How Well Do You Know Your Donors?

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You already have a core group of donors and other supporters, but how well do you know them? One way to get to know them better is to send short surveys asking why they donate, what issues are important to them, and how they like to communicate (by mail, email, social media, or a combination of those).

Let’s look at some of these more closely.

Why do your donors give to your organization?

Donors are not just money machines. They’re people who have a reason to support you.

Do you know why your donors give to your organization? This is very important and if you can find out, it will help you with your donor communication.

Most likely they feel a connection to your cause. After the Parkland shooting, I felt compelled to start giving to a couple of organizations that advocate for gun control. I support the American Cancer Society because way too many people I know have been affected by cancer.

The best time to find out this information is right after someone donates, especially for first-time donors. This will be easier to collect online and you could include this question on your donation form.

Of course, not everyone donates online. You could also include a short survey and a reply envelope or a link to an online survey with your thank you letter or welcome packet for new donors. (You do send those, right?)

What issues are important to them?

You also want to know what issues are important to your donors. If you’re an organization that’s working to combat hunger, you may find your donors are most interested in free, healthy school lunch programs for low-income students. Then you can share stories and updates about that initiative.

What communication channels do your donors prefer?

It’s probably more than one, but listen carefully. Don’t spend a lot of time on channels your donors aren’t using much.

Most likely email will be your biggest communication tool. You won’t use direct mail as much because of the cost, but you do need to use it at least a few times a year, especially if you find out some donors don’t use electronic communication.

The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston recently included a link to an online survey about direct mail on one of their flyers. One question they asked was where you were more likely to go to get information – direct mail, email, website, or any combination of those.

They also asked about frequency of mailings – twice a month, once a month, or every other month. Since they’re a large organization, they can afford to mail quite often. You could also ask this question about email.

The advantage of email and direct mail is you have complete control of them, unlike social media. Speaking of social media, some of your donors may have deleted their Facebook accounts or are taking a break from it. I’m on hiatus with Facebook and I’m not sure I’m going to return since I don’t like it that much. But that’s just me. Other people love it.

What If Facebook Died Tomorrow?

This is a good opportunity to monitor your email and social media to see if people are responding to your messages. Look at the open rates, click-throughs, and likes. (I know likes don’t mean that much, but they do reflect some sort of engagement.) You may be seeing a drop on Facebook and who knows if another social media platform will have some kind of scandal. Monitor this frequently.

Other ideas to connect

You could ask your donors what’s their favorite article in an issue of your e-newsletter. You could also get feedback on your annual report. Going back to the MFA survey, they asked if you preferred flyers for a single exhibit or one that covered everything going on in one particular month. Here you could ask if people prefer your monthly e-newsletter or shorter updates.

Creating a survey

Instead of overwhelming your donors with a long survey, start with short surveys focusing on one topic at a time throughout the year. Here is more information about creating a survey.

3 Examples of Nonprofit Donor Surveys

GET TO KNOW YOUR DONORS: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO NONPROFIT SURVEYING

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.

How to Identify your Nonprofit Donor Personas

How to Create and Use Donor Personas

Use your database

As you gather vital information about your donors, put that in your database. 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.

Putting your work into action

Now that you’ve gotten to know your donors, think about why they give to your organization, what they would like to hear from you, and which channels are best for connecting with them. Do this before you send a fundraising letter, thank you letter, or newsletter.

If you take the time to get to know your donors, you’ll have a better chance of keeping them for a long time.

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All You Need is #DonorLove

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I’ve written a couple of times recently about the lack of #DonorLove out there. This is a problem. Your donors want to feel appreciated and know their gift is helping you make a difference, and your lame, automatic thank you email doesn’t cut it. You need to do better.

Valentine’s Day is coming up and this is a perfect opportunity to thank your donors and show how much you appreciate their support.

12 Ways to Send Your Donors Love With a Valentine

A simple email to send your donors on Valentine’s Day

Maybe you would prefer not to go for a Valentine’s Day theme, but you should still do something fun and creative to show appreciation this month (and every month for that matter). The holidays are over and Punxatawny Phil saw his shadow, so for those of us who live in Northern climates, you know what that means. We could all use a little mood booster right now.

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 #DonorLove since your year-end appeal, then you must reach out now.

Here are a few ways you can show some #DonorLove.

Create a thank you photo

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

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Image result for Nonprofit thank you photos

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 some examples of thank you videos.

HRC Thank You Video

4 Smart Ways to Use Thank You Videos in Nonprofit Fundraising

Obviously, the purpose is to thank your donors. A simple video showing a bunch of people saying thank you will do the trick. You also want your video to be short, donor-centered, and show your organization’s work up close and personal.

Your thank you landing page is a perfect place to put a video (or a photo). This is your first opportunity to say thank you and most landing pages look like boring receipts. You can also put your thank you video on your website and share it by email and social media.

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.

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, the Smith family now has a home of their own.

Phrases like Thanks to you or Because of you should dominate your newsletter and updates.

Thank you refresher course

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.

