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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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  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Audience Isn’t Everyone

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The board chair at a place where I used to work would often say, “We need more people to know about us.” Does that sound familiar? It’s tempting to cast a wide net so as many people as possible can find out about your organization, but that’s not a good strategy.

Not everyone is interested in your organization and that’s okay. The key is to find people who are interested in what you do and keep them interested.

Who is your audience?

You already have a core group of donors and other supporters, but how well do you know them?  You could send them a short survey asking them why they donate, what issues are important to them, and how they like to communicate (by mail, email, or both). Another idea is to put a poll in your e-newsletter to find out their favorite article.

While surveys are a great way to connect, not everyone is going to respond to them. Another tactic to try is to create donor personas. You can use your database to figure out vital information and/or interview a few donors.

Your database also comes in handy because you want to segment your donors  – first-time donors, long-term donors, monthly donors, etc –  so you can personalize their communication as much as possible.

You can also create personas to help you recruit volunteers.

What does your audience like?

Now that you’ve gotten to know your audience, think about what they would like. Each time you write an appeal letter, thank you letter, newsletter article, etc, keep your donor/audience in mind. What are their interests? What will capture their attention, make them read more, and take action?  Remember, you are not your donor/audience. The worst mistake you can make in fundraising

If you’ve surveyed your donors about your newsletter, you’ll probably find they like success stories about the people/community you serve and are not so interested in board member profiles.They don’t need to hear you brag about your organization, but they do want to know how their donations are helping you make a difference.

Your donors/audience are busy. They’re not going to have time to weed through a bunch of long-winded messages. Make your point clearly and concisely and leave out the jargon. Make sure people understand what you’re trying to say.

Pay attention to what your audience is doing.

Is your audience paying attention to you?  Are they making donations, opening your email messages, or responding to your social media posts?   

If they’re not paying attention you, it may be because you’re communicating with the wrong audience, your messages don’t interest them, they’re busy, or you’re using the wrong channels.

These are things you can fix. Send the right messages to the right audience using the right channels.

Expanding your reach.

Of course, you’ll want to find new donors and other supporters, but reach out to people who already have a connection with you. New donors could be volunteers, event attendees, newsletter subscribers, social media followers, or friends of board members and other donors. Putting up a billboard on a highway or ad on a subway train won’t get you a lot of new supporters.

The answer to the question How do I ask strangers for money? is you find a connection first. And, keep in mind – your audience isn’t everyone.

Let Your Donors Know How Much You Appreciate Them

 

16317995822_f23087f3eb_z-1Valentine’s Day is coming up and it’s a perfect opportunity to thank your donors and show how much you appreciate their support. Okay, maybe you think doing something for Valentine’s Day is hokey, but you should still do something fun and creative to show appreciation this month. The holidays are over, winter isn’t, and the world doesn’t feel like a very nice place right now, so we could all use a little pick-me-up.

This is also a good opportunity to stay in touch with the people who gave to your year-end appeal, especially first-time donors. If you haven’t shown any donor love since your year-end appeal, then you definitely need to reach out now.

Here are some ideas.

Create a thank you photo

Make your donor’s day with a great photo, like one of these.

 

You can send thank you photos via email and social media, use one to create a card, and include one on your thank you landing page.

Make a video

Videos are becoming an increasingly popular way to connect. Here are a couple that I received recently by email.

To Our Friends, With Gratitude

What You Made Possible in 2016

You’ll notice that both are short (and they need to be short), donor-centered, and show the organization’s work up close and personal.

Share an update or success story

In addition to saying thank you, share a brief update or success story. Emphasize how you couldn’t have helped someone without your donor’s support. For example – Thanks to you, Jenna won’t go to bed hungry tonight.

Send a card

A handwritten note will also brighten your donor’s day. If you don’t have the budget to send cards to everyone, send them to your most valuable donors. These may not be the ones who give you the most money. Do you have donors who have supported your organization for more than three years? How about more than five years? These are your valuable donors.

Another idea – Send a small number of thank you cards every month, ensuring that each donor gets at least one card a year. Spreading it out may be easier on your budget.

Thank You 101

Make this the year you do a better job of thanking your donors. Thank your donors right away and send a thank you note/letter or make a phone call. Electronic thank yous aren’t good enough.

Be personal and conversational when you thank your donors. Don’t use jargon or other language they won’t understand. Write from the heart, but be sincere. Give specific examples of how your donors are helping you make a difference.

If your budget doesn’t allow you to mail handwritten cards, is there a way you can change that? You may be able to get a print shop to donate cards. You can also look for additional sources of unrestricted funding to cover cards and postage.

Maybe you need a change of culture. Getting your board, all staff, and volunteers involved in thanking your donors will make a huge difference.

Keep thinking of ways to surprise and delight your donors! Get creative.

