Are You Boring Your Donors By Bragging Too Much?

2614924934_df1befa254_mI’m sure you’ve been stuck in a conversation with someone who brags about all the wonderful things he’s done or talks too much about herself while ignoring you. As they drone on and on, you think – “Hey, I’m part of this conversation, too.”  

Imagine your donors having the same reaction when all your communication sounds like one big bragfest that’s all about your organization and doesn’t even acknowledge them. Then imagine all your hard work going to waste when your boring appeal or newsletter goes straight to the recycling bin.

Yes, you want to share your accomplishments, but you don’t want to annoy your donors by focusing too much on your organization. It’s possible to do this without bragging. Here’s how.

Be donor-centered

You don’t need to tell your donors your organization is great. They wouldn’t have given you money if they didn’t think highly of you.

Let your donors know they’re great because they helped you make a difference for the people or community you serve. Give specific examples. Because of donors like you, the Coleman family can move out of a shelter and into a home of their own.

All your communication should be donor or audience-centered. One way to ensure this is to use the word you more than we or us.

Why is it So Hard to be Donor-Centered?

Share a story

Telling a story is a great way to share accomplishments. Whether it’s in the first or third person, you can give a personal account of how you’re making a difference. Remember to focus on the people you serve and keep your organization in the background.

If You’re Making a Difference, You Have Stories to Tell

Photos and videos featuring the people you serve is another good way to share accomplishments.

Why is what you do important

Instead of the usual laundry list you see in annual reports, such as we served over X number of students in our tutoring program, focus on why that’s important, too. Students in our tutoring program are now reading at their grade level and have a better chance of graduating from high school on time.

Instead of focusing on what you do, let your donors know why it’s important.

Show don’t tell

Too many newsletters and annual reports ramble on about how an organization is number one in such and such, or there was a crisis and X organization came in to solve it.

Go back to stories and examples. You can’t ignore your organization altogether, but instead of saying we were the first organization to come in and help the flood victims or we’re the number one hospital in the community, say Thanks to you, Fuller county residents now have access to clean drinking water and can start rebuilding their homes after the devastating flood or Thanks to you, the Brookfield neighborhood has a new outpatient clinic so residents don’t have to travel far to see their health care providers.

How you made a difference is more important than being first or best.

Current donors want to see the results of their gift. Potential donors may be more interested in your reputation, but they also want to see how their donation will make a difference.

How to do better

Before you share accomplishments in an appeal letter, thank you letter, newsletter article, social media update, annual report, etc, ask yourself these questions:

-Is this donor/audience-centered?
-Are we focusing on the people/community we serve?
-Are we showing results?
-Are we saying why this is important?
-Are we bragging too much about ourselves?

Read on for more about the perils of bragging.

Bragging Versus Mission

Are you thanking donors, or just using the moment to brag?

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Is This The Best You Can Do?

3986997574_5aa55585a4_mI sometimes wonder if nonprofit organizations are doing the best they can when they communicate with their donors. Unfortunately, there are a lot of examples of poor communication out there.

It doesn’t have to be like this. You can do a better job of communicating with your donors if you make an effort.

Does your thank you letter make your donors smile?

I find some of the worst examples come from thank you letters or what I like to call the thank you experience (for online donors it’s the thank you landing page, thank you email, and a thank you by mail or phone). Often it’s a lack of thank you experience.

At the end of last year, I gave an example of a thank you landing page and thank you email which were basically just transactional receipts. Some Observations From the Year-End Fundraising Season

This organization also sent a thank you letter about a week after I made the donation. I was pleasantly surprised because most nonprofits don’t mail a thank you letter if you donate online, although they should.

My good feelings vanished when I saw this letter was also just a receipt. It was from the Chief Financial Officer and opened with – This letter serves to acknowledge receipt by X Organization of a donation of X dated 11/27/18. Then it when on to say my husband and I may be entitled to claim a tax deduction. At the very end, the organization said – Thank you for your generous contribution.