Thanking your donors needs to be a priority

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 could also look for additional sources of unrestricted funding to cover cards and postage.

Maybe you need a change of culture, and this comes from the top. Hello, Executive Directors. 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.

15 Creative Ways to Thank Donors

20 Unique Donor Thank You Ideas

Nail the Nonprofit Non-Ask with these 9 ideas

You can’t say thank you enough. Make a commitment to thank your donors at least once a month. Create a thank you plan to help you with this.

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

I Expected More

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I didn’t feel a lot of donor love after I made my year-end gifts at the end of November. I thought maybe it’s coming later. Okay, now it’s later – the middle of January. Let’s see how things are going.

How long do I have to wait for a thank you letter?

The Whiny Donor (@thewhinydonor) always shares spot on fundraising tweets, and one of her best is “Seriously. How long are you going to make me wait for that thank you letter?” I’ve been thinking the same thing over the last several weeks.

It’s recommended that organizations thank their donors within 48 hours. I made all my donations online, so technically most of these organizations did that, even though their automatically generated thank you emails weren’t laced with donor love. This is an easy fix. There’s no reason why you can’t create a warm and personal thank you email.

But you’re not off the hook. Even if someone donates online, she should get a thank you by mail or phone.

Only three organizations sent me thank you letters, and two of them came in mid-January. One was from a new organization, that due to recent events, I felt compelled to give to last year. I had been disappointed that the only thing I received from them were PayPal receipts for my monthly donation. Therefore, I was quite pleased that they welcomed me as a monthly donor and let me know that “none of our work would be possible without caring donors like you.”

The phrase better late than never applies here, but don’t wait too long. If you haven’t sent a thank you by mail do that now!  And in the future, be ready to send thank you letters/handwritten notes or make phone calls right after you receive a donation.

Naughty and nice

Thank you letters are just the beginning. You need to stay in touch throughout the year. Some organizations sent me holiday and New Year’s greetings by email. One of the holiday emails included the subject line “Celebrating Ann this season.” Several included year-end updates, one with the subject line“Here’s how we put your gift to work.” These organizations are on the nice list.

I also received a couple of holiday cards in the mail. Unfortunately, these organizations are going straight to the naughty list since they included donation envelopes with their cards. A couple of holiday emails included a donate button at the bottom of the message, but that wasn’t as obvious.

I get that you’re trying to raise money, but there are times when you should just show gratitude. Also, I had recently donated to one of the organizations that sent me a “thask”

But I just donated

Speaking of raising money, most of the communication I received from nonprofits in December were fundraising requests. I was barraged with generic fundraising appeals, even though I already gave in November or give a recurring monthly donation.

Sometimes it seems these organizations don’t know me as a donor. Do you expect me to give another gift in December even though I just gave a month earlier? If so, acknowledge my previous donation and let me know why I should give again. If I give monthly, why am I getting a request for a one-time gift? If there’s a specific need, let me know.

Again, I get that you’re trying to capitalize on year-end giving. But try not to send appeals to people who have just donated. If you can’t do that, then include a thanks to people who’ve already donated. One organization ended their appeal with “P.S. — If you’ve already made your gift, THANK YOU. We’ve had an outpouring of support and are busy processing donations.”

Monthly donors should get separate appeals recognizing that they’re monthly donors. Only a couple of organizations acknowledged me as a monthly donor.

Fundraising is more than just raising money. It’s also about building relationships. This means framing your appeal to sound less like you’re begging for money and more like you recognize your donors for who they are.

Focus on what’s important to your donors

I mentioned before the importance of staying in touch with your donors throughout the year. I do hear from some organizations through their newsletters, updates, and advocacy alerts. All the organizations I support should be staying in touch and that’s not happening. I tend to hear from the same handful of organizations.

Just sending a newsletter or an update is not enough. You need to focus on how your donors are helping you make a difference and not on your organization. I like PetPartners and what they do, and they generally create a good newsletter. But in a recent e-newsletter, they fell into the look at how great we are trap by including this organization-centered subject line – “Pet Partners Chosen As 2017 Best Animal Therapy Nonprofit!”

Looking at other articles in the newsletter, I would have used “Meet Swoosh, a cancer therapy dog” as the email subject line to help draw me in. To their credit, three out of the four articles were about therapy dogs. I’m much more interested in hearing stories about how therapy animals are helping people. That’s what drew me to the organization in the first place.

When choosing articles for your newsletter or sharing an update, think about why someone donates to your organization. It’s usually because they care about your cause and not because you’re number one in something.

Don’t leave your donors with the feeling they should be expecting more. Let your donors know how much you appreciate them and share information that shows them how they’re helping you make a difference.

 

 

How to Do Better in 2018

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Happy New Year! I hope you had a good holiday. I just returned from my family’s annual trip to Florida. It’s quite a contrast from the frigid, wintery weather we’re having in Boston.

I also hope 2017 was a good year for your organization, and 2018 will be even better. If things didn’t go so well last year, here are a few ways to help you do better.

