How About a Relationship Building Day?

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By now you’ve all heard about GivingTuesday, the annual giving day that takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. We’re saturated with information about participating. Perhaps you’ve participated in the past and it’s been successful or maybe it wasn’t. Perhaps you’re thinking about participating for the first time.

My problem with GivingTuesday and any giving days, for that matter, is 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 or the organizations failed to build relationships afterward.

Speaking of building relationships, instead of focusing so much time and energy on GivingTuesday, focus more on thanking your donors and building those important relationships.

Building relationships before you send your appeal

I know you have a lot on your plate before a big appeal, but you need to include relationship building in the mix. Send a thank you/update at least a few weeks before your appeal.

Here’s a great example from Reach Out & Read. They sent a postcard with a picture of cute kindergartners and the caption “Meet the Class of 2030!” On the back was a list of accomplishments and it ended with “All because you cared enough to support Reach Out & Read, Thank You!”

Reach Out & Read Side 1

Reach Out & Read Side 2

You can do something like this, too. Create a postcard with an engaging photo and show your donors how they helped you make a difference for the people you serve.

You could also send a Thanksgiving card or email. Donors are going to get a lot of appeals from you at year-end or whenever you do an appeal. You also want to use this time to communicate in ways in which you’re not asking for money.

Building relationships instead of participating in GivingTuesday

I’ll let you decide if you want to participate in GivingTuesday or not. You may want to go for a Gratitude or Relationship Building Day instead. #GivingTuesday or #Gratitude Tuesday? Choose!  

I suggest you do your Relationship Building Day on a day other than GivingTuesday because you’ll be competing with a ton of email messages that day and your donors may not see your message.

Building relationships after your appeal and throughout the year

After you’ve sent your appeal, whether it’s on GivingTuesday or any other time, your work is far from over. You need to thank your donors and build relationships throughout the year. We think of these things around Thanksgiving and the end of the year, but most of the time there’s a relationship building drought. Gratitude and Relationship Building Days are just as important in May as they are in November. See if you can do at least one relationship building activity a month, every one to two weeks is even better.

You can build relationships with welcome packets for new donors, heartfelt thank you notes, a thank you video, updates by mail, email, and social media, advocacy alerts, surveys, tours, and open houses. Remember to keep your messages donor-centered and use the channels your donors prefer.

Building good relationships with your donors is the key to keeping them for a long time.

3 Ways To Build Authentic Donor Relationships

Stop Fundraising, Start Relationship-Building

 

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Give Your New Donors a Warm Welcome

 

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After you send your year-end appeal, you’ll most likely gain some brand new donors, which is good news. The bad news is over 70% of these first-time donors won’t make a second gift.

Don’t let that happen to you. Nonprofit organizations don’t spend enough time trying to keep their current donors. You want to pay attention to your retention because it’s easier and less expensive to keep your current donors rather than finding new ones.

As you work on your year-end appeal, put together a welcome plan and be ready to shower your new donors with love as soon as their gifts come in.

Give your new donors an extra special thank you

Research by fundraising expert Penelope Burk states that first-time donors who receive a thank you call are more likely to donate again and give at a higher level the next year. Get a group of board members, staff (especially your executive director), and volunteers to call your new donors, or send them a handwritten thank you card.

If you can’t make phone calls or send a handwritten note, send a thank you letter that specifically recognizes that someone is a new donor.

*Make sure these are actually new donors. A good database will help you avoid any embarrassment.*

Send a welcome package

A week or two after the initial thank you, send a welcome package. You can do this by mail, email, or a combination of both.

Welcome your new donors. Thank them again and show them other ways they can connect with you. Invite them to subscribe to your newsletter and join you on social media. Your welcome package can include a warm introductory message and a brochure or fact sheet.

Send seperate welcome packets to one-time donors and new monthly donors. You could invite new one-time donors to become monthly donors. For monthly donors, send different messages to brand new donors and existing donors who’ve become monthly donors.

