Donating Online Shouldn’t Feel Like a Transaction

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Last week I both purchased some holiday gifts and made a bunch of donations online and there wasn’t much difference in the process.The key word here is process because both felt like a transaction. My inbox was filled with pleas – last chance to get a Cyber Monday deal or make a donation on #GivingTuesday.

Many fundraising appeals focus more on the transaction than the relationship. I’m trying to help kids receive presents on Christmas morning or help low-income families stay safe and warm this winter. I’m not buying sweaters.

Yes, you’re trying to raise money, but you should also try to build a relationship with me.

I did see a few heartfelt requests for donations on #GivingTuesday, but most were focused on the imperative need to donate today because it’s #GivingTuesday. Your donors get to decide when they want to donate and not everyone is on the #GivingTuesday bandwagon. Thank God It’s Wednesday

I may rethink about making my donations on #GivingTuesday. I’m glad if there’s an opportunity for a matching gift, but it’s so transactional and that includes the thank you experience or lack there of. 

We can do better. After #GivingTuesday or anytime you receive a donation, focus on the relationship and not the transaction.

Make a good impression with your thank you landing page

Most of the landing pages of the organizations I donated to said Thank You. Some included a donation receipt, which is fine because donors often want one. But they could have included a short description of how my gift is helping them make a difference, along with an engaging photo or video. Most of the landing pages were not that different from the ones I received from online retailers.

Your subject line matters, too

Make your thank you email stand out with an engaging subject line.

The best one I received was – Thank you. We appreciate your generosity. That’s fine but not outstanding.

Others included a simple Thank you for donating X organization, Thank you for becoming a (name of monthly giving program), or just Thank You.

One for an organization where I just started making monthly donations said Sustaining Initial Thank You I trust there will be more thank yous to come.

Others had the less than inspiring Donation Receipt, Your Recurring Donation Receipt, and Electronic Receipt for your gift to X organization.

Overall, I was not impressed. A better subject line would be something like You just did something incredible! or You’re Amazing!

A receipt is not a thank you

I like to use PayPal for online donations and purchases when I can. As great as PayPal is, it doesn’t provide a warm and fuzzy experience. PayPal will send you it’s own receipts. Most organizations sent their own automatically generated thank yous and one sent a personalized email.

I made a first-time donation to one organization and all I received were PayPal receipts – nothing from the organization. So, I’m curious to see what comes next, if anything.

If your organization uses PayPal, make sure your donors receive a stellar thank you email from you.

Speaking of which, let’s look at some of the thank you emails I received.

I just became a monthly donor for one organization. They welcomed me to their monthly donor club and gave me the name of a contact person if I had questions or wanted to arrange a tour (always a great way to connect).

One of the good ones opened with Through your support – which we’re grateful for each and every day – we’re able to: Then they listed some accomplishments and included a short thank you video, which showed how my gift is making a difference.

Another good one included Thank you for standing with those from across the country in supporting common sense solutions to gun violence. We can’t achieve real change without your support. This organization also sent a second thank you email two days later!

Here are a couple that are okay, but would have been better if they gave specific examples of how their donors are helping them make a difference.

We are deeply grateful for your generosity and support of our efforts. Your gift makes a difference — it enables us to provide vital services to the community we serve. We count on you and people like you to ensure that we can continue providing these services.

Your gift on Nov 28, 2017, will help X organization provide needed services to over 100,000 people each year through its neighborhood network.

Others didn’t even bother to tell me the impact of my gift. I checked my spam filter to see if any thank yous crept in there, but alas that was not the case. Maybe I’ll hear from some of these organizations or maybe not.

Again, I was not impressed. Most of these organizations could use some Thank You 101

Is there more to come?

A week after giving, I’ve received no type of thank you in the mail or a thank you phone call. I’ll write again in the New Year to let you know what type of #DonorLove I receive, if any.

And, I’m not the only one who thought donating on #GivingTuesday felt like a transaction. 2017  #GivingTuesday Secret Shopper Review

Photo by Mike Lawrence –  CreditDebitPro.com

 

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Don’t Brag So Much

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I’m sure you’ve been to a party and ended up stuck in a conversation with someone who talks too much about himself or brags about all the wonderful things she’s done. It’s exasperating and you can’t get away fast enough.

Imagine your donors having the same reaction when all your communications sound like one big bragfest that have nothing to do with them. Then imagine all your hard work going to waste when your boring appeal or newsletter goes straight to the recycle bin.

Yes, you want to share your accomplishments, but you don’t don’t want to sound like that annoying person at the party. 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 Smith family doesn’t have to choose between buying groceries and paying the heating bill.

All your communications should be donor or audience-centered. One way to ensure this is to use the word you more than we or us. Can Your Organization Pass the Donor-Centered Test?

Tell 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. Connect With Your Donors by Telling Stories

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 Y 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 hurricane victims or we’re the number one hospital in the community, say Thanks to you, the hurricane victims now have access to clean drinking water and can start rebuilding their homes or Thanks to you, Westside residents have a new outpatient clinic within walking distance of their homes, so they have easy access to all 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.

Your anti-bragging checklist

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 is not fundraising

Bragging Versus Mission

Your Appeal is the First Step

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I imagine many of you are beyond busy working on your year-end appeal, but if you think you can take a deep breath and relax once the letters have gone out, you can’t. Your appeal is only the first step.

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

Do a good job of thanking your donors

In my last post, I asked Are You Thankful for Your Donors?  Take a few minutes to think about this, because most of the thank you letters I see don’t reflect that.

Make your donors feel good about their donations. A handwritten note or phone call is better than a letter, but if you only have the the means to do a letter, make it sparkle. Don’t send the same old boring, generic thank you letter. Take time to write something awesome.

Create a welcome plan for your new donors

Did you know over 75% of first-time donors don’t make a second gift (according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Report)? This is horrible and we must do a better job of keeping our donors.

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.

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. 11 Ways To Segment Your Donors To Improve Your Fundraising

Repeat donor retention rates are 60%, which is better, but still not great. The highest retention rate comes from monthly donors, which is an impressive 90%.

I highly recommend inviting your current donors to become monthly donors, especially the ones who’ve supported you for at least two years. Making the Most of Monthly Giving

Don’t skimp on your donor communication

I know you’re swamped with your year-end appeal right now, 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.

Send your donors Thanksgiving and holiday greetings, either by mail or email. Intersperse your fundraising appeals with messages in which you’re not asking for donations.

Keep it up

Your first New Year’s resolution should be to communicate with your donors more. Keep reaching out to them – 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 with this.

 

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

 

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