Evaluate and plan

Take a look back at 2017 to see what worked and what didn’t in your fundraising and communications. Incorporate what you’ve learned into your 2018 plans.

If you haven’t made fundraising and communications plans yet, do that now! Don’t go too far into the New Year without plans in place. Be sure to include donor engagement and donor retention in your fundraising plan (see the first link below for more information). Also, make sure you evaluate your progress at least once a quarter.

Nonprofit Fundraising Plan: 6 Must-Do Steps For Success

COMMUNICATION PLAN TEMPLATE

How to Integrate Your Nonprofit Fundraising Plan With Your Marketing Plan

5 FUNDRAISING SUCCESS METRICS TO START TRACKING

Figure out your retention rate

As you’re doing your year-end evaluation, figure out your donor retention rate.

A Guide to Donor Retention

If it’s low, it’s something you can fix, usually with better communication. It’s easier and less expensive to keep your current donors than to find new ones, so make retention a priority.

Why you should care about donor retention

One Thing Most Nonprofits Stink at (Donor Retention) and How You Can Change It

Get in touch with your lapsed donors

If you fell short of your year-end fundraising goal, one way to raise extra revenue is to get in touch with donors who have given in the last two years, but not this past year. Call them or send a personalized note. Let them know you miss them and want them back.

They may not have given to your year-end campaign for a variety of reasons including being too busy or not wanting to spend too much in December. The New Year could be the perfect time to reach out.

We Want You Back! A Simple Strategy for Reactivating Lapsed Donors

Start or enhance your monthly giving program

Monthly or recurring giving is also an excellent way to raise more money and boost your retention rate as well. If you don’t have a monthly giving program, start one this year. If you have one, but people aren’t taking advantage of it, work on promoting it more. Invite current donors to become monthly donors and make it a prominent option on your donation page and pledge form.

Making the Most of Monthly Giving

Do a better job of thanking your donors

I hope you thanked your donors after your year-end appeal and I hope you didn’t send one of those boring, generic letters. If you never sent a thank you letter, do that now!

Either way, the New Year is a great time to thank your donors. You want to show gratitude at least once a month. Wish your donors a Happy New Year, thank them again, and share a success story. You can do this by email or social media.

I haven’t been impressed with the thank yous I received after I made my year-end donations. You can stand out if you make a resolution to do a better job of thanking your donors this year.

Thank You 101

Stay in touch throughout the year

Your donors want to hear how they’re helping you make a difference. Don’t let them down.

It will be a whole lot easier to stay in touch with your donors if you use a communications (aka editorial) calendar. When you do communicate, remember to be donor-centered and focus on building relationships.

Stay in Touch Throughout the Year by Using a Communications Calendar

Here’s wishing you a successful 2018!

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.

 

Are You Thankful for Your Donors?

Thanksgiving is coming up and it’s a time of 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? Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way.

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 some ways you can show that you are thankful for 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 photo or video. Your donors will appreciate a heartfelt message, especially when they’re being deluged with year-end appeals.

Of course, you can also send cards or email messages during the holidays, Valentine’s Day, or any time of the year. DO NOT include a donation envelope or any other type of ask with your thank you message. This will deflate your donor’s good feelings in an instant.

Be ready to thank your donors right away

If you’re doing a year-end appeal (or any other fundraising campaign), you need to thank your donors right away, within 48 hours if you can.

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.

Make this a priority. You need to start planning how you will thank your donors at the same time you plan your fundraising appeal. Don’t do this alone. 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.

Give your donors an unforgettable thank you experience

When was the last time you received a thank you letter that knocked your socks off? Maybe a couple of times. Maybe never.

Nonprofits often relegate thanking donors to a last-minute process. If you donate online, you get taken to a boring, generic thank you landing page and receive an equally boring thank you email. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a letter, but it’s usually impersonal and filled with mind-numbing jargon that doesn’t make you feel good about your donation.

Start off by sounding like a human and not a robot. Don’t open with On behalf of X organization we thank you for your donation of…. Open with You’re amazing! or Thanks to you, David won’t go to bed hungry tonight.

The second example above gets to the heart of a good thank you.Your donors need to feel valued and know how they’re helping you make difference. This isn’t the time to explain what your organization does or brag about how great you are. The donor is the one who’s great.

Make your thank yous personal. Write as if you’re having a conversation with a friend and leave out any jargon or other information your donors won’t understand.

Create an experience for your donors –  an experience that will last as long as your donors support your organization.

5 Thank You Letters Donors Will Love Gratitude and Results Keep Donors Coming Back

How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

Don’t make this one and done

The thank you letter you send after your appeal is just the beginning. You must thank your donors all year round. You can make this easier by creating a thank you plan, which you can incorporate into your communications calendar.

Find ways to say thank you at least once a month. Here are some ideas.

  • Create a thank you video and share it on your website, by email, and on social media.
  • Send welcome packets to 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.
  • Always thank your donors in your newsletter 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, be thankful for your donors. Treat them well so you can ensure a long-term relationship.

 

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