This organization seems to think the most important part of a donation is the tax deduction rather than making the donor feel appreciated.

The organization redeemed itself a little by sending another letter from the President, which was dated January 10. This was an actual thank you letter, although not an outstanding one (more on that in a future post).

The problem here is this organization left me with a bad impression by making their initial thank you a receipt. I should have received the actual thank you letter at the beginning of December, not six weeks after I made the donation.  I would have combined the two letters, leading with the thank you and including the tax-deductible information at the end.

Contrast this with a rare handwritten thank you note I received from Reach Out and Read, which gave specific examples by telling me my gift will enrich the lives of children by providing them with books at their wellness visits. and Their parents will receive information about the importance of reading to their children daily.

One question you can ask yourself as you write a thank you letter is will this letter make my donors smile?  It won’t if it’s like the first example but should if it resembles the second one.

I encourage you to spend six minutes watching this video How to write a great thank you letter to your year end donors, which will help you create a thank you letter that will make your donors smile.

One key to good thank you letters is giving it the personal touch. TY Thursday: A Personal Letter is Better Than a Personalized One

Fundraising appeal dodgeball

#GivingTuesday and the end of December bring back memories of playing dodgeball in gym class. Nonprofits are hurling a constant stream of email appeals with pleas for “last chance to donate.” Really, you can’t donate after December 31?

I was barraged with emails at the end of December even though I gave gifts in November or am a monthly donor. Most were just generic appeals, although a few added a thank you to people who have already donated. Personalization didn’t exist.

Fundraising letters weren’t much better. Organizations I don’t support tried to entice me with useless mailing labels and notepads. Organizations I do support don’t acknowledge my past giving.

To paraphrase one of my favorite Seth Godin quotes – More isn’t better. Better is better. –  Instead of a constant blast of appeals, work on making them better.

5 Lessons From Year-End For Fundraisers Like You

Donors Are Ticked Off By Excess Solitication

What’s holding you back?

Now that we’re in the New Year, this is a good time to figure out how you can make improvements in your donor communication.

Although a handwritten thank you note is better than a letter, you may not be able to send notes to all your donors. But that shouldn’t stop you from writing a good, heartfelt letter. Also, show your online donors some love by sprucing up your landing page and thank you email so they don’t resemble a receipt.

Maybe you can write short, personal notes on your thank you letters. Recruit board members and volunteers to help you with this.

Perhaps you’ve been sending the same boring appeal letters and thank you letters for years. Write a better letter that focuses more on relationships with your donors instead of a transaction.

Segment your donors. At the very least, thank current donors for their past support. Investing in a good database will help this.

Take time to make improvements in your donor communication so your donors don’t wonder – Is this the best you can do?

A Few Ways You Can Raise More Money in 2019

Happy New Year! I expect many of you launched a year-end appeal last year. I hope it was successful. If it wasn’t, I have some suggestions about how you can raise more money – both now and throughout the year.

Reach out to your lapsed donors

Take advantage of this now. Look to see who donated in 2017, but didn’t give this year. It’s possible some people meant to give but were too busy.

Send these donors a personalized appeal or give them a call. Let them know you miss them and want them back. You can go back another year or two, as well.

Take a good look at your list of lapsed donors. They’re not all the same. Do you have someone who’s given consistently over the last few years, but not this year, or are you looking at a person who gave once five years ago?

Eventually you’ll want to move some of your lapsed donors to an inactive file. This will save you money because you won’t be mailing appeals to people who aren’t going to donate.

But you can raise more money with a pesonalized appeal to donors who are likely to give again.

5 ways to win back your lapsed donors

We Want You Back! A Simple Strategy for Reactivating Lapsed Donors

Emphasize monthly giving

A great way to raise more money is by having a monthly/recurring giving program. Monthly donors usually give more and their retention rate is 90%.

If you don’t have a monthly giving program, make this the year you start one. You can also try to get current donors to upgrade to monthly giving.

