that this new leader will apply that ability successfully.
My advice to Board search committees is, negotiate with the top candidates on how this will be applied in six month blocks of time from hire date. What is the hoped for result? What experience and qualities of the candidate can be best applied to get improved results?
Building on a solid track record has the best chance of success. Focusing on candidates who get the mission, who communicate with enthusiasm, who seem most engaging with other people…look for the skills that will have the best chance at success.
Then monitor progress along the way.

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