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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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Beyond the Annual Appeal: The Extra Mile Campaign

Many nonprofits are in the midst of organizing the annual holiday appeal now. Most of these direct mail (or, more inclusively, “direct response”) campaigns are run in November – December, with follow-up in January – February. Increasingly, nonprofits recruit board members to conduct a personal solicitation component of the holiday appeal to high-level and “special handling” donors. This usually adds significantly to the dollars raised. A recent client conducted an e-mail component and raised revenue 20% over the previous year.

Now is a good time to consider an Extra Contribution or “Extra Mile” campaign for early 2017. Plan to identify donors who did gave, perhaps early on in your campaign, and ask these donors to consider going the “extra mile” and adding to their gift. Nonprofit staff and volunteer leadership need to feel comfortable taking this step. It’s possible that some donors will be turned off by this approach. In my experience, there is a significant number of donors who will consider doing more for your mission if you make a good case.

Your case for an Extra Contribution should be 100% focused on the people who benefit from the services you provide.

You will have thanked your donors at least once for their recent annual appeal gift. It’s a good idea to start the extra appeal letter with another “thank you.” To clearly acknowledge that your nonprofit and your clients (I refer to them as primary customers) appreciate what your donors have done. But there are unmet needs. And you will note one or two of these: the number of clients who need to be served but aren’t because there isn’t quite enough in the cupboard to get the job done.

Give it some thought. Talk it over. Let your development committee know what you’re considering and ask for their feedback.

The potential is there to add another 10% to annual appeal revenue.

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Strategic Thinking V: Following Up After the “Ask”

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.

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Nonprofit Fundraising: Follow Up to Lapsed Donors

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.

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