Your best bet for monthly donors are people who’ve given at least twice. These are donors who have shown a commitment to you. This doesn’t mean you can’t ask first-time donors. You can include information about monthly giving in the welcome packet you send to new donors. You do welcome new donors, right?

Donors who gave in November or December may not be ready to give again so soon. Make a plan to specifically invite people to become monthly donors in the spring or at other times of the year.

Incorporating Monthly Giving Into Your Fundraising

Quick Tips to Create a Great Monthly Giving Program

Remember the two R’s

Now I’m going to tell you how you can raise more money without asking for money. You need to remember the two R’s – retention and relationships.

It’s easier and less expensive to keep your donors than to find new ones. Yet, many nonprofits have abysmal retention rates, especially for first-time donors. Now is a good time to figure out your retention rate.

One way to raise your retention rate is with the second R – relationships. Building relationships with your donors is a key component of fundraising.

This starts with a good thank you experience and continues as you update your donors regularly throughout the year letting them know how they’re helping you make a difference.

One reason you may be behind in your fundraising goals is because you just blasted out a bunch of generic appeals without targeting them to specific donors and trying to build relationships.

How To Actually Calculate Donor Retention (The Right Way) & 8 Essential Tips For Effective Donor Retention

What Comes Next

The New Year is a good time to evaluate what’s working and what’s not in your fundraising. You should be able to raise more money by reaching out to your lapsed donors, starting or growing a monthly giving program, paying attention to your donor retention, and focusing on building relationships.

Photo by: http://401kcalculator.org

Your Donors Want to Hear From You. A Communications Calendar Will Help.

Some nonprofit organizations do a good job of communicating with their donors, but many do not. Often the only times you hear from organizations is when they’re asking for donations.

Raising money is only part of the fundraising equation. You also need to thank donors, keep them updated on how their gifts are helping you make a difference, and build relationships.

To do all that you need to communicate with your donors at least once or twice a month throughout the year. If that’s stressing you out because you don’t think you can pull that off (you can), then you need a communications calendar (also known as an editorial calendar).

I like the term communications calendar because it emphasizes the importance of communicating with your donors and other supporters all-year-round.

A communications calendar will take a little work at first, but will make life easier for you in the long run. Once you have a system in place you can update it as needed.

This is not just a job for your marketing department. All departments need to work together. Figure out what information you need to share and when to share it. You want a consistent stream of information – not three emails in one day and nothing for three weeks.

As you put together your communications calendar, think about how you will use different channels and which audience(s) should receive your messages. You may only send direct mail a few times a year, but send an e-newsletter once a month and communicate by social media several times a week. You’ll often use a number of different channels when you send a fundraising appeal or promote an event.

Start big by looking at the entire year and then break it down by months and weeks. You’ll keep adding to your communications calendar throughout the year.

While this post is primarily about setting up a communications calendar, you also have to share high-quality content your donors will be interested in. I’ll write more about that in future posts.

Here are some categories you can use in your communications calendar. Some items will be time sensitive and others won’t be.

Updates

You need to keep your donors updated on how they’re helping you make a difference. Your print and e-newsletter should be included in your communications calendar. If you don’t do a newsletter, make a plan to share updates another way – maybe by postcard, email, or social media. Sometimes short updates are more effective.

News stories

There’s a lot going on in the news these days (a whole lot). You won’t be able to predict news stories in advance. However, if there’s a hot item in the news that’s relevant to the work you do, that could be something to share or use as an example of how you’re helping to make a difference for the people/community you serve.

Legislation

Advocacy alerts are a wonderful way to engage with your supporters. Be on the lookout for any federal or state legislation that’s relevant to your organization. Encourage people to contact their legislators about an issue or a bill. Then report back to them with any updates, and thank them for getting involved.

Time of year

Is there something going on during a particular month that’s pertinent to your organization? Perhaps it’s homelessness or foster care awareness month.

Thanksgiving, the holidays, and winter can be a difficult time for some people. How can you weave that into a good story to share with your supporters?  In addition, think of creative ways to connect at other times of the year such as Valentine’s Day, spring, and back-to-school time.

