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

What Comes Next

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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

Show Some Gratitude to Your Donors

Thanksgiving will be here soon and it’s a time of the year in the U.S. when we show gratitude to the special people in our lives. Do you extend this same gratitude to your donors?  It often doesn’t seem like it.

Nonprofit organizations tend to treat thanking their donors as an afterthought. But you need to spend just as much time thanking your donors as you do on fundraising.

Here are a few ways you can show some gratitude to your donors.

Wish your donors a Happy Thanksgiving

Send your donors a special Thanksgiving message. If you can send a card or postcard, that’s great, but an email message is also fine.

Let your donors know how grateful you are to have them as part of your family. Share a success story and a photo or video. Your donors will appreciate a heartfelt message, especially when they’re being barraged with year-end appeals.

But don’t stop with Thanksgiving

While gratitude is often front and center around Thanksgiving, that shouldn’t stop you from showing some #donorlove at other times of the year. The holidays, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day pop up as natural times to show gratitude, but mix it up a little and find other times of the year to say thank you. In fact, you don’t even need a reason. Just thank your donors.

Whatever you decide, DO NOT include a donation envelope or any other type of ask with your thank you message. This is known as a thask and it’s guaranteed to deflate your donor’s good feelings in an instant.

Incorporate thanking your donors into your year-end fundraising campaign

Many of you are working on your year-end fundraising campaign. I know you’re trying to raise money, but you should also be showing gratitude. Does your appeal thank donors for their past or potential gifts?

Besides wishing your donors a Happy Thanksgiving, find other ways to show gratitude while you’re also sending appeals. This is especially important around #GivingTuesday, and I’ll write more about that in my next post.

Be ready to thank your donors as soon as you receive a donation

You’ve all heard you need to thank your donors right away, within 48 hours if you can. This usually doesn’t happen or it’s done poorly. Every single donor, no matter how much they’ve given or whether they donated online, gets a thank you card/letter mailed to them or receives a phone call.

I’m sure you’ve spent a lot of time and effort getting your fundraising appeal out. Perhaps you’ve recruited other staff or volunteers to help you.

You need to do the same thing when you thank your donors. Get your board, other staff, and volunteers together to make phone calls, write thank you notes, or include a handwritten note on a thank you letter.

Do a better job of thanking your donors

Your donors deserve more than just the same, lame generic thank you letter.

I write a lot about thanking donors. Here are a couple of recent posts that cover ways to do a better job of thanking your donors.

Take Thanking Your Donors to the Next Level

Give Your Online Donors The Recognition They Deserve

The initial thank you right after you receive a donation is important. So is the next one and the one after that and the one after that….

Thanking your donors is not a one and done deal. You want to thank your donors at least once a month. Here are some ideas to show gratitude throughout the year.

  • Send a handwritten note.
  • Create a thank you video and share it on your website, by email, and on social media.
  • Send welcome packets to your new donors.
  • Invite your donors to connect with you via email and social media. Keep them updated with accomplishments and success stories. Making all your communications donor-centered will help convey an attitude of gratitude.
  • Give a huge shout out to your donors in your newsletters and social media updates. Emphasize that you wouldn’t be able to do the work you do without their support.
  • Hold an open house at your organization or offer tours so your donors can see your nonprofit up close and personal.
  • Thank your donors just because they’re great.
  • Keep thinking of other ways to thank your donors.

This Thanksgiving and throughout the year, show some gratitude to your donors. Don’t they deserve it?

How Will You Welcome Your New Donors?

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One of your year-end fundraising goals may be to get new donors. That’s fine, but a better goal is to keep these donors. The retention rate for new donors is a dismal 23%. Put simply, over ¾’s of your new donors won’t donate again.

There are many reason donors don’t give a second gift – some you can control, some you can’t. One of the biggest reasons is poor or nonexistent donor communication. This is easy to fix, and if you put some time and effort into it, you can rise above other organizations who seem to like to ignore their donors.

Show some #donorlove by putting together a welcome plan for your new donors.

Start off with an extra special thank you

Don’t send your new donors that tired old, generic thank you letter that doesn’t acknowledge that they’re new donors. You have to do more. Take Thanking Your Donors to the Next Level

Research by fundraising expert Penelope Burk says 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 together 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 card, send a thank you letter that specifically recognizes that someone is a new donor. You could also add a handwritten note to a thank you letter welcoming your new donor.

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

Next, 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 separate welcome packages to one-time donors and 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 Retain First-Time Donors With Your Email Welcome Series

Why welcoming new donors is so important

How to Welcome New Donors and Keep Them Engaged

Who are your new donors?

Get to know your new donors better. Include a short survey with your welcome package 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 and impact

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 tote bag.

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 feel appreciated and know how they’re helping you make a difference.

This is a year-round effort

Don’t let the welcome package 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.

The biggest hurdle you’ll face in donor giving is getting a second gift. Once donors make a second gift, they’re more likely to keep giving, although not always. Making your new donors feel welcome and staying in touch throughout the year will help you keep your donors for a long time.

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

How to Get First Time Donors to Give Again

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