20 Unique Donor Thank You Ideas

21 IDEAS TO REFRESH YOUR DONOR STEWARDSHIP

You can’t say thank you enough. Make a commitment to thank your donors at least once a month.

You don’t even need to wait for a holiday or special occasion. Just thank your donors because they’re incredible and you wouldn’t be able to make a difference without them.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Year-End Fundraising – Part Two

In my last post, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Year-End Fundraising – Part One, I gave examples of how organizations thanked me, welcomed me as a new donor, and recognized my monthly gifts after I gave my year-end donations. In many cases, I didn’t receive anything except a boring, email thank you acknowledgment. With a little extra effort, you can do better than that.

In this post, I’ll give you the good, the bad, and the ugly of how organizations are staying in touch since I made my donations at the end of November. I know it’s only been about six weeks, but organizations should reach out at least once or twice a month in ways in which they are not asking for money. Here’s some of what I’ve received so far.

Holiday greetings

One organization sent an email holiday greeting with pictures of cute kids, a link to a great video, and no donation request. I’ve included the link to their video because I think it does a nice job of capturing what the organization does in two minutes. You could do something like that, too.

Three other organizations sent email holiday greetings. Another was combined with an ask. A couple of organizations sent holiday cards with donation envelopes. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Sending holiday greetings is a great way to reach out. Don’t ruin the moment with a donation request.

A couple of organizations wished me a Happy New Year and sent a New Year’s update. Some sent New Year’s and year-end thank yous. One large organization sent an email handwritten thank you note.

Thank you so much for your year-end donation to the Sierra Club. During the past two months, you and hundreds of thousands of grassroots supporters have stood up -- and we're now more than 2.5 million strong. This year, we'll be facing unprecedented attac

Yes, it’s somewhat impersonal, but it would have been impossible to send actual handwritten notes to 2.5 million supporters.

Holidays and different times of the year are a great way to connect. Find creative ways to say thank you and update your donors on Valentine’s Day, St.Patrick’s Day, the first day of spring, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.

Getting donors involved

I donated to several social justice organizations. Some are keeping in touch with regular updates and advocacy alerts. Encouraging people to contact their legislators about important issues is another great way to engage without asking for donations.

Two organizations just sent short, five-question surveys by email. One asked what issues are most important to me and the other was a combination of questions about issues and gathering some personal information. This is yet another great way to connect, and you could also ask questions about communication preferences –  Do your donors prefer print, email, social media, or a combination of those?

The key is to keep your surveys short. Those five questions took no time to complete.

All or nothing

Speaking of print communication, I do think organizations should communicate by mail a few times a year. Some smaller organizations don’t use direct mail because they think it’s too expensive. This is a mistake. Your donors are more likely to see a print piece than an email or social media message.

Larger organizations don’t have a problem with print communication; the problem lies in what they’re sending. It’s unlikely I’m going to read your wordy 10-page newsletter, so you might want to bump that down to four pages or make it very visual with photos and infographics. One of the new organizations I donated to sends a bi-monthly magazine, which I just skimmed through.

Remember, your donors are busy, and less is more. Handwritten notes, postcards, and two to four-page newsletters and annual reports are great. Anything longer than that may go directly in the recycling bin. 

Also, give some thought to the content. Include donor-centered updates filled with gratitude. And, make sure it’s easy to read. That teal background may be pretty, but it makes it hard to read. So do does your small font.

Another donation so soon

By far the most communication I’ve received in the last six weeks were additional donation requests with no indication that I had donated recently. I know the end of December is the busiest time of the year for fundraising and sending multiple fundraising requests to people who haven’t given yet is necessary. But what about the people who have already given their year-end gift?

Try to personalize these requests. Either don’t send one to people who have already given or include a thank you to those people. A couple of more palatable ways organizations asked for an additional donation this year was to request one on behalf of someone as a holiday gift or to give a specific need. For example, one organization cited a recent fire that left 32 families homeless.

Otherwise, it looks like you’re treating your donors as if they’re money machines when you send a continuous stream of impersonal donation requests. The Worst End-of-Year Email of 2016  Give some thought to your year-end requests and intersperse them with holiday greetings, thank you messages, and engaging updates.

While I’ve seen examples of good, bad, and ugly communication, I should add another category – nonexistent. Some organizations aren’t communicating at all, and if that continues you’re not making a good impression.

I’ll write another post in a couple of months to see how these organizations continue to communicate with me.

 

Your Appeal is Just The Beginning

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Many of you are immersed in your year-end appeal, but if you think you can rest easy once the letters have gone out, think again. Your work has just begun.