However, your organization’s anniversary doesn’t mean much to donors unless you can tie that in with how they’re helping you make a difference.

Events

Does your organization hold any events? Besides your events, are there other events in your community that would be of interest to your supporters? This is a great thing to share on social media.

Fundraising and recruitment

Be sure to add your fundraising appeals to your communications calendar. You want to highlight these and not inundate your donors with a lot of other information at that time.

If your organization has specific times it needs to recruit volunteers, add that to your calendar, as well.

Thank your donors

This is crucial! Find different ways to let your donors know how much you appreciate them. You can combine a thank you with an update. Do this at least once a month.

Ongoing content

If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell. Share a story at least once a month. Client success stories (either in the first or third person) are best. You could also profile a board member, volunteer, donor, or staff member. Be sure to highlight what drew them to your organization.

Create a story bank to help you with this.

Keep it up

As you hear about other relevant information, add it to your calendar so you can stay connected with your donors/supporters throughout the year.

Here is more information to help you create a communications/editorial calendar, along with a couple of templates.

How to create a donor communications calendar

How to Create a Nonprofit Editorial Calendar

2018 Nonprofit Editorial Calendar Template

EDITORIAL CALENDARS – RESOURCES FOR YOU

Some Observations From the Year-End Fundraising Season

We’re right in the thick of year-end fundraising season. If you have a campaign underway, I hope it’s going well for you, although it may be too early to tell.

A good fundraising campaign is more than just sending out a bunch of appeals and hoping the donations come in.

I get a lot of appeals, some from organizations I support and some from ones I don’t. I’d like to share a few observations from the year-end fundraising season.

Most of what I’m going to cover focuses on organizations I already support. For those I don’t, I’ll just say your generic Dear Friend letters aren’t giving me a compelling reason to give. And that includes your triple match offer. That said, organizations I already support aren’t pouring on the inspiration either.

Fundraising is not a transaction

Don’t get me started on the transactional aspect of #Giving Tuesday. I was barraged with email appeals, many of which were not that different from the ones I received the day before on Cyber Monday.

Most of my gifts are monthly donations which automatically renew, so I didn’t make that many gifts on #GivingTuesday. I thought I was making donations, but some organizations viewed it as a transaction.

One organization’s landing page looked like this.

************************************************************************

THANK YOU!

You may print this page for your records. A receipt has also been emailed to you.

ORDER INFORMATION

Your Transaction has been Approved!

Merchant: xxx

Description: Donation for Specific fund

Email: agreen…

Name: Ann Green

Company:

Phone: xxx

Street Address: xxx

City: xxx

State: xxx

ZIP Code: xxx

PAYMENT INFORMATION

Amount:

Transaction ID: 61419346676

Payment Method: Visa  xxx

Date/Time

QUESTIONS?

If you have questions or need assistance with your donation, call  xxx or email us at xxx

************************************************************************

The thank you email they sent included the subject line – Transaction Receipt from xxx

Ugh! I made a donation not a transaction. Whatever software they’re using seems to be geared towards purchases, not donations, and that’s a problem unless they include a warm, heartfelt message with their “auto-receipt.” That didn’t happen. All I got besides Thank you for your support, was a generic description of what the organization does.

Another organization sent a transaction receipt and let me know  – This order is now complete. Transaction approved! I also received a couple of “donation receipts.”

Can we please stop using the word transaction? There’s nothing wrong with including a receipt, but that’s not the only thing you should send.

Create an amazing thank you landing page and an equally amazing thank you email and put the receipt at the end.

Four Ways to Improve Your Thank You Redirect Page to Retain More Online Donors

A little less generic communication, a little more segmentation

Actually, a lot more segmentation. Only a handful of the appeal letters I received thanked me for my past support. One letter opened with Words cannot express how grateful I am to have you as part of our team.