How to Welcome New Donors and Keep Them Engaged

What does a new donor welcome pack look like?

Bring-’Em-Close Welcome Packs

Get to know your new donors

Get to know your new donors better. Include a short survey with your welcome packet to find out how they heard about you, what issues are important to them, and if they prefer print or electronic communication. You could also direct people to your website for more information about your organization.

Be careful about how much information you send. Donors want to feel welcome not overwhelmed.

Give your donors the gift of appreciation

I don’t recommend sending unsolicited swag. You could offer your new donors a gift and they can let you know if they want to receive it, but it’s not necessary. You want donors who care about your work, not getting a free coffee mug.

Instead of spending your resources securing premiums, invest in creating thank you cards or making a welcome video.

What donors really want from you is to know how they’re helping you make a difference.

Stay in touch

Don’t let the welcome packet be the last time your donors hear from you until your next appeal. Use a communications calendar to help you plan to stay in touch throughout the year.

Donors stop giving for a variety of reasons, some of which you can’t control. One that you can control is poor or nonexistant communication. Making your new donors feel welcome and staying in touch throughout the year will help you keep your donors.

Here is more information on the importance of treating new donors well.

3 Ways to Make a Lasting Impression with First-Time Donors

10 ways you may be chasing away new donors

Thank You 101

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Many of you may be working on your year-end appeal, which is great, but have you given any thought to how you’ll thank your donors? Thanking your donors after an appeal (and throughout the year) is equally important, yet many organizations leave this as a last minute to-do item and it shows.

You can stand out by taking the time to give your donors a great thank you experience. In my last post, I wrote about Appeal Letter Writing 101. Now let’s continue to get back to basics with Thank You 101.

Start planning now

There are many ways to thank your donors after an appeal – by mail, phone, email, on your website, or a combination of those. Figure out what you’ll be able to do. I highly recommend a handwritten note or phone call. Can you do that for all your donors? If not, maybe you’ll break it down by new donors, long-time donors, or donors who have given a certain amount.

At the very least, your donors should get a letter, even if they’ve donated online. Whatever you decide, get started on the content now.

Make your donor’s day with a handwritten thank you note

I’m a big fan of handwritten thank you notes. They will stand out in your donor’s mailbox. How often do you get a handwritten card?  

Handwritten notes are great in many ways, but one advantage is you don’t have to write that much and it shouldn’t take too long. How to Write 3 Minute Thank You Notes

You could make thank you cards with an engaging photo or buy some nice thank you cards. Get together a team of board members, staff, and volunteers right after your appeal goes out and have a thank you party. Your donors will love it. Here’s a sample note.

Dear Lisa,

Thank you so much for upgrading your gift to $50. This will help us serve more students in our afterschool program. We’re so happy you’ve been a donor these past three years.

Phone calls make a difference, too

Another more personal way to thank your donors is with a phone call. Calling first-time donors is known to improve retention rates. But you could also call long-term donors to make them feel special.

Again, you want to get a team together for a thankathon. This is a great thing for your board to do. You may need to do a short training first. 6 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors Here’s a sample phone script.

Hi Steve, this Jennifer Collins and I’m a board member at Helping Hand. Thank you so much for your donation of $50 and welcome to our donor family. Your gift will help us purchase winter coats for homeless children.

Write an awesome letter

If it’s impossible to send handwritten notes or make phone calls, you can still impress your donors with an awesome thank you letter. Many thank you letters are mediocre at best, so you’ll have an advantage if you take some time to create a great, donor-centered letter.

This sounds obvious, but thank you letters are about thanking the donor. Don’t start your letter with On behalf of X organization. If you’re sending it on your letterhead, it should be apparent it’s coming from your organization. Instead, start your letter with Thank you or You just did something amazing.

You also don’t need to explain what your organization does. This is usually done in a braggy way by saying something like As you know, X organization has been doing great work in the community for 20 years. Someone who’s donated to your organization should already be familiar with what you do.

