Make an Investment in Your Donors

This post was included in the November Nonprofit Blog Carnival: A Call to Abundance


I know many nonprofits have limited resources.  These can include budget, time, and staff.  I also know it’s hard when you feel you’re barely scraping by.  But there are some areas where you can’t skimp.  Think of it as making an investment in your donors.

Invest in a good database and email service provider

The best ones aren’t free.  Fundraising consultant Pamela Grow gives an example of being told to weed out donor data because the database the organization had was only free if it held less than 500 donor records.

This is crazy.  A better database and email service provider can help you raise more money. You can segment your donors by amount and politely ask them to give a little more in your next appeal – $35 or $50 instead of $25.

A better database can help you with retention. You can personalize your letters and email messages.  No more Dear Friend.  You can welcome new donors and thank donors for their previous support. You can record any personal information, such as conversations you had with a donor and their areas of interest.

Don’t cut corners when it comes to your donor data. Here’s more information to help you find a database and email service provider that’s right for you.

Finding the Right Donor Database for Your Nonprofit

Compare Non-Profit Software

The 4 Best Email Marketing Software for Nonprofits

MailChimp vs Constant Contact: Which Email Marketing Software Reigns Supreme for Small Businesses?

Invest in direct mail

Direct mail is an effective and more personal way to communicate with your donors. Every day we’re barraged with email and social media posts, but receive just a few pieces of postal mail. Your donors will be more likely to see your messages if you send them by mail.

You don’t have to mail that often but aim for at least three or four times a year.  I know it can be expensive, so be smart about what you send. Two to four-page newsletters and annual reports are fine. Lengthy communication will cost more and your donors are less likely to read it.  Remember to also make everything  you send donor-centered.

Plan ahead.  If you have a small staff, you may need to start working on a special Valentine’s mailing right after New Year’s.

Cleaning up your mailing lists will help you avoid costly duplicate mailings. Look into using discounted mailing options, too. Special Prices for Nonprofit Mailers

Invest in thanking your donors

This is so important! Nonprofit organizations tend to do a poor job of thanking their donors.

Ideally, your donors should get a handwritten thank you card or a phone call.  Even though these take more time, it’s time well spent. At many of the small nonprofits I’ve worked at, it was all hands on deck to get out our fundraising appeals.  Staff and volunteers would stuff envelopes and write handwritten notes on the letters.

Do the same when you thank your donors.  Get your board involved in making phone calls or writing cards.  Recruit volunteers to help, too.

Take time each day you get a donation to make phone calls, write cards, or send letters.  Don’t let board members put off making calls or let a stack of letters sit on your ED’s desk.

Create a thank you plan to help you and don’t treat thanking your donors as an afterthought.

Make it work

If you can’t increase your budget, find additional sources of unrestricted funding to cover these costs. You may also be able to find a sponsor or get a print shop to print your thank you cards or annual report pro bono.

Do something. You must make an investment in your donors.

Photo by ota_photos   




Nonprofit Spring Cleaning Part One – Tackling Your Donor Data

8016192302_0e9c4b7170_zSpring is finally here, and after the winter we’ve had in Boston, it’s about time.  Spring is a time for new beginnings. It’s a time to clean up, throw stuff out, and make room for improvements.

Many of you may take on spring cleaning projects in your home. Here are a few spring cleaning projects you can do that will benefit your nonprofit organization.

Clean up your mailing lists
Did you have an influx of address changes, returned mail, and bounced emails after you sent your year-end appeal? Now is a good time to clean up and update both your direct mail and email mailing lists.

Update and improve your donor database
Your donor database is an important tool and it needs to be up-to-date and filled with accurate information about your donors.

Your database isn’t just a place to keep addresses and gift amounts.  Use it to its full potential.  Segment your donors, and record any personal information such as conversations you had with a donor and their areas of interest. 6 Quick Tips to Clean Up Your Donor Database and Keep It Humming

Don’t cut corners when it comes to data entry and managing your data. 8 Tips to Strengthen Your Database to Help Build a Strong Donor Base 

Invest in a good database, if you don’t already have one.  Here’s more information to help you find a database that’s right for you. Finding the Right Donor Database for Your Nonprofit 

Get in touch with your lapsed donors

As you go through your database, you may notice some donors who didn’t donate in 2014. Reach out to them.  Maybe they were too busy to donate at the end of the year.

Send these donors a personalized letter or email. Let them know you miss them and want them back.  Go back at least a couple of years, although at some point you may want to purge certain donors from your database. The elusive lapsed donor: devise a plan to get them back

Be ready for your next mailing

Don’t wait until right before your next mailing to clean up your donor data. Even though it’s tedious, have someone who’s familiar with your donors (your development director?) go through your mailing lists and database to see if you need to make any additions, changes, and deletions.

Be meticulous. No donor wants to see her name misspelled, be addressed as Mrs. when she prefers Ms., or receive three mailings because you have duplicate records.

Getting your mailing list and database in order is crucial if you’re planning a spring appeal or event.

Make spring relationship building season

Even if you aren’t planning a spring fundraising drive, this is a good time to continue to build relationships.  Plan to mail a thank you post card or short update.  Mail is generally better than email, because your donors are more likely to see your message, but if your budget doesn’t allow it, send something by email.  Either way you want all your donor info in tip-top shape.

Take advantage of your time between campaigns and tackle your donor data.

Photo by Justin Grimes