Most of the email appeals were just generic requests. The ones I received on #GivingTuesday made a big deal about it being #GivingTuesday. I wish they would have made a bigger deal about recognizing me personally.

One organization did acknowledge the gift I gave a year ago on #GivingTuesday, even though it was a monthly gift that automatically renews.

What I would like to see first is organizations saying thank you for being a donor, and don’t bury that at the end of the letter. Make it prominent.

Next, as someone who makes mostly monthly gifts, I want to be acknowledged as a monthly donor. These donations automatically renew, but it’s fine to ask for an additional donation or an upgrade.

After thanking me for my generous support as a monthly donor, one organization asked if I would like to make a special gift this month or increase my regular pledge. Another organization sent a request to increase my gift by $1.00 a month. Unfortunately, those are the exceptions not the rule.

It will take a little more work, but send different appeals to potential donors, current donors, and monthly donors.

Keep telling your stories

I’ll end on a more positive note. The appeals that stood out included stories, as well as photos.  One that caught my eye was a first-person story from a boy named Jacob. In his handwriting (most likely), Jacob recounts his battle with leukemia – When I was 4½, I was told that I had leukemia. For 2½ years, I went through a lot of bad stuff…… Another story came from an animal therapy dog named Tova who made a request to Help Me Help More Humans.

Taking a creative approach is much better than bragging about your organization or opening your letter by saying you have a challenge match, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but opening with a story would have been better.

If you’re not raising enough money or keeping your donors this year, you may need to look at fundraising as more than a transaction, segment your donors, and share some good stories.

What Comes Next

Image result for free images for next

I imagine most of you have sent out your year-end appeal. You may think your work is done for now, but it’s not.

In fact, what comes next is even more important, especially if you want to keep your donors for a long time.

Fundraising isn’t just about raising money. It’s also about building relationships and making your donors feel good about giving to your organization.

Some of you may already be doing what I’m going to suggest below. Kudos to you! But I can guarantee some of you aren’t doing these crucial relationship building steps.

Do a good job of thanking your donors

The key word here is good. A good thank you is not the same boring email or letter you’ve been using for way too long. A good thank you is also not something you send weeks after you’ve received a donation.

You want your donors to feel good about making a donation. A handwritten note or phone call is always better than a letter, but if you only have the means to do a letter, make it awesome.

Create a welcome plan for your new donors

The retention rate for new donors continues to be abysmal.

One way to help ensure people will give again is to create a welcome plan, which will provide you with ways to let your new donors know how much you appreciate them.

If you specifically welcome your new donors, you’ll stand out because most organizations don’t do this. Make sure your welcome plan consists of ways to communicate throughout the year and not just the initial welcome message. The following post has more helpful information on welcoming new donors. Nonprofit Retention: All Donors Aren’t Created Equal

Make your current donors feel special, too

You may think your most valuable donors are the ones who give the most money, but what about the people who have supported your organization for three, five, or even ten years? These are your valuable donors.

If you’re not acknowledging a donor’s past support, you’re making a huge mistake. Imagine how you would feel if you gave to an organization for over five years and they never thank you for your long-time support.  

This is why segmenting your donors and personalizing their correspondence is crucial, so is a good database to help you with this. Strengthen Your Donor Segmentation: 7 Successful Strategies

Make a plan to specifically recognize your long-term donors.

Send holiday and New Year’s greetings

The holidays give us the perfect opportunity to reach out. Send holiday and New Year’s greetings by mail or email. Do not include any type of ask with this. If you need to send fundraising reminders, make that a separate message.

Don’t hold back on your other donor communication

I know you’re swamped with your year-end fundraising, but this is not the time to scale back on your donor communication. Continue to send your newsletter and other updates. Keep them donor-centered.

Intersperse your fundraising appeals with messages in which you’re not asking for donations.

Keep going

Your first New Year’s resolution should be to communicate with your donors more. Many nonprofits seem to go quiet between fundraising campaigns. Don’t be one of them.