And my biggest pet peeve – Don’t ask for another gift in your thank you letter. You did that in your appeal letter. Nothing diminishes that feel good moment by being asked to give more money again so soon. Remember, you’re supposed to be thanking your donors.

You’ll notice the examples I gave above were personalized – welcoming new donors and recognizing previous gifts and upgrades. You need to do that, too. Send different letters to new donors, renewing donors, donors who’ve upgraded their gifts, and monthly donors. And you must address your donors by name – not Dear Friend.

Let your donors know how their gift is helping you make a difference. Include a brief story or example.

As with all writing, make your letter personal and conversational. Write to the donor using you much more than we, and leave out jargon and any other language your donors won’t understand.

A few other ways to make your letter stand out is to use a colored envelope or include a teaser that says Thank You!  If you can hand address the envelopes and include a handwritten note inside, that will help make it more personal.  You could also include an engaging photo in the letter.

Yes, you do need to include the tax-deductible information, but do that at the end after you wow your donors with your letter. It’s easiest to include this with the thank you letter or email. Then you don’t have to send it again unless your donor requests it.

How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

5 Thank You Letters Donors Will Love

Make a good impression with your thank you landing page

Many people donate online. Make this a good experience for your donors.

Your landing page is your first chance to say thank you and it’s usually about as exciting as a Home Depot receipt.

Open with Thank you, Kevin! or You’re amazing!  Include an engaging photo or video and a short, easy to understand description of how the donation will help the people you serve.

If you use a third-party giving site, you might be able to customize the landing page. If not, follow up with a personal thank you email message within 48 hours.

5 Thank You Page Best Practices for Any Nonprofit

The thank you email needs to impress your donors, too

Start off by putting Thank You! or You Just Did Something Incredible! in the subject line. This will make your message stand out in your donor’s ever-growing inbox.

Follow the examples above and make it all about gratitude. Just because your thank you email is automatically generated, doesn’t mean it needs to sound like it was written by a robot. Write something warm and personal.

Thanking a Donor by Email: Best Practices and Examples

Thank your donors as soon as possible

Show your donors how much you appreciate their gift by thanking them as soon as possible, within 48 hours if you can. You can do this if you have your thank letters/scripts and team ready to go before your appeal goes out. Then each day you get a donation, send out notes/letters or make phone calls. The highest volume will be right after your appeal goes out. Be ready!

I highly recommend putting together a thank you plan, which covers some of the things mentioned in this post as well as the equally important thanking your donors all year round.

Appeal Letter Writing 101

 

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September is here and you know that means. Yes, it’s year-end appeal season – the time many nonprofits rely on to raise a good chunk of their revenue.

While your donors will be receiving a multitude of appeal letters, many organizations seem to go on autopilot and send a generic, boring appeal.

You can make yours stand out by giving some thought to it. Let’s get back to basics with a little appeal letter writing 101.

Make a good first impression

First, you need to get your donors to open your letter. If you can’t get them to do that, then all your hard work has gone to waste.

Perhaps you’d like to include a teaser on the outer envelope. That doesn’t mean one that says 2017 Annual Appeal. Instead, say something like Learn how you can help the Stevens family find their own home.

You want to be both personal and professional. If hand addressing the envelopes isn’t feasible, make sure your mailing labels look clean, are error-free, and aren’t crooked. Use stamps if you can.

Create an inviting piece of mail.

Share a story

Start your letter with a compelling story. Focus on a person or family and not your organization. Your donors want to hear about the people they’re helping. For example, you could tell a story about the Stevens family and their struggle to find affordable housing.

Include a photo

Include an engaging color photo in your letter or on your pledge form. Photos can tell a story in an instant.

Here’s more information on creating stories and photos.

Connect With Your Donors by Telling Stories

Get Noticed in an Instant with a Visual Story

Next, comes the ask

Ask for a donation at the beginning of the next paragraph (after the story). Make sure it’s  prominent and clear. Also, ask your current donors if they can give a little more this year.