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

I write a lot about the importance of thanking your donors, but I think this bears repeating. Your first step after you receive a donation is to thank your donors within 48 hours, preferably with a handwritten note or phone call. Don’t send the same old boring, generic thank you letter. Take time to create an awesome thank you. Say Thank You Like You Mean It

Create a welcome plan for your new donors

Approximately 70% of first-time donors don’t make a second gift. This is unacceptable. We have to do better.

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 and other enthusiastic volunteers to call your new donors, or send them a handwritten thank you card.

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

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. Get to know your new donors better. Pop in a short survey to find out how they heard about you 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.

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.

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

New Donor Welcome Kits | Your Next Gift Strategy

How to Welcome New Donors and Keep Them Engaged

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, considering repeat donor retention rates are about 65%.

Imagine how you would feel if you gave to an organization for over five years and they never acknowledge 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. Let’s Stop Putting Donors Into A Bucket Your donors are individuals and not a collective bunch.

Don’t skimp on 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 spreading the love

Your first New Year’s resolution can 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 your success.

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.

Once is Not Enough,and Why You Need a Multichannel Fundraising Campaign

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If you think you can send one fundraising appeal and then wait for the donations to pour in, you’re in for a rude awakening. Your donors are busy and may put your letter aside to handle later, and then never get to it. Or, they may not see your fundraising email in their ever growing inbox. While some donors will respond to the first appeal, most are going to need a few reminders.

You also don’t want to rely on one communication channel. Your fundraising campaign will be more effective if you use a combination of mail, email, social media, and phone calls. Some donors may respond to your direct mail piece but donate online. Others will see your email message but prefer to send a check.

You’ll have a lot of competition since you’re not the only organization seeking year-end donations. Not to mention, election season is in full force in U.S. but, thankfully, will be over on November 8.

This is why you need a multichannel campaign with a series of asks.

BEFORE YOU START

Clean up your mailing lists

If you haven’t already done so, clean up and organize your mailing lists.

Make it easy to donate online

You must have a donation page that’s engaging and easy to use on all platforms, including mobile. Test all links in email messages and social media posts. The last thing you want is a donor contacting you about a broken link or have to hunt around on your website for a link to your donation page.

When you’re ready to launch your campaign, include a blurb on your homepage that your appeal is underway. Make sure your donate button is in a prominent place.

Consistency is key

Your messages need to be consistent across channels. Use the same story and call to action in direct mail, email, and on your website.

Everything you send needs to look like it’s coming from the same organization.

Which channels do your donors use?

Yes, we’re talking about multichannel, but that doesn’t mean spending a lot of time on channels your donors aren’t using. Figure out in advance where you want to focus your efforts.

SAMPLE SCHEDULE AND STRATEGY

Come up with a schedule of when the appeals will go out. I’ve created a sample schedule below. Of course, you can adjust the timeframe as needed, and use this for campaigns at other times of the year. That said, I do recommend starting your year-end campaign sooner than later.

October 26

Give your supporters a heads up by email and social media. Let them know your year-end appeal is underway and they should receive a letter from you soon. Encourage them to donate online right now. This means your donation page needs to be in great shape.

Week of October 31

Mail your appeal letters.

Week of November 7

Start sending follow-up reminders via email and social media. If possible, don’t send reminders to people who have already donated. Otherwise, be sure to thank your recent donors. You can even phrase your reminders as more of a thank you or an update.

Thanks so much to all of you who donated to our year-end appeal. We’re well on our way to our goal. If you haven’t donated yet, please help us out today by visiting our website (include a link to your donation page) or sending us a check (provide address).

Week of November 14

Send another reminder. Your donors are busy and may need a gentle prompt. Keep it positive. Don’t make your donors feel bad because they haven’t donated yet.

Week of November 21

Send a Happy Thanksgiving message along with a friendly reminder. Share a success story in your appeal.

Week of November 28

Start making reminder calls. If time is an issue, you could just call people who have donated before. That’s probably most effective.

Also, November 29 is #GivingTuesday so you could tie that into a reminder message.

The rest of December and beyond

Keep sending reminders throughout December. It’s tricky because you want to get your message across without being annoying. Be sure to keep sending your newsletter and other updates. You don’t want the only messages your donors receive to be fundraising appeals. December is also a great time to show some #donorlove.

The end of December is the busiest time of the fundraising season. Network for Good recommends sending an email reminder on December 23, 29 or 30, and 31. This is especially relevant if your fiscal year ends on December 31 or your donor wants to give before the end of the calendar year. Even though you’re trying to secure donations, don’t forget about building relationships, too.

Look to see who hasn’t contributed yet. Concentrate on people who are most likely to donate, such as past donors. You may need to send another mailing to donors who don’t use electronic communication.

Remember, your fundraising will be more successful with multiple asks and by using multiple channels. 9 Tips for Making a Multichannel Fundraising Ask  Good luck with your campaign.

Photo by Daniel Iverson