Keep reaching out to your donors – at least once or twice a month. Show appreciation and update them on how they’re helping you make a difference.

Think of other ways to do something special for your donors, such as offering tours of your facility or holding an open house.

You want to keep your donors for a long time and making them feel good about supporting your organization will help you with this.

Image via ImgCop.com

Make #GivingTuesday More Than Just a Giving Day

Image result for giving tuesday logo 2018I’m sure you’ve all heard of #GivingTuesday, the annual giving day that takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This year it will be on November 27.

Perhaps you’ve participated in the past and it’s been successful, or maybe it wasn’t. Perhaps you’re planning to participate for the first time.

Whether you participate or not, #GivingTuesday is now part of the nonprofit landscape and if you’re doing a year-end appeal, you’ll need to factor it into your campaign.

I’m not a huge fan of #GivingTuesday or any giving days, for that matter, because they focus too much on getting donations. Many of these donors are first-time donors who don’t give again. That may be because they were drawn into whatever gimmicks the organizations were using to get donations and/or the organizations failed to build relationships afterward.

I have a few suggestions to help make #GivingTuesday more successful or how to navigate around it if you’re not participating in it.

Is #GivingTuesday working for you?

If you’ve run a campaign in the past, check to see if people who gave the year before gave again. Go back as far as you can to check retention rates.

Also, who is donating on #GivingTuesday? Are they brand new donors or current donors who choose to donate on that day?

Focus on relationship building

Never miss an opportunity to build relationships, whether you’re reaching out to new donors or following up with current ones. Keep your appeal donor-centered. Thank current donors and find a way to make a connection with potential donors.

I realize the purpose of a fundraising appeal is to ask for donations, but don’t forget to build relationships, too. Again, the problem with most #GivingTuesday appeals is they’re focused too much on getting donations.

Use #GivingTuesday as a way to follow up with your donors

If you don’t want to launch a full #Giving Tuesday campaign (understandable), it can be a great opportunity to follow up with people who haven’t donated to your year-end appeal. You should be doing regular reminders, anyway.

Send email and social media messages before and on #Giving Tuesday encouraging people to donate. You can use the #Giving Tuesday logos, etc. Obviously, you’ll want to keep following up with anyone who didn’t donate on #GivingTuesday.

Keep in mind your donors will be barraged with email and social media messages on #GivingTuesday. Make yours stand out and be prepared to keep following up.

How about #GratitudeTuesday instead?

Maybe you’ll decide to bypass #GivingTuesday all together and make it a day to show some gratitude to your donors.

A New Approach to Giving Tuesday: Be different and stand out from the crowd

Attitude of Gratitude: A Different Kind of Giving Tuesday

Remember that your donors may not see your messages that day so send some #donorlove on other days around that time, such as Thanksgiving.

Donors are going to get a lot of appeals from you at year-end so you also want to use this time to communicate in ways in which you’re not asking for money.

Don’t forget to say thank you

Speaking of showing gratitude, your donors should be feeling the love right after they make their donation.

Make sure you have an engaging thank you landing page and thank you email for your online donors. You could even create ones especially for #GivingTuesday. Then you need to follow that with a phone call, handwritten note, or thank you letter.

Send welcome packets to new donors or welcome back messages to current donors.

#GivingTuesday has a transactional feel to it, although it doesn’t need to. Go the extra mile and do a good job of thanking these donors – both right after they’ve made their donation and throughout the year.

5 creative ways to thank #GivingTuesday donors

5 Ways to Thank Your #GivingTuesday Donors

How did you do?  

When this year’s #GivingTuesday is over, make a plan to measure your results, whether you do a full campaign, a follow-up, or a thank you fest. Was it worth the time and effort?

I think you’ll find that your #GivingTuesday campaign, or any fundraising campaign, will be more successful if you focus on more than just the giving part. And a big part of a successful campaign is getting repeat donations.

Tips for Keeping New Donors After a Giving Day

3 Ways to Turn #GivingTuesday Donors Into Year-Round Supporters