Phrase your ask like this – We’re so grateful for your previous gift of $50. Could you help us out a little more this time with a gift of $75?

If you’ve been doing a good job of engaging your donors throughout the year, they shouldn’t mind if you ask for a larger gift. Including the amount of your donor’s previous gift is helpful since people often don’t remember what they gave before.

Be donor-centered

Don’t make your letter all about your organization. Show how you’re making a difference and how much you appreciate your donor’s role in that. Make your donors feel good about supporting your nonprofit.

Share your success

Highlight a few accomplishments from the year and show how you plan to continue your good work with your donor’s help. Remember to stay donor-centered!

Get personal

Send different letters to people who have donated before and thank them for supporting you. You can also tailor letters to other groups such as monthly donors, lapsed donors, people on your mailing list who haven’t donated yet, event attendees, volunteers, and friends of board members.

Your appeal will stand out if you can personalize it. Make every effort to do this, especially for people who have given before. Go the extra mile for your donors, so they’ll continue to support you.

Your letter should also have a personal salutation and not be addressed to Dear Friend, which is really more like Dear Anonymous Stranger.

Make it easy for your donors

Include a return envelope with amounts to check off or an envelope and a pledge form. Show what each amount will fund. Do this on your donation page, too. Using Giving Levels to Drive Donations

Some donors may prefer to donate online. Direct them to a user-friendly donation page on your website. The Top 10 Most Effective Donation Form Optimizations You Can Make

Offer a monthly or recurring giving option

Monthly gifts can generate more revenue. Encourage your donors to give $10 or $20 a month. If they do, you’re getting gifts over $100 each! How to Create a Monthly Giving Program for Your Nonprofit

Your letter must be easy to read (or scan)

Use short paragraphs and bulleted lists, along with bold or color for key words, but keep it tasteful. Make it easy to read and scan. Most people won’t read your letter word for word. Use a simple font and 14-point type.

It’s fine to go over a page, especially if you’re breaking up the text with a photo and short paragraphs, but I wouldn’t go over four pages. You can also add a quote or short testimonial. These can be powerful and it helps break up the narrative.

Think of your letter as a conversation with a friend

Please skip the formalities. Use a conversational tone and keep out jargon like at-risk youth and underserved communities. Be specific and use everyday language. Refer to your reader as you and use you a lot more than we. How to Perform the “You” Test for Donor-Centered Communications – Do You Pass?

Too many editors spoil the appeal

Generally, the more people you involve in writing your letter, the worse it becomes. Fundraising Consultant Tom Ahern refers to this as letter writing by committee.

Your best writer should craft it and then turn it over to your best editor. Whoever signs the letter (your Executive Director?) can take a quick look at it, but don’t send it to a committee.

Besides weakening the content, involving more people takes extra time.

Final impressions matter, too

Repeat your ask at the end of the letter. Don’t forget to say please and thank you.

Be sure to add a PS. People often gravitate to the PS as they scan the letter, so include something that will capture their attention. Here you could emphasize monthly giving, ask if their company provides matching gifts, or thank them for being a donor.

Get your pens out

Include a short handwritten note, if you can. Make it relevant to each donor, such as thanking her for a previous donation or letting him know it was nice to see him at a recent event. Hand sign the letters in blue ink.

Are you ready?

Stand out with an appeal letter that will capture your donors’ attention and bring you the donations you need. Good luck!

Read on for more advice on writing a great appeal letter.

4 Ways to Spice Up Your Fall Fundraising Appeal

Fundraising Letter: How To Write A Compelling Appeal (+ Examples)

8 Steps to Writing Successful Fundraising Letters

8 Ways to Write a Better Fundraising Letter

Image by Howard Lake

 

Connect With Your Donors by Telling Stories

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When your donors open your appeal letter or newsletter, do you bore them with a bunch of mind-numbing statistics, or do you share a story about how the Wilson family moved out of a shelter and into a home of their own?

