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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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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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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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Crossing the Board Giving Bridge

Nearly every authority on nonprofit governance I know agrees: One element of board responsibility is to contribute to the nonprofit they serve. The concept does make sense. If members of the board of directors are reluctant to give we’re off to a rough start in our fundraising.

But what if several members of the nonprofit board feel like they give of their time. Why should they also give money? A hush fills the room.

This is very much about attitude. And the problem is exacerbated because this non (financial) giving board member is also unlikely to ask others to give. Makes perfect sense to me.

So how do we bridge this gap in attitude? I suggest we start with an attitude of gratitude, as Gayle Gifford tells it on her blog

So let’s start with building a sense of gratitude for those who do support the mission in a financial way. As your annual campaign unfolds, recruit board members to thank certain donors. Start by asking them to scan the donor list for folks whose names they might recognize. Design a Thank You Plan that asks board members, within a specified time following receipt of the gift, to call or email this donor and express thanks. Gratitude. And at the next board meeting, let’s hear from a few members on how the Thank You went.

I recommend we give as much time to the Thank You process as you do in planning the campaign of asking.

Our hope is that as we enlist board members in this activity, and we hear about this at board meetings, we build an attitude of gratitude that leads to growth in personal giving by these very board members.

What do you think?

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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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