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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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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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Introducing Donors to Legacy Giving

Wills and Trusts (Planned Gifts) can be significant sources of revenue for your nonprofit organizations. It all starts with the right approach to your donors. How do you broach the subject: “Please remember us in your will.”
One place to start is in your newsletter. I recommend that you have a short paragraph or two in an easy-to-find place that lets your supporters know they can approach a designated person on your team who, at their request, will advise them on how to go about identifying your nonprofit as a beneficiary in their will or trust.
Who is the right person associated with your nonprofit to provide this service?
If you have a qualified, full-service development director who has experience in this area you are all set.
But not all nonprofits are so blessed.
My suggestion is that your nominating committee recruit an estate planner to become a member of your board. And if not a board member, then perhaps a member of your development committee. This is a person who will talk with your donors on a pro bono basis, advising them on language they should ask their attorney to insert in their will or trust.
Further, you might have the name of three to five attorneys at local law firms who are qualified estate planners who will welcome referrals if a donor contacts your office seeing an attorney to help them write a will. I strongly advise that no one associated with your nonprofit prepare the document for your donor. This is (in my view) a conflict of interest.
I also recommend that you take a look at my post of January 23, 2012 “Simple Plan to Start a Planned Giving Program” for more tips on getting this revenue stream going for your organization.

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One Fund and Boston Strong

Since April 15, 2013 when explosive devices went off at the Boston Marathon finish line, many New Englanders and others have opened their hearts and wallets in support of those who were damaged by this act of terrorism.
The One Fund was inaugurated by then-Mayor Menino to help victims. The on-scene medical response was one reason more deaths did not occur. Major hospitals in Boston had been doing work in emergency response. And respond they did with great effect.
The millions raised by One Fund, and related funds that were established have helped families recover.
One of the less-told stories of this terrible incident is the ability of an array of nonprofit organizations…including the major Boston hospitals…to react to crisis.
Learn more about One Fund and related funds here: https://secure.onefundboston.org/pages/donations.
There is strength in our urban core cities in the USA that often goes unrecognized.

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