If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell

Donors love stories. Stories bring the work you do to life by using everyday language to create a scene. Here’s an example.

Diane woke up feeling good for the first time in awhile. After losing her job and being evicted from her apartment, she moved between her sister’s place, motels, and shelters. It was taking a toll on her family and her kids were falling behind in school.

That was about to change because thanks to donors like you, Diane and her family will be moving into a home of their own.

Can you tell a story like that? If you’re making a difference, you can. Stories should show your donors how they’re helping you making a difference for the people you serve.

Create a culture of storytelling

If you create a storytelling culture in your organization, you can make storytelling the norm instead of the exception.

Creating stories takes a little more work, but they will help you connect with your donors. When you put together a story, ask.

  • Why would your donors be interested in this story?
  • Why is this important?
  • Are you using clear, everyday language (no jargon) to make sure your donors understand your story?
  • Who are you helping?
  • How are your donors helping you make a difference?

Client or program recipient stories are best. You’ll need to work together with your program staff to get these stories. Everyone needs to understand how important this is. Share stories at staff meetings and/or set up regular meetings with program staff to gather stories.

Another way to find stories is to put a Share Your Story page on your website. Share-Your-Story Page | an addition to the fundraiser’s arsenal of tools

You can also share profiles of volunteers, board members, and donors. Many organizations profile new board members in their newsletters. That’s okay, but instead of emphasizing their professional background, concentrate on what drew them to your organization. Perhaps she benefited from having a tutor when she was in school or he’s passionate about human rights.

Create a story bank to help you organize all your stories. Take advantage of slower times of the year to gather stories. You want to use stories often. Use them in your appeal letters, thank you letters, newsletters, annual reports, website, blog, and other types of social media. You can use the same stories in different channels.

Give your stories the personal touch

Use people’s names to make your stories more personal. I realize you might run into confidentiality issues, but you can change names to protect someone’s privacy. You could also do a composite story, but don’t make up anything. Fundraising with Names Have Been Changed Disclaimers

Your stories aren’t about your organization

Let your donors know how with their help, Janet doesn’t have to choose between buying groceries and paying the heating bill. Your organization stays in the background. And remember, Your Mission Statement is NOT Your Story

Connect with your donors by telling them a story. In my next post, I’ll write about sharing visual stories.

Resources to help you tell your stories

The Storytelling Nonprofit

INFOGRAPHIC: A Nonprofit Storytelling How-To

NON-PROFIT STORYTELLING: HOW TO STAND OUT IN A CROWD

Don’t Slow Down Too Much This Summer

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It’s summer, yea! Those of us who live in colder climates relish these few months of warmer weather, a slower pace, and a vacation to someplace fun.

While I hope you get a chance to slow down and take a vacation this summer, that doesn’t mean everything in your organization has to come to a screeching halt. In fact, summer is a great time to tackle a few projects and get ready for a busy fall.

Here are a few things you can take on this summer.

Clean up your mailing lists

If you haven’t touched your database since your year-end appeal, now is a good time to clean up your mailing lists (both mail and email).Take care of those address changes, returned mail, and bounced emails.

Be meticulous. Go through your mailing lists and check for typos and duplicate addresses. Then please, please segment the people in your database by current donors, lapsed donors, volunteers, event attendees, etc.

Don’t pass this off to a volunteer. Have someone who knows your donors take this on. Tedious, yes, but it will pay off if your donor gets a personalized letter with her name spelled right.

The-Ultimate-Guide-to-Nonprofit-Donor-Data-Management

Freshen up your appeal letters and thank you letters

If you’ve been using the same appeal letter and thank you letter templates for awhile, it’s time to stop. Freshen them up with some donor-centered content.  

Gather some engaging stories and photos

You know what else will make your appeal letters and thank you letters shine – engaging stories and photos. Take some time to gather stories and photos this summer. You can also use them in your newsletter, other updates, and on your website.

INFOGRAPHIC: A Nonprofit Storytelling How-To

10 TIPS FOR BETTER NONPROFIT PHOTOS

Create an attitude of gratitude

Make this the year you do a better job of thanking your donors. Handwritten thank you notes will make your donors’ day. One thing you can do is create a thank you photo and use it to make cards. If cost is an issue, see if a print shop will make them for you pro bono.

In addition, think about making a short thank you video. You can put this on your thank you landing page and share it by email and social media.

Update your website

Has it been awhile since you’ve updated your website? People still use the internet as a primary source of information and potential donors could go there to find out more about your organization.

It doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul, but make sure it’s up-to-date and easy to navigate on all devices.

12 Essential Nonprofit Web Design Best Practices

Don’t take a vacation from your communication

Stay in touch with your donors throughout the summer. In fact, send them something special. Maybe the thank you video you made or a postcard update.

Be sure to plan for communication staff vacations, too. Keep those email and social media updates coming.

You may be working at a slower pace this summer, but don’t let things come to a screeching halt. Use this time to make some improvements and get ready for the fall.

 

The Importance of Building Relationships

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One of the most important things nonprofit organizations need to do is build relationships with their donors. Building relationships should be front and center in everything you do. Here are some ways you can incorporate building relationships in every aspect of your work.

Appeal letters aren’t just about raising money

You may think the primary purpose of an appeal letter is to raise money, but building relationships is just as important.

Before your next fundraising appeal, send your donors an update to let them know how they’re helping you make a difference. This is especially important if you do more than one fundraising campaign a year. You don’t want your donors to think the only time they hear from you is when you’re asking for money.

Don’t send the same appeal to everyone on your mailing list. It’s crucial that you segment your donors and personalize your appeal letters. What is your relationship with these people? Maybe they’ve given once or many times. Perhaps they’re event attendees, volunteers, e-newsletter subscribers, or friends of board members. Mention your relationship in your appeal letter. For example, thank a long-term donor for supporting you these past five years.

Let your donors know how much you appreciate them

Your focus on building relationships continues when you thank your donors. Send a handwritten note or make a phone call if you can.

Send welcome packets to your new donors. Let them know how much you appreciate this new relationship. If you don’t, it’s likely to be a short-term relationship.

Be sure to also shower your current donors with love to keep your relationship going.

Don’t miss out on opportunities to build relationships with your event attendees

I’m amazed how many organizations fail to establish a relationship when they hold an event. First, give your attendees an opportunity to sign up for your mailing list. Next, call or send thank you notes afterwards.

Besides thanking people for attending your event, let them know how much money you raised, and share specific ways their support is helping you make a difference. Then invite these supporters to connect in other ways such as signing up to receive your newsletter or volunteering.

The same thing applies if you hold a charity run or walkathon. These events often generate new donors. Someone might donate to your 10K because her friend is running in it. Thank everyone who donated and invite them to be a part of your community.

Turn a giving day into a relationship building day

My main objection to giving days, such as GivingTuesday, is they focus so much on asking. Instead of being part of the relentless begging, send a donor-centered appeal followed by a heartfelt thank you, new donor welcome packets, and an invitation to connect with you in other ways.

Relationship building is a year-round effort

It’s easier to stay focused on donors when you’re sending an appeal or thank you, but this is just the beginning. Many organizations seem to go on communication hiatus at certain times of the year, and you don’t want to do that.

Ideally, you should keep in touch with your donors every one to two weeks. You can do this with newsletters, updates, thank you messages, advocacy alerts, and surveys. You’ll have a better chance of building relationships if you keep your messages donor-centered and use channels your donors prefer.

Staying focused on building relationships will help you with your donor retention because you want donors who will support you for a long time.

Giving is Up. Donor Retention is Down. What to Do?

Why Your Donor Will Give Again